Frank W. Stahnisch Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Frank W. Stahnisch

University of Calgary/AMF/Hannah Prof. in the History of Medicine & Health Care

Frank W. Stahnisch is AMF /Hannah Professor in the History of Medicine & Health Care at the University of Calgary, Canada. His interests cover the history of neuroscience, psychiatry, public health, and physiology since the 18th century. He worked at Humboldt University, Berlin, Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen-Nuernberg, and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany.  Since 2006 he has been a professor in Canada, first at McGill University and hereafter at the University of Calgary.

Subjects: History


As a historian of medicine and health care, Frank W. Stahnisch's interests span the development of experimental physiology and laboratory medicine since the late 18th century (particularly France and Germany), the historical relationship between neurology/the neurosciences and the philosophy of the mind (focus on the German-speaking countries and North America), the relationship between clinical neuroscience and public mental health (particularly Canada and the United States), the historical epistemology of the life sciences (18th to 21st centuries), and the longer history of visualization practices in medicine and health care. His current research as a Principle Investigator has been supported by research grants from SSHRC, CIHR, AvH, NSHRF, AMS, and AHRF, while several of his books have also been supported through the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Since 2015 he has succeeded Professor Malcolm Macmillan (University of Melbourne, Australia) as Editor-in-Chief of the international "Journal of the History of the Neurosciences" (with Taylor & Francis - Routledge Group).


    Doctorate, Free University of Berlin, 2001

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Frank W. Stahnisch is an Editor-in-Chief of the international "Journal of the History of the Neurosciences", which is the official journal of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and the History Committee of the World Federation of Neurology (WFR).  This journal is a flagship journal in the wider field of the history of neuroscience, psychiatry, and public mental health.  He envisages his role as Editor-in-Chief, as to encourage broader scholarly uptake in the history and philosophy of neuroscience, the cultural historical exploration of neuroscientific concepts, institutions, and practices, along with the comparative aspects of neuroscientific research and clinical work in different cultural and international settings.

Personal Interests

    Research / Teaching / Learning from graduate students and trainees / Traveling the world / Hiking in the Canadian Rocky Mountains



Featured Title
 Featured Title - Forced Migration History 20 century Neuroscience Psychiatry - 1st Edition book cover


Journal of the HIstory of the Neurosciences

From interned refugee to neuropathologist and psychiatrist.

Published: Apr 11, 2019 by Journal of the HIstory of the Neurosciences
Authors: Anzo Nguyen and Frank W. Stahnisch
Subjects: History, Health and Social Care

The physician described is Walter Wilhelm Igersheimer, MD (1917-2012), a refugee of Nazi Germany, internee, neurological pediatrician, and pioneering psychiatrist. With an interest in the pathology of the nervous system, his education and medical career in Great Britain were cut short with the outbreak of World War II. Despite being a Jewish refugee from Nazi oppression, his status as a German citizen cast suspicion from the British public, as with all German-Jewish refugees at the time.

Cerebral Cortex

Neuronal Mechanisms Recording the Stream of Consciousness-A Reappraisal of Wilder Penfield's (1891-1976) Concept of Experiential Phenomena Elicited by Electrical Stimulation of the Human Cortex

Published: Sep 02, 2018 by Cerebral Cortex
Authors: Robert Nitsch and Frank W. Stahnisch
Subjects: History, Neuropsychology, Philosophy

Research on memory has been a major focus in the neurosciences over the past decades. An important advance was achieved by Wilder Penfield at the Montreal Neurological Institute, who reported from the 1930s to the 1950s about experiential phenomena induced by electrical brain stimulation in humans, implying neuronal causation of memory.

Journal of the History of the Neurosciences

3 Twentieth-Century Multiauthored Neurological Handbooks – A Historical Analysis

Published: Aug 31, 2017 by Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Authors: Peter J. Koehler & Frank W. Stahnisch
Subjects: History, Cognitive Neuroscience, Neuropsychology, Area Studies

Specialization in medicine was an important phenomenon through which new disciplines, diagnostic technologies, and research perspectives emerged in the 2nd half of the 19th century. When comparing the neurological communities in various countries, visible differences can commonly be identified within the general development process of emerging academic societies, university chairs, scientific journals, diagnostic and research instruments, and textbooks.

Journal of the History of the Neurosciences

New perspectives on forced migration in the history of 20th-century neuroscience

Published: Jul 07, 2016 by Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Authors: Frank W. Stahnisch & Guel Russell
Subjects: History, Cognitive Neuroscience, Area Studies

The forced migration of hundreds of neuroscientists and thousands of researchers and professors from the Fascist and Nazi-occupied European countries in the first half of the 20th century still poses a major conundrum for the history of medicine and science today. Research literature on the receiving countries has tended to marginalized the individual fate and adaptation problems of many émigré neurologists and psychiatrists, which are still a fairly under-investigated group.

Journal of the History of the Neurosciences

Learning soft skills the hard way: Historiographical considerations

Published: Jan 21, 2012 by Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Authors: Frank W. Stahnisch
Subjects: History, Neuropsychology, Area Studies

This article is a historiographical exploration of the special forms of knowledge generation and knowledge transmission that occur along local cultural boundaries in the modern neurosciences.Following the inauguration of the so-called “Law on the Re-Establishment of a Professional Civil Service”in Nazi Germany on April 7, 1933, hundreds of Jewish and oppositional neurologists, neuropathologists, and psychiatrists were forced out of their academic positions.



29th/30th Annual History of Medicine Days Conference at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

By: Frank W. Stahnisch
Subjects: Health and Social Care, History, Other

HISTORY OF MEDICINE DAYS 2021 - 30th Annual Virtual Conference

Undergraduate and early graduate students from across Canada, the United States, and Overseas are invited to submit an abstract for an oral or poster presentation on the history of medicine and health care. The presentations will be 10 to 12 minutes for oral or 2 to 3 minutes for a poster (with additional discussion time afterwards). The poster display will be up for the entire conference. The topics for presentation will cover a wide range and include areas such as the Classics, the History of Public Health, Nursing, Veterinary Medicine, Human Biology and Neuroscience, etc. Prizes will be awarded in different categories and all active participants are invited to join us at the Awards Event on the last day of the conference. Each presenter must offer an original historical research attempt with new methodological perspectives on the topic and/or have a critical discussion following the presentation. If three to four participants would like to present together on a related topic, this could be done in a panel form. A suitable discussant will then be identified by the conference organizers to comment upon these particular presentations. We ask, however, that presentations and poster abstracts be sent in by one author only, not multiple authors. Please note: Due to the current COVID-19 Pandemic, this conference will be a combined conference of the 29th HMDs (2020) and the 30th HMDs (2021) since the March 2020 conference had to be postponed when COVID-19 arrived in Alberta. Hence, the 2021 HMDs conference will lastfrom March 18-20 (three days), and it is planned either as a hybrid conference or as a virtual conference only, dependent on the COVID-developments as they are closely monitored until next March.

The two Keynote Speakers will be Dr. Geoffrey Hudson(Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Ontario, Canada), who presents on “Defining and Treating the Suffering Elderly: War and the Origins of Geriatric Medicine in Late 18th and Early 19th Century Britain,” and Dr. Larry Zeidman (Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, United States), who presents on “Brain Science Under the Swastika: Ethical Violations, Resistance, and Victimization of Neuroscientists in Nazi Europe.”

Dinner Talks / Book Launch: Psychiatry and the Legacies of Eugenics

By: Frank W. Stahnisch
Subjects: Health and Social Care, History, Other

Dr. Frank Stahnisch & Dr. Erna Kubegović

Frank W. Stahnisch holds the AMF/Hannah Professorship in the History of Medicine and Health Care at the University of Calgary. His research interests cover the history of the neurosciences, psychiatry, and public mental health, as well as the emergence of physiological research since the eighteenth century. After completing his dissertation at the Free University of Berlin in 2001, he worked at Humboldt University in Berlin and Friedrich-Alexander University in Mainz, Germany. Since 2006 he has been a medical history professor in Canada, first at McGill University, and since 2008 at the University of Calgary. He chairs the Calgary History of Medicine and Health Care Program and is an Editor-in-Chief of the international Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. His most recent book, entitled A New Field in Mind A History of Interdisciplinarity in the Early Brain Sciences, is forthcoming with McGill-Queens University Press.

Erna Kurbegović received her PhD from the University of Calgary. Her research focuses on the history of forced sterilization and eugenic discourses in Western Canada.

Psychiatry and the Legacies of Eugenics

From 􏰀􏰁􏰂􏰃 to 􏰀􏰁􏰄􏰂, the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act, Canada’s lengthiest eugenic policy, shaped social discourses and medical practice in the province. Sterilization programsparticularly involuntary sterilization programswere responding both nationally and internationally to social anxieties produced by the perceived connection between mental degeneration and heredity. Psychiatry and the Legacies of Eugenics illustrates how the emerging field of psychiatry and its concerns about inheritable conditions was heavily influenced by eugenic thought and contributed to the longevity of sterilization practices in Western Canada.

Join the editors and contributors Mikkel Dack, Gregor Wolbring, and Diana Mansell as they discuss the importance of studying the history of eugenics, the Living Eugenics Archives in Western Canada project, and some recent social developments.

Get your copy of Psychiatry and the Legacies of Eugenics at Use the code CHOMS20 at the checkout for a 20% discount!

January 18, 2021 - Virtual Social 5PM Speaker 6PM Q&A 7PM

Register in advance for this presentation:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

For more information contact: [email protected] (History of Medicine and Health Care Program, Cumming School of Medicine).

Frank W. Stahnisch recently published two new books:

By: Frank W. Stahnisch
Subjects: Cognitive Neuroscience, Health and Social Care, History, Other, Philosophy, Psychology

Frank W. Stahnisch of the University of Calgary, Canada, has recently published two new books.  The links to the two books can be found below.

In the first book, titled ‘A New Field in Mind’, he documents and analyzes the antecedents of the modern neurosciences as an interdisciplinary field. Through case studies and collective biographies, Stahnisch investigates how the evolving relationships between various medical disciplines created new epistemological and social contexts for brain research. He also shows how changing political conditions in Central Europe affected the development of the neurosciences, ultimately leading to the expulsion of many physicians and researchers under the Nazi regime and their migration to North America.

His second book (co-edited with Diana Mansell and Paula Larsson), ‘Bedside and Community’, is the inside story of fifty years of health care and health research at the University of Calgary. Drawing on the first-person accounts of researchers, administrators, faculty, and students along with archival research, and faculty histories, this collection celebrates the many significant contributions the University of Calgary has made to the health of Albertans.

Prof. Stahnisch currently holds the AMF/Hannah  Professorship  in  the  History  of  Medicine  and  Health  Care  in  the  rank  of  a Full Professor, with  joint  appointment  in  the  Department  of  Community  Health  Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, and the Department of History, Faculty of Arts.

Working Group at the Calgary Institute for the Humanities

By: Frank W. Stahnisch
Subjects: Area Studies, Cognitive Neuroscience, History, Psychology, Social Psychology



No other single migratory event in modern global history has shaped today’s landscape, practice, and system in the neurosciences and the biomedical life sciences as the large-scale forced-migration of approximately 3,000 oppositional scientists and 6,000 physicians and health care researchers — among them approximately 600 in psychiatry and neurology — during the rise of Fascism in Europe starting in the 1920s that resulted in the Nazi regime up to the mid-1940s (Weindling, 1996). A critical and rigorous socio-historical and cultural exploration of the impact of this forced migration on all levels of science and postsecondary research and education in the United Kingdom and North America has yet to be conducted. This research project looks at one of the most powerful interdisciplinary areas of the empirical and natural sciences, being the lived experiences of the scientists and their subjective identities as they sought support and help from international colleagues. When many of these displaced scholars successfully emigrated out of Europe, their lives changed dramatically as they struggled to be accepted into foreign societies and academic cultures, but eventually made lasting and integral changes in the efficacy and power of scientific and indeed humanistic academic and intellectual worlds, including in Canada. By examining the history of these scientists and professors, we challenge pre-conceived interdisciplinary notions of the nature of research, teaching, and intellectualism, and the acceptance or non-acceptance of difference and diversity, and hegemonic thought, in the historical and modern university campus, classrooms, and laboratories.



Frank Stahnisch, Associate Professor, Community Health Sciences

Paul Stortz, Associate Professor, Department of History