Alexander von Schwerin, PD Dr.

Research Associate
Department Structural Changes of the Technosphere

Main Focus


  • Life Sciences
  • Agriculture
  • Bioeconomy
  • Biotech Industry
  • Transnational Environmental Movements
  • Twentieth Century
  • Digital Humanities


Research Themes:

  • Life Sciences in the Max Planck Society
  • Environmental Movements and Knowledge Circulation
  • The Life Sciences in the Global Strategies of CO2 Reduction
  • The Anthropocene Biosphere

Schwerin is a historian of science and technology and specializes in twentieth-century Europe. His work focuses on the importance of biomass, agriculture and biotechnologies in the global CO2 cycle. He conducts historical and interdisciplinary research into the growing importance of biotechnologies in global strategies to reduce CO2 and preserve biodiversity. Particular attention is paid to 1. the self-image of science (e.g. using the example of the Max Planck Society) in relation to social expectations, 2. conflicting goals between social problem areas such as food security and biogenic conversion of traditional industries (OECD, EU and federal bioeconomy strategies) and 3. the role of environmental knowledge transfer. Alexander works on these topics on various levels: as a historiographical genealogy of problems, strategies and social formations; in the quantitative analysis of publication data together with cooperation partners from the digital humanities; in the evaluation of research programmes and policy papers together with cooperation partners from the social and political sciences.


  • Science and Responsibility: The Life Sciences of the Max Planck Society, 1948–2004
  • Evaluation of the National and European Bioeconomy strategy in relation to the goals of COP28
  • Science and Democracy: Social, political and epistemic Dynamics between International Environmental Movements, Science and Research



  • “Bioeconomy”: Towards a New Social and Epistemic Common Sense?
  • Narratives and Political Decision Making
  • Social movements as actors in the system of scientific quality assurance ("Watch Dogs")

Curriculum Vitae

Alexander completed his doctorate at the Free University of Berlin. He first investigated the development of biomedicine under National Socialism, then the regulation of hazards such as radiation and hazardous substances in the interplay between science, industry and politics (habilitation in 2014 and since then lecturer at the TU Braunschweig). Following stays at Cermes3 CNRS Paris, the International Research Center for Cultural Studies Vienna, the Universities of Vienna and Utrecht, he has been a research associate at the independent History Research Group of the Max Planck Society (GMPG) since 2014. He was then assigned to the project Socio-epistemic Networks: Modelling Historical Knowledge Processes in Department I of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG). Since 2024, he has been investigating central narratives in the genetic engineering debate in Germany and at European level on behalf of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN).


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