Dr. Martin Gierl

Martin Gierl


Core areas

Enlightenment; history of historiography; history of universities; social construction of knowledge; history as process of organization

Project: The production of knowledge as an event

I am interested in the history of knowledge, particularly in how knowledge is determined, formed and distributed through organization. My focus rests upon the conditions, possibilities, leeway and restrictions, which institutions, media, and — generally spoken — all communicational procedures offer to process information, to perceive and to select knowledge. I am studying the history of ideas not as a discursive process of the best and most accurate or outstanding ideas, but as an accumulation process of those statements, which successfully fit into a given social and institutional environment. From this perspective, knowledge arises only to a certain degree from within, i.e. from unconditional thinking and rethinking. Its reformulation results to a great extend from the modes to chose within institutionalized situations. Such negotiations possess an active and a reactive side. They define the knowledge which is valid in an institutional setting. Thereby, they permanently redefine these institutional settings. In short, I regard knowledge not as thoughts but as events in the first place.

I use the Göttingen University in the 18th century as a laboratory to study the organization of knowledge in the outlined form. My goal is to analyze the interplay between the locally given traditions, obligations, cooperation and competition and their interaction with new knowledge, theories and debates coming from outside the institution. In order to do that, I study and compare the four leading media of the university to process knowledge: I examine the development of the Göttingen curriculum, the advancement of textbooks, the reception and annotation of the non-local academic discourses within the nationally leading review journal, the Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeigen, which acted as the university’s mouthpiece. Also, I compare the teaching and reviewing of knowledge with the local research, which the professors presented at the monthly meetings of the Göttingen Society of Sciences. I concentrate the study on the Göttingen reception and production of history. Compared are the composition of teaching and of the textbooks, as well as the practice of reviewing and the matters of research of the history professors Gatterer, Schlözer, the popular philosopher Meiners and the classical scholars Michaelis and Heyne.


Selected Publications

  • Geschichte als präzisierte Wissenschaft. Johann Christoph Gatterer und die Historiographie des 18. Jahrhunderts im ganzen Umfang. Stuttgart Frommann 2012
  • Geschichte und Organisation. Institutionalisierung als Kommunikationsprozess am Beispiel der Wissenschaftsakademien um 1900 (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Phil-Hist. Klasse, 233). Göttingen Vandenhoeck 2004.
  • Pietismus und Aufklärung. Theologische Polemik und die Kommunikationsreform der Wissenschaft am Ende des 17. Jahrhunderts (Veröffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für Geschichte 129). Göttingen Vandenhoeck 1997.
  • “Change of Paradigm as a Squabble between Institutions: The Institute of Historical Sciences, the Society of Sciences, and the Separation of Cultural and Natural Sciences in Göttingen in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century”, in: André Holenstein, Hubert Steinke, Martin Stuber (Hg.), Scholars in Action. The Practice of Knowledge and the Figure of Savant in the 18th Century. Leiden 2013, 267-287.
  • “Das Alphabet der Natur und das Alphabet der Kultur im 18. Jahrhundert. Botanik, Diplomatik, Linguistik und Ethnographie nach Carl von Linné, Johann Christoph Gatterer und Christian Wilhelm Büttner”, in: NTM 1, 2010, 1-27.
  • “Science, Projects, Computers, and the State: Swift’s Lagadian and Leibniz’s Prussian Academy”, in: Max Nowak (Hg.), The Age of Projects: Changing and Improving the Arts, Literature, and Life during the Long Eighteenth Century, 1660-1820. Toronto 2008, 297-317.