People

Jürgen Renn

Director (Since 1994)

Dr., Professor, Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Jürgen Renn and his group undertake research on the structural changes in systems of knowledge. Their aim is to develop a theoretical understanding of knowledge evolution, taking into account its epistemic, social, and material dimensions. As groundwork for such a theoretical approach to the history of knowledge, he has been studying some of the great transformations of systems of physical knowledge, such as the origin of theoretical science in antiquity, the emergence of classical mechanics in the early modern period, and the revolutions of modern physics in the early twentieth century. In addition to this longitudinal perspective on the evolution of knowledge, he and his collaborators have developed a transversal approach, studying dissemination and transformation processes of knowledge across cultural boundaries, as well as processes of globalization and the historical origins and co-evolutionary dynamics leading into the Anthropocene.
An early pioneer of the Digital Humanities and the Open Access Movement, he is a co-initiator of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities launched by the MPG in 2003 and, together with his colleagues, has created the Edition Open Access platform for open access publication. He has also been responsible for numerous major exhibitions on the history of science, from Albert Einstein—Chief Engineer of the Universe to Archimede. Arte e scienza dell’invenzione. 
Jürgen Renn is honorary professor for History of Science at both the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Freie Universität Berlin. He has taught at Boston University, at the ETH in Zurich, and at the University of Tel Aviv. He has held visiting positions in Vienna, Bergamo, Pavia, and at CalTech. He is a member of the Leopoldina as well as of further national and international scientific and editorial boards. In 2011 he won the Premio Anassilaos International. In 2014, he won the ESHS Neuenschwander Prize and the Premio Internazionale Marco & Alberto Ippolito and was awarded the Max Planck Communitas Award and the Francis Bacon Award. From 2017–2019, Jürgen Renn served as Chairperson of the Humanities Sciences Section of the Max Planck Society. His most recent publication is The Evolution of Knowledge: Rethinking Science for the Anthropocene (2020, Princeton University Press).

Projects

Anthropocene Curriculum

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Anthropocene Knowledge: Earth History in the Making

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Atlas of Innovations

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Berlin Institute for the Foundations of Learning and Data (BIFOLD)

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BIFOLD - BZML

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History and Foundations of Quantum Field Theory

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IV. Knowledge in and of the Anthropocene

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Leonardo's Intellectual Cosmos

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The Genesis of General Relativity (Four-Volume Edition)

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Selected Publications

Steinhauser, T., Gutfreund, H., & Renn, J. (2017). A Special Relationship: Turning Points in the History of German-Israeli Scientific Cooperation (2. Aufl.). Berlin: Forschungsprogramm Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft.

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Renn, J. (2000). Auch Angelhaken können Geschichte machen. Der Tagesspiegel, W3.

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Laubichler, M. D., Maienschein, J., & Renn, J. (2013). Computational perspectives in the history of science: to the memory of Peter Damerow. Isis, 104(1), 119-130. doi:10.1086/669891.

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Renn, J. (2004). The relativity revolution from the perspective of historical epistemology. Isis, 95(4), 640-648. doi:10.1086/430654.

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Selected Media

Selected Books

News & Press

Wissenschaftsplattform Nachhaltigkeit 2030 releases recommendations on sustainability and Covid-19

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Director Jürgen Renn on the Anthropocene in MaxPlanckForschung magazine.

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Einstein on Einstein: Autobiographical and Scientific Reflections praised in PBK Key Reporter review

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Institute Events

Lecture

Biodiversity in Times of Covid-19: Views from Germany, Italy, and the UK

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Institute's Colloquium

CANCELED: History of Science for the Anthropocene

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Book Launch

POSTPONED: Science, (Anti-)Communism and Diplomacy. The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs in the Early Cold War

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Workshop

Anthropocene and Public Health

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Symposium

How Do New Concepts Emerge? On New Knowledge, Old Patterns of Thought, and Structural Changes

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500th Anniversary Event

Leonardo da Vinci. An Inquisitive Man: Technologist, Scientist, and Artist

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Symposium

Freunde der offenen Gesellschaft

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Lecture

Wie entsteht die moderne Wissenschaft / Wie entstehen wissenschaftliche Disziplinen?

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Lecture

Thomas Young and the Decipherment of Egyptian Hieroglyphs

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Workshop

Visualization of Heavens II

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Workshop

Visualization of Heavens I

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Lecture

Die Evolution des Wissens

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External/Cooperation Event

Comenius-Garten: Eröffnung der Werkstatt mit Gewächshaus

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Symposium

Energy Transformations. Perspectives from the Humanities

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Workshop

Political Epistemology I

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Presentations, Talks, & Teaching Activities

The Anthropocene and the History of Science

CIS, Bologna

Anthropocene and the History of Science

Princeton, Princeton University Press

Anthropocene and the History of Science

Amsterdam, “Zeeman Lecture”

Science in Court Society: Giovan Battista Benedetti’s Diversarum speculationum mathematicarum et physicarum liber

Gargnano, “X Seminario sulla scienza antica e la sua tradizione”

The Anthropocene and the History of Science

Venedig, Universita Ca’ Foscari

Giovanni Battista Benedetti (1530–1590) als Intellektueller am Turiner Hof

Rostock, Tagung der GUW

Das Anthropozän und die Geschichte des Wissens

Berlin, Campus Talks im Roten Salon

Moderation Podiumsdiskussion mit Martin Rees und Sheila Jasanoff

Berlin, Futurium “Visionen für die Wissenschaft”

The Anthropocene and the History of Science

The Anthropocene: Challenging the Disciplines, Universität Wien

Wissenschaftsgeschichte im Anthropozän

Wozu Wissenschaftsgeschichte? Ziele und Wege, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften

The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin: The Anthropocene from a Humanities’ Perspective

Symposium of the Max Planck Society, Havana Cuba

Technologische Innovationen – Chancen und Risiken für Nachhaltigkeit in einer offenen Gesellschaft

Berlin, IASS, Ehrensymposium für Klaus Töpfer, “Demokratie und Nachhaltigkeit”

History of Knowledge in the Anthropocene

FU Berlin, ABV Modul Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft, Vorlesung zu Wissenschaftsgeschichte

Representation, Knowledge, Institutions, and Power

Bergamo, Universität Bergamo

The Formative Years of Relativity

Bologna, Università degli Studi di Bologna

La relation d’Albert Einstein avec Max Planck

Lausanne,“Quand le droit rencontre la relativité Soirée Albert Einstein”

Extended Evolution of Knowledge. The Governance of Innovation Processes. With Manfred Laubichler

Hannover, Seventh International Conference on Integrated History and Philosophy of Science: The Evolution of Knowledge

The Formative Years of Relativity. With Hanoch Gutfreund

Colloque « Einstein au Collège de France »

The Evolution of Knowledge

University of Urbino

Transformations of Energy Systems—Historical Perspectives on the Anthropocene. A New Research Environment within the Max Planck Society

Symposium at the Harnack Haus, Berlin