“New German identity”

Lorraine Daston, Director emerita of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, talks about a country in a process of change.

An internationally leading historian of science: Lorraine Daston
An internationally leading historian of science: Lorraine Daston Skuli Sigurdsson/Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte

“In the past 30 years since its reunification, Germany has changed enormously. In 1990, I arrived from the US at the tradition-rich University of Göttingen, which had unfortunately become quite provincial after its past  glory days before 1933. But like this University, the German science and research landscape has internationalized very successfully in the past fifteen years and increasingly attracts some of the best young scholars and scientists from all over the world. For almost a decade now, the German science system has also been working seriously on gender equality, after neglecting the problem for a very long time.

German reunification confronted both West and East Germans with their different values and aspirations; there is still an ongoing discussion of what it means to be German. And not only between West and East Germans: today, a fifth of the German population comes from an immigrant background. Moreover, young Germans of all backgrounds are studying and working across the European Union. All of these forces are reshaping German identity.

In Berlin, the generation of citizens who carried a map of the divided city within their head, is gradually fading and with them memories of the city’s past. But I truly treasure the city’s awareness that history matters deeply and I hope that this awareness endures.”

Historian of science Professor Lorraine Daston is one of the most internationally acclaimed representatives of the discipline. From 1995 until she retired in 2019, she was Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, having previously taught at the universities of Harvard, Princeton, Göttingen and Chicago.

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