Prof. Dr. med. Philipp Osten
Photo: Raphael Heygster
Philipp Osten is the director of the Hamburg Medical History Museum and heads the Department for the History of Medicine and Ethics in Medicine at the Eppendorf University Hospital. He is interested in the interrelationships between medicine, politics and the public sphere. Under this focus, he works about natural philosophy, history of paediatrics and psychiatry, medicine under National Socialism, colonial collections, epidemics and films.
He did his doctorate at the Berlin Charité on the history of social welfare for physically challanged children and researched the use of patient photographs in the Imperial Era and during the Weimar Republic. In Heidelberg he wrote a book on the history of sleep. Third-party funded projects dealt with human genetics and with the so-called German Kulturfilm. The Hamburg Medical History Museum is showing his current exhibition 'Pandemics, Looking Back at the Present' until April 3, 2023.
- Pockengift. Geschichten aus der Berliner Impfbibliothek. Kursbuch 206 (2021), pp. 20-46.
- Politik und Gesundheitsaufklärung in Ausstellungen, Plakaten und Filmen, 1880–1980. In: Schmiedebach, Heinz-Peter (ed.): Medizin und öffentliche Gesundheit: Konzepte, Akteure, Perspektiven. Berlin 2018, pp. 201-230.
- Das Tor zur Seele. Schlaf, Somnambulismus und Hellsehen im frühen 19. Jahrhundert. Paderborn 2015.
- Attraktion und Belehrung in Kinos und Schulen der Weimarer Republik, In: Osten, Philipp, Moser, Gabriele, Bonah, Christian (eds.): Das Vorprogramm. Lehrfilm, Gebrauchsfilm, Propagandafilm. Strasbourg, Heidelberg 2015, pp. 95-190.
- Die Stimme von Solferino, Telegraphie und Militärberichterstattung. In: Eckart, Wolfgang U., Osten, Philipp (eds.): Schlachtschrecken, Konventionen. Das Rote Kreuz und die Erfindung der Menschlichkeit im Kriege, Freiburg 2011, pp. 175-197.
Research project: Widerstandskräfte [Forces of Resistance]. Concepts of Immunity and Defence
In Germany, the idea of the Widerstandskräfte [the resistance forces] of the organism became popular nearly 150 years ago. The expression fitted well into the time of emerging bacteriology, when medicine developed the first concepts of immunity against infectious diseases. However, the Swabian veterinarian Gustav Jäger (who succeeded as a naturopath and went down in the history of alternative medicine as Wool-Jäger because of his vehement advertising of woolen underwear) was the first to spread the idea of the Widerstandskräfte, framing them as forces that keep people healthy. As early as 1880, the term Widerstandkraft, which Jäger had coined, was used as a political metaphor by the anti-Semitic senior court chaplain Adolf Stöcker.
The aim of my project is to understand the emerging medical concepts of the immune system and to describe them together with the methods aimed to detect them. As well, trends in the rhetorical use of the terms Abwehrkraft and Widerstandskraft shall be noted. At times, ideologically motivated ideas were also discussed in immunology. An example are the early considerations on the transmissibility of AIDS at the beginning of the 1980s, in which morality played a more, and economics a less obvious role. A particularly scientific-sounding expression of the term Widerstandskraft is currently very popular, especially in connection with the description of political and health crises: Resilienz, a word Germans recently learned to use to describe psychological resilience.