Ackerknecht, Erwin
First name:
Erwin Heinz
20th century
Field of expertise:
History of medicine
Place of birth:
Stettin (POL)
* 01.06.1906
† 18.11.1988
Biography print

(pseudonym: Eugen Bauer); German-American physician, politician and medical historian.


Erwin Heinz Ackerknecht (1906-1988) was born in Stettin (today Szczecin, Poland) as the son of a literary historian. He studied medicine and graduated from the University of Leipzig in 1931 with a dissertation supervised by H. E. Sigerist. As a young man, he was actively involved in communist organizations, and became a leading figure among German Trotskyists in the early 1930s (Bauer 1934). When the Nazis rose to power in Germany, Ackerknecht went underground and fled the country in June 1933 via Turkey. He settled in Paris, where he eventually turned his back to political activism and studied ethnography at the Musée de l’Homme. He managed to leave France for the United States in 1941. He was granted U.S. citizenship in 1948 and became Professor of Medical History at the University of Wisconsin. In 1957, he accepted a professorship at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and kept this position until his retirement. Ackerknecht made a name for himself in the fields of ethnomedicine and social history (e.g., Kurze Geschichte der Psychiatrie, 1957). He published more than 20 books and over 400 scientific articles. The universities of Bern and Geneva awarded him honorary doctorates. Ackerknecht was married three times and had three children.



Ackerknecht, E. H. (1932): Beiträge zur Geschichte der Medizinalreform von 1848. Leipzig: Barth.

Ackerknecht, E. H. (1945): Malaria in the Upper Mississippi Valley 1760-1900. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.

Ackerknecht, E. H., J. Wieries (1955): A Short History of Medicine. New York: Ronald.

Ackerknecht, E. H. (1957): Kurze Geschichte der Psychiatrie. Stuttgart: Enke.

Ackerknecht, E. H. (1970): Therapie von den Primitiven bis zum 20. Jahrhundert. Stuttgart: Enke.

Ackerknecht, E. H. (1975): Rudolf Virchow und die Sozialmedizin. In: Sudhoffs Archiv 59, (3), pp. 247-253.

Ackerknecht, E. H. (1971): Medicine and Ethnology. Selected essays. Published by H. H. Walser. Bern: Huber.

Ackerknecht, E. H., H. Buess (1975): Kurze Geschichte der großen Schweizer Ärzte. Bern: Huber.

Bauer, E. (1934): Österreich. Eine Lehre für alle. Prague: Knopp.

Cranefield, P. F. (1990): Erwin H. Ackerknecht, 1906-1988. Some Memories. In: Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 45, (2), pp. 145-149.

Leopold, F. (1995): Der Nachlaß Erwin Ackerknecht. Ein Verzeichnis. Marbach: Deutsche Schillergesellschaft.

Sigerist, H. E. (2010): Correspondences with Welch, Cushing, Garrison, and Ackerknecht. Published by M. H. Bickel. Bern, Berlin: Lang.

Wendt, E. (2004): Ackerknecht, Erwin Heinz (1906-1988). In: Stettiner Lebensbilder. Cologne: Böhlau, pp. 26-28.

Walser, H. H. (1998): Zum 10. Todestag von Erwin H. Ackerknecht (1906-1988). In: Gesnerus 55, pp. 175-182.

Walser, H. H. (1988): Zum Hinschied von Erwin H. Ackerknecht. In: Gesnerus 45, (3/4), pp. 309-310.


Ansgar Fabri, Burkhart Brückner


Foto: Universitätsarchiv Zürich / Source: Wikimedia / License: CC-BY-SA 4.0


Referencing format
Ansgar Fabri, Burkhart Brückner (2015): Ackerknecht, Erwin.
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
(retrieved on:22.02.2024)