Privatdozent Dr. Mathias Grote

Alfried Krupp Junior Fellow
(October 2021 - März 2022) 

  • M.A. in philosophy and biology
  • Assistant professor (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter), Chair for the History of Science, Department of History, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Heisenberg-Fellow at the Department of History, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Fellow project: "'Worlds built from the small' - A history and epistemology of microbiology for the present.“

Dangerous pathogens, tiny helpers, omnipresent companions – microbes have always appeared both threatening as well as fascinating. What is more, contemporary microbiology has contributed significantly to a new picture of life, for example regarding evolution or symbiosis. Therefore, it is necessary to broaden our understanding of the science of microbes, to free it from its narrow focus on the golden age of Pasteur and Koch, and to focus on its ecological past and present. To this end, I focus on the fascinating but little-known work of Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg (1793-1876), a traveling companion of Humboldt and a worldwide authority on the microcosm at the time. Ehrenberg devoted himself to the study of microbes as a formative force in earth, water, and air that has always fascinated as well as terrified people, and thus speaks to questions of humans, microbes, and planet in a surprising way. This project will reflect on central concepts concerning the interaction of different life forms and thus also help to understand the current fascination with microbes.