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Dr. Frank Stahnisch

Dr. Stahnisch & Asclepius Greek Healing GodDr. Stahnisch & Asclepius Greek Healing God


I obtained my doctorate in the History of Medicine at the Institute for the History of Medicine of the Free University of Berlin in 2001 and I currently hold the AMF/Hannah Professorship in the History of Medicine and Health Care at the University of Calgary in Canada.

My academic expertise lies in a number of areas, such as the history and philosophy of laboratory-based research in Western medicine, the long history and theory of the nerve and brain sciences, as well as social and philosophical questions regarding the use of pictures and imaging techniques in modern medical practice.

Being trained as a medical doctor as well as in philosophy of science, I became particularly interested in history of medicine, as it allows the nature of often ground-breaking changes to be uncovered that not only gave rise to health research as we know it today, but also separated other periods and cultures from one another.  I have published on the history of experimental biomedicine and the neurosciences, including a monograph on the French experimental physiologist Fran?ois Magendie in the 19th century (1783-1855), when laboratory investigation came to rise as the center of biomedical research.  My current historical occupation is with instances of group work and new organizations of neuroscientific research in the 20th century.  Also, I am interested in the impact European émigré doctors and researchers had on the approaches and institutions of North American neurology, brain research, and public mental health.

I participate in a number of Canadian and international research projects in the history of medicine and neuroscience (e.g. on "the impact of the eugenics movement on the development of brain psychiatry and neuroscience" / "physician immigration to Canada after WWII" / "the cultural context of the modern neurosciences").

Furthermore, I am an active member on boards and committees of history of medicine and science societies, while as part of my local activities at the UofC, I am particularly involved in the co-organization of the History of Neuroscience Interest Group (HONIG), the Science and Technology Studies Colloquium, the Calgary History of Medicine Society (CHOMS), the History of Medicine Days (a nationwide annual student conference), and the West Coast Graduate Conference in the History of Medicine (an annual forum for graduate students and PostDocs to present their work in the HoM).

Current Project:

The Making of a New Research Field: On the Pursuit of Interdisciplinarity in the German Neuromorphological Sciences, 1910-1945
During the Academic Year 2012-2014, Dr. Frank W. Stahnisch has spent some research time at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal. Pursuing research in the library and the Wilder Penfield and Montreal Neurological Institute Collections, he has explored archival material related to a current book project which investigates the emergence of interdiscipliary research programs and centres in the modern neurosciences. If you are interested to read more about Dr. Stahnisch's current research, please click on the following link to the Osler Library Newsletter article.
West-Eastern Divan - Penfield, The Breslau-Montreal Axis - September 4, 2013.pdf

Cooperation Partners: Dr. Cornelius Borck, Director; Professor of History of Medicine and Science; Institute for History of Medicine and Science Studies; University of Luebeck - Germany; Professor Stephen Casper; History of Medicine and Science Program; Clarkson University - Potsdam (New York); United States; Professor Stanley Finger; History of Psychology and History of Neuroscience; Department of Psychology; Washington University in St. Louis - St. Louis (MO), United States; Dr. Paul Foley; Australian ARC Fellow & Conjoint Lecturer; School of Medical Sciences, UNSW; Research Institute; University of New South Prince of Wales Medical Research Wales - Sydney, Australia

Map drawing of the Neurological Institute (Clinical Department – Villa Sommerhoff) in Frankfurt am Main with adjacent functional buildings housing the rehabilitation units (Kurt Goldstein, 1919) Map drawing of the Neurological Institute (Clinical Department – Villa Sommerhoff) in Frankfurt am Main with adjacent functional buildings housing the rehabilitation units (Kurt Goldstein, 1919)

I am currently working on a new book project, entitled The Making of a New Research Field: On the Pursuit of Interdisciplinarity in the German Neuromorphological Sciences, 1910-1945, which aims at reconstructing the important merging tendencies that since the 1910s have brought formerly separated disciplines (anatomy, physiology, neurology, psychiatry, radiology, and serology etc.) much closer together. Research in the neurosciences avant la lettre was hence strongly reorganized in interdisciplinary research groups and found its substrate in new centers for neuroscientific research (e.g. in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Breslau etc.), especially in the German-speaking countries.
In my book, I first discuss current theories from sociology and philosophy of science that have dealt with the problem of "interdisciplinarity" in the biomedical sciences from a theoretical perspective. It is my further aim to then also provide an historiographical account of the development of related concepts of the period in their specific cultural settings, while focusing on specific working groups, laboratories and research centers. It will be shown, with respect to the German neuromorphological sciences between 1910 and 1945, that historical concepts, practice and organizational patterns existed early in the 20th century that legitimize the use of the term of "interdisciplinary research" even at that particular time.
This study specifically explores the historiographical roles, narratives and epistemological meanings of concepts of "interdisciplinarity" in the neuroscientific community between 1910 and 1945. The project adds to the growing corpus of literature on German neuroscience in a time period that has not received as much attention from medical historians as it should have, in order to better understand the scientific, organizational, and cultural innovations that strongly determined the course of biomedical research after WWII.

Related Publications

"German-Speaking Émigré-Neuroscientists in Canada after 1933: Critical Reflections on Emigration- Induced Scientific Change". In: Christian Fleck (ed.): "Forced Migration of Scholars and Scientists in the 20th Century". A special issue of Oesterreichische Zeitschrift fuer Geschichtswissenschaften (Vienna) 21 (2010), ca. 30 pp. (in print).
[This article will also appear as a Pre-Print in the Preprint Series of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (Germany)].
"Flexible Antworten - Offene Fragen: Zu den Foerderungsstrategien der Rockefellerstiftung fuer die deutsche Hirnforschung im Nationalsozialismus". In: Journal fuer Neurologie, Neurochirurgie und Psychiatrie 11 (2010), ca. 7 pp. (in print).
"Transforming the Lab: Technological and Societal Concerns in the Pursuit of De- and Regeneration in the German Morphological Neurosciences, 1910-1930". In: Medicine Studies. An International Journal for History, Philosophy, and Ethics of Medicine & Allied Sciences 1 (2009), pp. 41-54.
"'Abwehr', ‘Widerstand' und ‘kulturelle Neuorientierung' - Zu Re-Konfigurationen der Traumaforschung bei zwangsemigrierten deutschsprachigen Neurologen und Psychiatern". In: Trauma und Wissenschaft. André Karger (ed.) (= Psychoanalytische Blätter, Vol. 29. Mathias Hirsch et al. (eds.)), Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: Goettingen, Zurich 2009, pp. 29-60.
"Psychiatrie und Hirnforschung: Zu den interstitiellen Uebergaengen des staedtischen Wissenschaftsraums im Labor der Berliner Metropole - Oskar und Cécile Vogt, Korbinian Brodmann, Kurt Goldstein". In: Psychiater und Zeitgeist. Zur Geschichte der Psychiatrie in Berlin. H. Helmchen (ed.), Pabst Science Publisher: Berlin 2008, pp. 76-93.
"Ueber Forschungsentwicklungen der Neurostimulation nach 1945: Historische und ethische Aspekte medizinischer Manipulationen am menschlichen Gehirn". In: Wuerzburger medizinhistorische Mitteilungen 27 (2008), pp. 307-346.
"Zur Zwangsemigration deutschsprachiger Neurowissenschaftler nach Nordamerika: Der historische Fall des Montreal Neurological Institute". In: Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft fuer Geschichte der Nervenheilkunde 14 (2008), pp. 414-442.
"Ludwig Edinger (1855-1918) - Pioneer in Neurology". In: Journal of Neurology 255 (2008), pp. 147-148.

Also see Dr. Stahnisch's Research Gate site:

Related digital sources W.&name=Stahnisch

Funding Institutions

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation - AvH (Bonn); University of Calgary - UofC (Alberta); Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft - DFG (Bonn); Gerda Henkel Foundation (Duesseldorf); German Academic Exchange Service - DAAD (New York); Montreal Neurological Institute - MNI (Québec)

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