Frank W. Stanisch

Associate Professor , University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada
University of Calgary in Alberta

CSTMS Research Unit: Office for the History of Science and Technology
Affiliation period: August 2011 - June 2014


Degrees Doctorate in History of Medicine :: Free University of Berlin (Germany)
Master of Science in Philosophy of Science :: University of Edinburgh (Scotland)
Studies of Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and Medicine :: Universities of Frankfurt (Germany), Berlin (Germany), Rennes (France) and Edinburgh (Scotland)
Research Areas

History of experimental physiology (18th to 21st centuries); history and philosophy of neuroscience; historical epistemology of the life sciences; and the historical development of visualization practices in medicine and health care


Frank W. Stahnisch is an Associate Professor at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Since 2008, he holds the AMF/Hannah Professorship in the History of Medicine and Health Care at the UofC, and is cross-appointed in the Department of History (Faculty of Arts) and the Department of Community Health Sciences (Faculty of Medicine). He is also a full academic member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, the Calgary Institute for Population and Public Health, as well as academic coordinator of the Calgary History and Philosophy of Science undergraduate and graduate programs. Prior to joining the University of Calgary, he has held teaching positions at the Humboldt University of Berlin; the University of Erlangen-Nuernberg, and Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (Germany), as well as Visiting Professorships at McGill University (Montréal), in Canada, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin), in Germany.

Areas of Interest:

As a historian of medicine and health care, Frank’s interests span the development of experimental physiology and laboratory medicine since the late 18th century (particularly France and Germany), the historical relationship between neurology/the neurosciences and the philosophy of the mind (focus on the German-speaking countries and North America), the relationship between clinical neuroscience and public mental health (particularly Canada and the United States), the historical epistemology of the life sciences (18th to 21st centuries), and the longer history of visualization practices in medicine and health care.

Book Publications:

He is the author of Ideas in Action (2003); co-editor (with Florian Steger) of Medizin, Geschichte und Geschlecht (2005); co-editor (with Ulrich Schoenherr and Antonio Bergua) of Albert Neissers ‘Stereoscopischer Medicinischer Atlas’ (2006); co-editor (with Heijko Bauer) of Bild und Gestalt (2007), and co-editor (with Sylwia Werner and Claus Zittel) of Ludwik Fleck – Denkstile und Tatsachen: Gesammelte Schriften und Zeugnisse (2011). His most recent monograph is Medicine, Life and Function: Experimental Strategies and Medical Modernity at the Intersection of Pathology and Physiology (2012).

Book Project while in residence at UC Berkeley:

The Making of a New Research Field: On the Pursuit of Interdisciplinarity in the German Neuromorphological Sciences, 1910–1945

During his time at UC Berkeley, Frank has continued to work 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.

The book first discusses 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 further provides 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 the Second World War.

The book manuscript has now been completed and is currently under review with a university press history of medicine series.

last updated: November 19th, 2013

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