Key Research Area History of Science

"Transpirationswaage" (after 1945) Instrument for the measurement of the loss of humidity in plants in milligrams over time | Collection of historical Instruments of the former Institute for plant physiology | Photography courtesy of: Gregor Eder & Irene Lichtscheidl | Core Facility Cell Imaging and Ultrastructure Research | University of Vienna

Big data, algorithmic trading, climate change – the signatures of the present challenge the history of science and technology in particular. The emerging climatic regime entangles meteorological models with political deliberation, while the ongoing digitization of economy and bureaucracy reshapes the ways in which citizens and states, users and companies interact. All of these developments call for historical reflection and critique.

This site offers a point of entry to current research in the history of science, medicine, and technology at the University of Vienna Faculty of Historical and Cultural Studies and beyond. The university’s joint HPS Master’s program draws from history and philosophy as well as from Vienna’s excellent science and technology studies program. The Department of Philosophy has a strong focus on the philosophy of science, while the Institute Vienna Circle and Society Vienna Circle conduct inquiry into scientific world conceptions (wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung). All considered, Vienna provides a fortunate setting for historians of science, with sixteen historical institutes ranging from the history of law to monetary history, and research units at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Over the past years, work in our department has focused on the history of psychology (Gestalt psychology in particular), the history of geology and botanical taxonomy, cartography, and on gender studies of science. Another special emphasis has been on the history of the University of Vienna, especially during the Third Reich, and the fates of exiled scholars and scientific networks. Science and politics were investigated as resources for each other. The international reception of the Vienna Circle has been paramount, as has its political outlook and intersections with the calculation debate and the Austrian school of economics.

A new key aspect for our research is on emergent metric spaces, ranging from global resource statistics in international organizations to ceremonies of measurement in colonial societies, from the protracted process of monetizing the early modern countryside to digital payments via mobile technology. In researching data practices and metrics in non-Western and non-industrialized societies we hope to offer insight into some of today’s metric challenges.