Forum Scientiarum

Previous History

On June 16th, 2005, the FORUM SCIENTIARUM was institutionalized. On this day, the senate of the Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen enacted the statute for the Tübingen center of the scientific dialogue – FORUM SCIENTIARUM. Now a unique experiment, primarily concerned with the transfer of knowledge between the natural sciences and the humanities, made a huge breakthrough. Because of its central establishment as part of the university, the FORUM SCIENTIARUM was able to establish its goals in research and teaching.

This experiment was carried out in the buildings of the university for a fairly long time. Initially, the Evangelical-Theological Faculty in the early seventies was essential for these kinds of questions. The systematic theologian and social ethicist, Ernst Steinbach, and the practical theologian and doctor med. Dietrich Rössler had already carried out interdisciplinary studies and projects, including a teaching assignment, which dealt with the subject “dual culturality”. This teaching assignment then went to Dieter Henke who was an assistant lecturer in Practical Theology, tied in with his studies in Philosophy, Physics, and Theology. His works and courses were complemented in a few lectures, as far as the content was concerned, by the cooperation of evolution biologist, Hans M. Peters. Furthermore, suggestions came from Rupert Riedl who participated in lecture of a proprietary company in Stuttgart. Dieter Henke’s courses, which were continuously enhanced until 2001, were catered to listeners from all faculties in the form of a partnership for advanced learners and seminars for newcomers.

This scientific endeavour received a boost once it became affiliated with the Protestant regional church in Württemberg. In 1980, the church acquired the building in which the FORUM SCIENTIARUM is located today and constructed a workplace for disputes in the natural sciences. However, it quickly turned into a meeting point for everything interdisciplinary. With the increasing success of this interdisciplinary workplace, it became more and more necessary to institutionalize it. So, in 1988 the building became known as the „Work and research institution for theology and the natural sciences“ („Arbeits- und Forschungsbereich Theologie und Naturwissenschaften“ AFTN). In cooperation with the university, the church created an establishment that employed scholars from both disciplines and built up its own library. The work of the establishment was accompanied by a scientific advisory board in which the universities in Ulm and Stuttgart, the Max Planck Institute and technology centres of the region were represented.

Subsequently, the question increasingly revealed its societal dimension and lead to establishing contacts with a private intellectual association in Stuttgart with which an exchange of ideas and studies occurred. In the mid 90s, an interest group developed around the publishers Michael and Thomas Klett and in 1998, the interest group established the registered association, “The two cultures foundation”. The university and the church found another partner, with whom they carried the AFTN over into the more extensive establishment, the “Center of scientific cultures of Tübingen” (“Tübinger Zentrum für Wissentschaftskulturen” TZW), directed by Dieter Henke.

In the Karl-Heim-Haus, students with a double direction of study were supported. Summer academies served the purpose of going far beyond the academic audience. A platform was created for this ongoing experiment, which would lead the dialogue between the natural sciences and the humanities to success.

In 2000, Udo Keller became aware of the work of the TZW and established contact with Dieter Henke. However, the regional church was forced to back out of the project because of financial obligations. Thus, the Udo Keller Foundation – Forum Humanum, founded by Udo Keller in 2001, acquired the building on Doblerstraße 33 from the church in early 2004. After a long renovation, the building was finally made into a very attractive place to study in Tübingen. Together with the Udo Keller Foundation and the Klett family, the University of Tübingen decided to re-establish the building as a central establishment of the university, known as FORUM SCIENTIARUM. It is due to Dieter Henke for successfully carrying out the coordination of the new and remaining partners. Under the new conditions and sponsorship from the university, the church could step back in and make a contribution to the FORUM SCIENTIARUM. Furthermore, the attorney Rolf W. Thiel, who is on the board of the Udo Keller Foundation – Forum Humanum, gave his own personal support to the FORUM SCIENTIARUM.

With the appointment of Niels Weidtmann to director, the FORUM SCIENTIARUM was able to begin its work in April of 2006.