Olof Ljungström

Head of unit

Main areas of activity:
Investigation & documentation of the KI anatomical collections
Repatriation of human remains
Collection and documentation of scientific apparatus, late 20th century

About me

Docent ("reader") in the history of science and ideas, employed by the Karolinska Institutet since 2005, to write the history of modern medical research, and to document and write the history of the institute along with it. In 2010 I published Ämnessprängarna: Karolinska Institutet och Rockefeller Foundation 1930-1945 (The Discipline Busters, under translation into English), a monograph study of a number of actors in some key decades in the history of the Karolinska's development into an internationally recognised research environment.

My dissertation in 2002 (book 2004) at Uppsala University was entitled Oscariansk antropologi (Oscarian anthropology, i.e late 19th c.). It dealt with the in 1873 founded Anthropological Society in Stockholm (from 1878 the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography), as an expression of late 19th c. scientific interests in the categories of race and nation, not least so-called physical anthropology as a specialisation within the anatomical sciences. The main Swedish representative of this line of inquiry was the Karolinska anatomist Gustaf Retzius.

Research description

My work so far has spanned from 19th century anatomical science, to the history of biochemistry, neurophysiology and molecular biology research in the 20th century. At the Karolinska I have come to pay particular attention to the institutets role in the history of 19th century studies of race, but also to more general aspects of the organisation of 20th century scientific research, as well as the history and significance of the built environment.

Ongoing projects include among other the externally research project on the project funding history of the Swedish Society for Medical Research (SSMF), as part of the society celebrating its centernary in 2019


BA Journalism 1997, Journalisthögskolan, Stockholm University

MA History of science and ideas 1997, Uppsala University

PhD History of science and ideas 2002, Uppsala University

Postdoc 2004, Centre Alexandre Koyré pour l'histoire des sciences et des techniques, École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Paris.