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Prof. Dr. Gerd Grasshoff


Humboldt-University of Berlin

Unter den Linden 6, D-10099 Berlin

Prof. Dr. Gerd Grasshoff


Fellow | BIFOLD

Prodekan für Forschung | Faculty of Philosophy, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Vice-President | Euler-Commission Swiss Academy of Sciences

Max Planck Fellow | Computational History of Science, MPIWG

Director | “Repositories – Editions – Materials”, Berliner Antike-Kolleg

Director | Cluster of Excellence Topoi, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Professor of the History of Ancient Science | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Gerd Graßhoff has been Professor for History of Ancient Science at the Humboldt-University and director of the Excellence Cluster Topoi since 2010. Graßhoff studied physics, mathematics, philosophy, and the history of natural sciences at the Universities of Bochum, Hamburg, and Oxford, earning his doctorate in Philosophy with a dissertation on the history of the Star Catalogue of Ptolemy (“Die Geschichte des Ptolemäischen Sternenkatalogs. Zur Genesis des Sternenverzeichnisses aus Buch VII und VIII des Almagest“). In 1995, he received his “venia legendi” (habilitation) with a work on the art of scientific discovery (“Die Kunst wissenschaftlichen Entdeckens – Grundzüge einer Theorie epistemischer Systeme“).

Graßhoff has taught at Hamburg University and the University of Bern in Switzerland (1999–2010). He has held visiting positions at the Institute for Advanced Study Princeton, where he collaborated with Otto Neugebauer, and at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv.

Graßhoff’s research covers the history and philosophy of science, from ancient Babylonian time to current science, with a focus on ancient astronomy (Babylonian astronomy, Ptolemy, ancient geography) and its medieval reception leading to the scientific revolution (Copernicus, Kepler). Methodological investigation concerns the evolution of scientific thinking including technological innovation processes and their characteristic development. For his research on the philosophy of scientific discovery, he introduced artificial intelligence approaches of computer discovery systems. The study of the discovery of the urea synthesis by Hans Krebs and Kurt Henseleit showed how new historical knowledge is achieved through step-by-step remodeling of the historical experiment design, causal reasoning and hypothesis generation by the researcher. The computer model was the first that successfully reconstructed a complex scientific discovery and gained hereby new insights into its historical circumstances.

2009 R. R. Newton Award for History of Science
1992 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Price, DFG
1987 Award of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, USA

  • Theoretical philosophy
  • History and philosophy of science
  • Methods of scientific discovery
  • Philosophical models of causal reasoning
  • Babylonian astronomy
  • Ancient sundials
  • Digital humanities

  • Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina
  • International Academy of the History of Science (Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences)
  • Euler-Kommission of the Swiss Academy of Sciences, SCNAT