History of the Life Sciences and Philosophical Anthropology

This research group focuses on historical transformations of anthropological knowledge
that developed at the intersection of life sciences, philosophical reflections and
cultural contexts. From Darwinian evolutionary theories to very recent cloning research,
life sciences have challenged our notions of ‘what it means to be human’ in radical ways
and in a variety of modes. This project examines the dynamics of how knowledge about
‘the human’ was produced and became circulated in late 19th and 20th century research
areas such as reproduction and heredity research, medicine and physiology, modern genomics
and gene technologies. Our research addresses historical as well as epistemological questions:
We explore the historical conditions of conceptual and practical shifts in life sciences,
and we are interested in understanding epistemic processes, i.e. the dynamics of
scientific changes and the epistemic role of metaphors, research models, concepts and
visualizations in generating and distributing knowledge. In addition, cultural dimensions
are explored by tracing the historical and contemporary transfers of anthropological
knowledge across science and humanities and across cultures and societies. With the latter,
a major aim is to open up new perspectives on the history of philosophical anthropology.

Research Topics

Current research activities of the research group center on:

  • a cultural history of cloning and reproduction research in 20th century life sciences

  • life sciences and the history of philosophical anthropology
  • human optimization in 20th century life and techno sciences
  • epigenetics and anthropology
  • history of neuro sciences (early 20th century)