October 3, 2022

Jürgen Renn

Harvard Book Store, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome award-winning historian of science JÜRGEN RENN for a discussion of his new book The Evolution of Knowledge: Rethinking Science for the Anthropocene.


This book presents a new way of thinking about the history of science and technology, one that offers a grand narrative of human history in which knowledge serves as a critical factor of cultural evolution. Jürgen Renn examines the role of knowledge in global transformations going back to the dawn of civilization while providing vital perspectives on the complex challenges confronting us today in the Anthropocene―this new geological epoch shaped by humankind.

Renn reframes the history of science and technology within a much broader history of knowledge, analyzing key episodes such as the evolution of writing, the emergence of science in the ancient world, the Scientific Revolution of early modernity, the globalization of knowledge, industrialization, and the profound transformations wrought by modern science. He investigates the evolution of knowledge using an array of disciplines and methods, from cognitive science and experimental psychology to earth science and evolutionary biology. The result is an entirely new framework for understanding structural changes in systems of knowledge―and a bold new approach to the history and philosophy of science.

Written by one of today's preeminent historians of science, The Evolution of Knowledge features discussions of historiographical themes, a glossary of key terms, and practical insights on global issues ranging from climate change to digital capitalism. This incisive book also serves as an invaluable introduction to the history of knowledge.

About Author(s)

Jürgen Renn is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology in Jena. He is a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the International Academy of the History of Science, and was elected to a Fellowship by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In recognition of his significant contributions to the history of science, Prof. Dr. Renn has received numerous awards, including The Gustav Neuenschwander Prize, the Francis-Bacon Award, and the Max Planck Communitas Award. Most recently, he was awarded Honorary Doctorates by Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University Jerusalem.