Dagmar Schäfer Is New Max Planck Director

Sinologist to head new department at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

21. 8. 2013 | Prof. Dagmar Schäfer will establish the new Department III at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), called "Artefacts, Action and Knowledge". Her research will focus on Asian cultures and the premodern era.
Prof. Dagmar Schäfer
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Prof. Dagmar Schäfer
Before moving to Berlin, Dagmar Schäfer has been director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at the University of Manchester, and held the chair of Chinese Studies in Manchester, UK. A specialist in the history of Chinese science and technology, she received her PhD from the University of Würzburg, Germany, in 1996, and worked and studied at Zhejiang University and Ts'inghua University in China, at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, and at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Her publications include "The Crafting of the 10,000 Things", University of Chicago Press, 2011, and "Cultures of Knowledge: Technology in China", Brill, 2012.

Her monograph "The Crafting of the 10,000 Things" received the renowned Pfizer Award of the History of Science Society in 2012, as well as the Joseph Levenson Book Prize of the Association for Asian Studies in 2013. In this book, Dagmar Schäfer examines the main work of Song Yingxing, a minor local official living in southern China in the late fifteen and early sixteen hundreds. He documented the extraction and processing of raw materials and the manufacture of goods essential to everyday life, from yeast and wine to paper and ink to boats, carts, and firearms. While analysing this text, Schäfer sheds new light on the development of scientific thinking in China, the purpose of technical writing, and its role in Chinese history. Offering an overview of a thousand years of scholarship, "The Crafting of the 10,000 Things" explains the role of technology and crafts in a culture that had an outstanding tradition in this field and was a crucial influence on the technical development of Europe on the eve of the Industrial Revolution.

In the newly established Department III at the MPIWG in Berlin, Dagmar Schäfer will focus her research on materiality and on the processes and structures that lead to different knowledge systems, i.e. individual or collective knowledge systems. Furthermore, her research will be about the changing role of artefacts - texts, objects and rooms - in the creation, diffusion and use of scientific and technological knowledge.   (© Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)

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