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What is Biology? Human Nature, Interdisciplinarity and the Sciences of Life, ca. 1945-1956

Project by Christian Reiß (Habilitation)

The Besatzungszeit (1945-1949) and the early Bundesrepublik were characterized and also profoundly formed by a “Diskussionslust” (Nina Verheyen), a desire for debate unprecedented in German culture of the 19th and 20th century. Before the background of national socialism, it comes as a surprise to find especially biologists engaged in these intellectual debates. After 1945, the question both within and outside Germany was how to recover German society and how to reinvent German culture after national socialism – reeducation, to use a contemporary term. Two central topics therein were the status of (academic) knowledge and human nature as a basis for the new democratic society.

This project uses the following book series and journals to investigate the involvement of biologists and the engagement with biological topics in these discussions:

“Rowohlts Deutsche Enzyklopädie” (rde, 1956-ca. 1986)

“Studium generale: Zeitschrift für die Einheit der Wissenschaften im Zusammenhang ihrer Begriffsbildungen und Forschungsmethoden“ (1948-1971)

“Universitas: Zeitschrift für Wissenschaft, Kunst und Kultur” (1946-today)

“Merkur. Deutsche Zeitschrift für europäischen Denken“ (1947-today)

Related projects

Forestry Research, Pest Control, Infrastructure Management and the most Fundamental Science of all – the History of German Ecology, 1900-1963

Research Network KNOW-IN: Knowledge Infrastructures: Circulation, Transfer and Translation of Knowledge across Borders


  1. Fakultät für Philosophie, Kunst-, Geschichts- und Gesellschaftswissenschaften
  2. Institut für Philosophie