We are the DDB: The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin

Logo des MPIWGThe Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science – MPIWG) is one of eighty research institutes in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities administered by the Max Planck Society. Based in Berlin, it was established in 1994 as an international research center for the history of science in Germany. The MPIWG is dedicated to the study of the history of science: its aim is to understand scientific thinking and practice as historical phenomena.

The research encompasses nearly 5000 years of human history and draws on a wide variety of sources. These not only include books and manuscripts, but also images, charts, drawings, instruments, laboratory protocols, machinery and archaeological artifacts. The MPIWG is involved in collaborations with scientists, historians of art and architecture, jurists, archaeologists and museum curators all around the globe. The Institute particularly supports the use of modern computer technology and the development of virtual research environments in the humanities.

The MPIWG strongly supports the „Berliner Erklärung über den offenen Zugang zu wissenschaftlichem Wissen" (2003) on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (2003). Research findings, as well as underlying research materials and scientific metadata of the highest technical quality are made freely available via the specifically developed open access infrastructure „ECHO – Cultural Heritage Online".

Here sources are incorporated into an electronic open source environment that enables a scientific adaption and exploitation, as well as the annotation and publication of research data along with source materials. With this, the MPIWG has pioneered new ways to publish and disseminate its research findings and related sources. Since 2011, these scientific source comments are also made freely available in the new open-access series „Edition Open Access”. Research findings, relevant sources and comments can be experienced in a new format, combining the advantages of traditional publications and the digital medium. The volumes are available as downloadable free PDF or eBooks, or as printed books via print-on-demand.

So far, the MPIWG has contributed to the DDB more than 1100 historical sources and recordings of scientific sessions with contributions of current researchers. Each source not only has its own object history, but also comes with data on the special significance for the history of science research at the MPIWG. In 2006, for example, the MPIWG Library acquired a first edition of Giovanni Battista Benedetti’s “Diversarum speculationum mathematicarum physicarum et liber” (1585). Already in itself, Benedetti's book is an important source for understanding the efforts of early modern scientist-engineers to bring the diverse heritage of ancient knowledge – especially the theories of Aristotle and Archimedes – into a meaningful relationship with one another and with contemporary mechanical knowledge. But the copy that the Institute has acquired is of particular value for our historical understanding of these relationships for another reason. It contains handwritten marginal notes by the leading mechanics expert from the generation before Galileo, Guidobaldo del Monte, the author of the most important Renaissance work on the mechanics, the “Mechanicorum liber” (1577).

Both works can be found in the Deutschen Digitalen Bibliothek. Fully digitized and scientifically researched, the sources are open to all interested parties in the electronic work environment ECHO. Here, the images and the linguistically analyzed full Latin text itself can be investigated, annotated and translated with the help of integrated dictionaries. Previous research on the development of scientific terms, concepts and worldviews based on these two historical sources has now also been published in the new series „Edition Open Access”. This way, everybody can follow up on the entire development of the pertinent research.
Further information and links:

Brief description of the research project on MPIWG: MPIWG Feature 23, The Equilibrium Controversy: A case study of the long-term development of mechanical knowledge: http://www.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/en/news/features/feature23

„The Equilibrium Controversy “, the source with scientific commentary as a free downloadable PDF (57 MB):

„The Equilibrium Controversy “, the source with scientific commentary as a free downloadable eBook (28 MB):

“The Equilibrium Controversy “,  the source with scientific commentary as Print-on-Demand (ISBN: 978-3-86931-959-9): http://www.epubli.de/shop/buch/The-Equilibrium-Controversy-J%C3%BCrgen-Renn-9783869319599/13032

back to News