(c) Universität Paderborn
(c) Universität Paderborn

I am currently a research associate at the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists (HWPS), Paderborn University. It is a project under the direction of Ruth Hagengruber (Paderborn) financially supported by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

Research into the history of women philosophers and scientists has long been neglected. Especially, the historiography of the 19th and 20th century has tended to exclude, marginalize and trivialize women’s contribution to scientific issues, problems and developments. There is currently a movement toward correcting this historical bias.

My aim is to approach this task by rethinking the questions through which the history of science has been structured up to the present day. My conviction is that closing the gender gap requires rewriting and reforming the history and historiography of science by integrating women into it.

In order to reach this goal, it is essential to go beyond a mere biographical narration. Archival research is the basis for serious and well-founded historiographical studies, but it is not sufficient for a successful and sustainable integration of women’s contributions into recent trends and discussions regarding the epistemological and methodological status of the philosophy of science. In my opinion, a problem-oriented contextualization is necessary.

I try to show what such a contextualization can look like, by using case studies in my research and teaching practice. For example, in my book Émilie Du Châtelets „Institutions physiques“. Über die Rolle von Prinzipien und Hypothesen in der Physik, Springer 2016, I have investigated Émilie Du Châtelet’s sophisticated translation and interpretation of the laws of motion. I came to the result that Du Châtelet opened the door to the unification of the concept of force as cause for changing the state of motion and to a clear differentiation between the inertial state of motion (preserving the state of motion or rest) and the conservation of a physical quantity (energy and momentum).

A second example deals with a “relativized” Kantian interpretation of Einstein’s theory given by Ilse Rosenthal Schneider (1891–1990). In her book Das Raum-Zeit-Problem bei Kant und Einstein (1921), Schneider argued that Einstein’s theory of relativity did not refute Kant, although it was only Einstein who recognized and formulated the dependence of space-time metric with the gravitational field in the language of tensor analysis. The central thesis of her work was as follows: Firstly, Kant’s concept of space and time was not like Newton’s. His concept did not refer to a physical object with respect to which motion can be defined, but to a formal principle. Secondly, Kant contemplated an interdependence of geometry and matter long before Einstein was able to describe gravity as the bending of space-time geometry. I will discuss this argument against the background of Ilse Rosenthal Schneider’s correspondence with Albert Einstein, Max von Laue and Max Planck and against the background of Hans Reichenbach’s and Moritz Schlick’s unfair criticism of her book. A third example refers to Grete Hermann’s distinction of predictability and causality in quantum mechanics and her discussion of space and time from a Neo-Kanitan perspective.

These, and other case studies are part of my habilitation project. In this project, I aim to demonstrate that the standard view on the history of the space-time problem from Newton and Leibniz over Kant to Einstein needs to be reevaluated. The result of this study is that the old dispute between absolutism/substantialism vs. relationalism did not lead to the victory of one or the other position, but to the integration of invariance and symmetry principles into physics. Women’s contributions played a decisive and interesting role in this process of knowledge transformation and consolidation.

Additionally, I have started investigating the history of female German logicians from the late 19th till the early 20th century. Currently, I am editing two Special Issues on the Work of Women in Sciences and Philosophy, namely for Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science (together with Moema Vergara, Museum of Astronomy – Mast, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), and for Almagest. International Journal for the History of Scientific Ideas (together with Ruth Hagengruber (Paderborn University, Germany) and George Vlahakis (Hellenic Open University, Greece)). Together with Ruth Hagengruber, I am also preparing a conference volume on Époque Émilienne. Philosophy and Science 1700-1750.

Everyone is welcome to contact me: andrea.reichenberger (at) uni-paderborn.de

For further information see also: https://historyofwomenphilosophers.org/