Dr Silke Ackermann, Director of the Museum

Dr Silke Ackermann Director History of Science Museum

Research summary

My main research interests include the transfer of knowledge between the Islamic World and Europe, Medieval and early modern scientific instruments in cultural and social context, and the history of astrology and calendars in Europe and the Islamic World. 

At present I am focussing in particular on two areas: 
1)    An exploration of the identities and narratives of objects that are commonly subsumed under the label ‘Islamic Science’, and the question why this label is deemed to be appropriate whilst the term ‘Christian Science’ is hardly ever used. This is pertinent in the context of a complete redisplay and re-interpretation of our objects as part of Vision 2024, the ambitious strategy for our first centenary. 
2)    A book-project ‘The Star of Bethlehem – A Journey through Science and Art’ with a colleague in the US. 


Silke Ackermann studied History, Languages & Cultures of the Orient, and History of Science at Frankfurt University (Germany). She worked for 16 years in a variety of curatorial and managerial roles at the British Museum in London (UK) before taking up a professorship at a private university in Germany. In 2014 she returned to the UK to join the History of Science Museum as the first ever female museum director at the University of Oxford. 
In 2017 Silke stepped down as President of the Scientific Instrument Commission of the International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science. 

Recent publications

  • ‘In the Service of Religion? “Islamic Science” in the Museum’, in Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, 139, December 2018.
  • (with Josefina Rodriguez-Arribas and Charles Burnett, eds.)  Astrolabes in Medieval Cultures, Medieval Encounters vol. 23, Leiden: Brill.
  • (with Richard Dunn and Giorgio Strano, eds.) Heaven and Earth United: Instruments in Astrological Contexts, Scientific Instruments and Collections, vol. 6 (Leiden: Brill, 2018).
  • (with Elizabeth Bruton and Stephen Johnston) “Artefacts and Archives: Presenting Moseley in a Museum Context” in Roy MacLeod, Russell G. Egdell and Elizabeth Bruton (eds), For Science, King & Country: the Life and Legacy of Henry Moseley (London: Uniform, 2018), 258-283.

Email: director@hsm.ox.ac.uk