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Univ.-Prof. Dr. Volker Hess

Head of Institute for the History of Medicine and Ethics in Medicine

Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Thielallee 71
14195 Berlin

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Volker Hess the chair of the Institute for the History of Medicine and Ethics in Medicine at the Charité Medical School and also affiliated professor at the History Department of the Humboldt University. He organized a DFG research group on the „Cultures of madness“  studying the borderlands of normality in the growing Berlin metropole at 1900. In 2011, he has been receipt the Advanced Investigator Grant from the European Research Council for a collaborative project (with Andrew Mendelsohn) in reconstructing the „paper technologies“ of medical practices (Case and Series in History of Science 2010). In 2019, he was granted with a new ERC Synergy Grant for studying the Europe’s postwar history through the lens of medicine.

Volker Hess is editor of the Medizinhistorisches Journal as well as several book series and edited volumes.

Current research projects

  • Taming the European Leviathan: The Legacy of Post-War Medicine and the Common Good.
  • NORMAL#VERRÜCKT. Zeitgeschichte einer erodierenden Differenz (NORMAL#CRAZY. Contemporary History of an Eroding Difference)
  • Arzneimittelforschung in der DDR (Drug Research in the GDR)

Research focus

  • History of medical practices and techniques in the 19th and 20th centuries
  • History of biological drugs and drug regulation
  • Cultural history of psychiatry

Selected publications

Hess, V. (2021) Gesundheit als Politik: Taming the European Leviathan. Skizze eines Forschungsvorhabens. In: Was ist Gesundheit? Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven aus Medizin, Geschichte und Kultur. Hrsgg. von Philip von der Eijk et al. De Gruyter: Berlin, S. 253-362.

Hess, V. (2020) Der Aphorismus als Wissenstechnik. Das Beispiel der „meteorologischen Medizin“ des frühen 18. Jahrhunderts. Medizinhistorisches Journal 55, S. 102-131.

Hess, V. (2020) Klinische Psychopharmakaforschung im Auftrag westlicher Pharmaindustrie in der DDR, 1960–1990. In: Psychiatrie in der DDR. Beiträge zur Geschichte, 2. Hrsgg. von Ekkehardt Kumbier und Kathleen Haack. be.bra Wissenschaftsverlag: Berlin, S. 263-276.

Hess, V. (2018) A paper machine of clinical research in the early 20th century. ISIS 109.3, S. 473-493.

Hess, V.; Hottenrott, L.; Steinkamp, P. (2016) Testen im Osten. DDR-Arzneimittelstudien im Auftrag westlicher Pharmaindustrie, 1964-1990. be.bra: Berlin.

Hess, V.; Mendelsohn, J.A: (2010) Case and series: Medical knowledge and paper technology, 1600-1900. History of Science 48, S. 287-314.


Vita Univ.-Prof. Dr. Volker Hess

Volker Hess conducts research on the history of medical practices, especially in the fields of psychiatry, clinical medicine and drug research.

After studying philosophy and medicine in Constance and Berlin, he received his doctorate on medical semiotics (1992), followed by his habilitation in 1999 with a history of fever taking. After a stay as Karl Schädler Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (2001), he was appointed to the chair of History of Medicine at the Humboldt University (successor to Prof. Schneck). Since summer 2004 he has been Director of the Institute, in the same year he was co-opted at the Institute of Historical Sciences of the Humboldt University for Modern History.

He led the ESF RNP "DRUGS" (2006-13), the DFG Research Group "Kulturen des Wahnsinns" ("Cultures of Madness") (2009-15), and several DFG-ANR projects. He was a leading member of the DFG Research Training Group „Geschlecht als Wissenskategorie“ ("Gender as a Category of Knowledge") (2005-14). In 2011, he was awarded an ERC Advanced Investigator Grant for the project "How Physicians know". In 2013-2014, he was a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Strasbourg.

This was followed in 2019 by an ERC Synergy Grant ("Taming the European Leviathan"). He is also deputy spokesperson of the DFG research group Normal#Verrückt ("Normal#Crazy.)"

Volker Hess is editor of the Medizinhistorischen Journal as well as several book series and collected editions.