Professor Frank Stahnisch

Nominated Fellow

Professor Frank Stahnisch
Home Institution: University of Calgary

Nominated Fellow, July - November 2018


Frank W. Stahnisch is the AMF/Hannah Professor in the History of Medicine and Health Care at the University of Calgary in Alberta (Canada).  He is cross-appointed in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, and in the Department of History, Faculty of Arts.  He is further a Full Academic Member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, as well as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Classics and Religion.


Great Minds in Despair - The Forced-Migration of German-Speaking Neuroscientists to North-America, 1933-1989

Likely no other single migratory event in modern global history has shaped today’s landscape in the biomedical sciences and academic learning as much as the large-scale forced migration of approximately 3,000 Jewish and oppositional scientists and 6,000 physicians and health care researchers from the German-speaking countries.  Among these were approximately 600 psychiatry- and neurology-trained individuals, who were ousted from their positions during the times of Nazism and Fascism in Europe.  Yet we do not have an adequate historical overview perspective on what the scientific impact and social implications of this forced migration wave to North America meant, and particularly not in the area of the new interdisciplinary field of the modern neurosciences and biological psychiatry. This particularly includes the levels of science, postsecondary research, and teaching, which Thomas S. Kuhn (1922-1996) has described as the level of “normal scientists.” The current research project, which has been funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, therefore presents itself as an archaeology of one of the most powerful interdisciplinary areas of the empirical and natural sciences. The project focuses particularly on the impact of German-speaking biomedical researchers between 1933 (the seizing of power by the Nazis) and 1963 (the development of the Society for Neuroscience and other central international societies in the modern neurosciences).

Recent Publications (related to the project):

Stahnisch, Frank W. and Russell, Guel (eds).  New Perspectives on Forced Migration in the History of Twentieth-Century Neuroscience.  Taylor & Francis: Oxford, UK, 2016.

Stahnisch, Frank W. (ed).  Probing the Limits of Method in the Neurosciences. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, ON, 2016.

Stahnisch, Frank W. (ed.). Émigré Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and Cognitive Scientists in North America since the Second World War. Berlin, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, 2018.