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Bielefeld University
Dr. Gerd Meier
Assistant to the Rector
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Sparkasse Bielefeld Foundation
Christoph Kaleschke
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Susan G. Pedersen
© Eileen Barroso

The awards ceremony will take place on 30 June 2023.

The laudation will be held by Professor Patricia Clavin.


  • Born 1959 in Tokyo
  • Graduate studies and PhD (1989) at Harvard University
  • Researcher and lecturer at Harvard University (until 2003)
  • Since 2003 Gouverneur Morris Professor of History at Columbia University, New York
  • Cundill Prize in Historical Literature for her book „The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire“
  • Albion book prize of the North American Conference on British Studies for her book „Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience“.
  • Allan Sharlin Prize, Social Science History Association for her book „Family, Dependence and the Origins of the Welfare State“.


Selection Committee's Nomination Statement

--- will be published in the near future ---

Bettina Schöne-Seifert
© private

The awards ceremony took place on 4 July 2022 at Bielefeld University (Y building).

The laudation was given by Professor Claudia Wiesemann.

Lecture and Laudation, 4 July 2022


  • Born on 5 September 1956 in Göttingen
  • Studied medicine and philosophy/ bioethics in Freiburg, Göttingen, Vienna, Los Angeles and Washington DC
  • 1982 Medical approbation and doctoral degree at Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen
  • 1984-1986 Junior doctor at the University of Göttingen, Clinic for Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine
  • 1987-1990 Scholarship for further studies in Medical Ethics of the Donor’s Association for the Promotion of Humanities and Sciences in Germany
  • 1997-2000 Assistant professor at the Center for Ethics at the University of Zurich
  • 2000 Habilitation at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Göttingen
  • 2001-2003 Visiting Professor at the Centre for Ethics and Philosophy of Science (ZEWW) at Leibniz University Hannover
  • 2001-2010 Member of the German Ethics Council
  • Since 2003 Professor for Medical Ethics at the Medical Faculty of the Westphalian Wilhelm University of Münster: co-opted in the Department of Philosophy
  • Since 2008 member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities
  • Since 2010 member of the German National Academic of Sciences Leopoldina
  • Founder and spokeswoman of the ‘Münsteraner Kreis’, established in 2016, an association of interdisciplinary experts looking into the field of alternative medicine

Selection Committee's Nomination Statement

In 2020, the Bielefeld Science Award in memory of Niklas Luhmann honours a pioneer of modern medicine, Professor Dr. Bettina Schöne Seifert, Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Münster. To this day, there is still a persistent belief that the morals of physicians are primarily guided by the Hippocratic Oath, which dates back to ancient times. In recent decades, however, medical ethics has moved far beyond this traditional treatise. Medical ethics is a multifaceted, highly professional discipline that makes a significant contribution to overcoming the complex dilemmas of modern medicine. In Germany, Professor Schöne-Seifert has been a leading figure in this process. A member of the German Ethics Council for many years, she is an active member of numerous academies and commissions.

Early on in her studies in Freiburg, Göttingen, Vienna, Los Angeles and Washington DC, Professor Schöne-Seifert had parallel research interests in medicine and philosophy. She holds a doctorate in paediatrics as well as a habilitation in philosophy. In the USA, she had first-hand experience of the debate culture surrounding biomedical ethics, which was emerging at the time. This approach to medical ethics lays emphasis upon careful analytical argumentation, a solid foundation in the natural sciences and a liberal, human rights-based position. The award winner has transposed this understanding of medical ethics to Germany in a way that is both informative and thought-provoking.

Her importance in shaping the field of medical ethics in Germany is, in part, due to the influential contributions she had made to nearly every debate on medical ethics that has taken place in Germany over the last thirty years: on brain death, embryo research, euthanasia, organ transplantation, neuroscience, dementia, equity in health care, compulsory vaccination and complementary medicine. Professor Schöne-Seifert always takes a clear position and does not shy away from public controversy, as her emphatic criticism of homeopathy in recent years shows. In addition, she is one of the leading thinkers on the concept of patient autonomy in Germany. Her stance is determined by a deep love of freedom and a fundamental mistrust of all paternalistic tendencies in medicine.

The fact that the award winner is both a physician as well as a philosopher is evidenced time and again in her many publications and public appearances. Unlike anyone else in Germany, she has succeeded in bridging the gap between the very concrete concerns of medical practice and abstract philosophical and moral debates, without compromising her high professional standards in either. Because of this, she is uniquely influential in the fields of clinical ethics and systematic philosophy. This influence was notable, for example, in the University of Münster research group ‘Centre for Advanced Study in Bioethics’ of which she was a leading member for eight years.

The breath of her thinking is reflected in her text book for university students on the basic principles of medical ethics “Grundlagen der Medizinethik.” It represents another characteristic that distinguishes the award winner; her endeavour to educate students at universities on the importance of medical ethics for their future careers in the medical profession. The Bielefeld Science Award therefore honours a researcher who has not only achieved outstanding results in her capacity as a medical researcher, but who has also made sure that these discoveries can directly benefit people.

Barbara Stollberg
© WWU, Peter Grewer

The awards ceremony took place on 27 February 2019 at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Bielefeld. The laudation was given by Professor Jürgen Osterhammel.

Lecture and Laudation, 27 February 2019


  • Born on 17 May 1955 in Bergisch Gladbach

  • Studies, doctorate (1985) and habilitation (1994) at the University of Cologne

  • Since 1997: Professorship for Early Modern History at the University of Münster

  • 2005 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz-Award of the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)

  • 2007 Honorary degree of the École normale supérieure Lettres et Sciences humaines Lyon

  • 2012 Innovation award 2012 of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia

  • Member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts

  • Fellow of the British Academy

  • 2017 Leipzig Book Fair Prize (non-fiction)and Sigmund Freud Prize for Scientific Prose for "Maria Theresia. Die Kaiserin in ihrer Zeit"

Selection Committee's Nomination Statement

Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger is among the most distinguished scientists in her field. She is in possession of an outstanding intellectual inquisitiveness and has always sought to cross disciplinary boundaries. As a professor for Early Modern History at the University of Münster, she has received many awards for her ground-breaking work on the political significance of rituals, ceremonies and symbols in the early modern age.

With her cultural historical approach to political structures, she has opened up a new perspective within historical scholarship to the practices of power and the exercise of rule. This is not only relevant for historical science. In her books she has also brought the early modern age, an era normally strange to us, alive. She makes this era tangible for the reader without compromising the historical differences between then and now. Her two most well-known books, “The Emperor’s Old Clothes: Constitutional History and the Symbolic Language of the Holy Roman Empire” and “Maria Theresa. The Empress in her Times” impressively demonstrate that the so-called “pre-modern” was not pre-modern, rather it dealt with its problems differently, but no less rationally. These two volumes are the crowning achievement of her opus, which she developed in a large number of individual studies and presented in the exhibition "Spectacle of Power. Rituals in Old Europe 800-1800”.

Barbara Stollberg-Rillinger has always looked beyond the boundaries of her own discipline. Inspired by Luhmann’s differentiation of interaction, organization and society she described the Early Modern society as a system in which decisions required presence, and for which dynamics of interaction played a significant role. Awarded the Leibniz Prize in 2005, she used the prize money for a project that investigated the characteristics of pre-modern procedures with the help of Luhmann’s procedural theory.

This is yet another reason why Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger is a worthy winner of a prize that is awarded in memory of a great sociologist who never allowed himself to be discouraged by ingrained intellectual and disciplinary boundaries.


This is yet another reason why Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger is a worthy winner of a prize that is awarded in memory of a great sociologist who also resisted traditional intellectual pathways and disciplinary boundaries.

© Patrick Imbert

The award ceremony took place on 15 November 2016 in the Kunsthalle Bielefeld (Art Museum Bielefeld).

The laudation "Democracy is history - Pierre Rosanvallon's analysis of modern democracy with practical intention" was delivered by Professor Lutz Raphael.

The awardee himself gave a lecture on " La démocratie du XXIe siècle".

Lecture and Laudation, 15 November 2016


  • Born on 1 January 1948 in Blois, France
  • Studied at the HEC, Paris
  • 1969-1977 employed by the CFDT trade union confederation
  • 1978-1982 Research director at the University Paris-Dauphine
  • 1983-1988 Lecturer at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), Paris
  • Since 1989 Director of studies at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), Paris
  • 1992-2005 Director of the Raymond Aron political research centre (“Centre de recherches politiques Raymond Aron”), Paris
  • Since 2001 Professor of History at Collège de France, Paris
  • Since 2002 Chair of the think tank “Republic of Ideas” (La République des Idées)
  • Member of the Science Councils of the French National Library and École Normale Supérieure
  • Office of the legion of Honour, highest French order of merit

Selection Committee's Nomination Statement

Pierre Rosanvallon, a great democracy theorist of international standing, is the recipient of this year's Bielefeld Science Award, which is presented in memory of Niklas Luhmann. Rosanvallon (born 1948), professor of modern and contemporary history at the Collège de France, often and not without justification has also been referred to as a philosopher or political scientist. Above all, he has dedicated his research to the critical review and contemporary redefinition of the great guiding principles of the political, social and economic order. His books on democracy, representation, electoral law and majority of rule, sovereignty, equality, the welfare state, and the market, form an impressive body of work that has been translated into numerous languages and has become a trailblazer for determining the current state and further development of democracy. His public engagement as praiseworthy as his scientific output, notably through the creation of "La République des idées", an "international workshop" or think tank for the intellectual re-foundation of France and Europe, and the website "La vie des idées", which aims to provide high-quality information on the ideological foundations of politics going beyond the narrow field of scholars and intellectuals to engage the general public.

The award ceremony took place on 4 November 2014 at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld (Bielefeld Art Museum).

The laudation was delivered by Professor Kärin Nickelsen.

The award winner herself gave a lecture on “Self-interest and the Divided Self. From the Enlightenment to the Cold War".

Lecture and Laudation, 4 November 2014


  • Born 9 June in Lansing Michigan / USA
  • Studies in the history of science Harvard and Cambridge/England
  • Doctorate in the history of science at Harvard University (1979)
  • Professorships at Harvard, Princeton, Brandeis, Göttingen, Chicago
  • Since 1995 Director and Scientific Member at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
  • Honorary Professor at the Humboldt University Berlin
  • She is the recipient of the Pfizer Award of the History of Science Society, the Knight’s Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts; the Schelling Prize of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, the Lichtenberg Medal of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, fellow of several scientific academies, including fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, corresponding fellow of the British Academy, fellow of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina

Selection Committee's Nomination Statement

In awarding the prize to Professor Daston, the jury honours one of the world's leading proponents of the history of science. Daston’s work has had a significant impact on the history of science in recent decades. Its focus, in particular, is on epistemological and ontological categories that shape scientific research and its standards. In addition to her scientific work, she also supports young researchers to an exceptional degree with her expertise as well as her inspiration and commitment.

The award ceremony took place on 29 January 2013 at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld (Bielefeld Art Museum).

The laudation was given by Professor Uta Frith.

The award winner gave his lecture based on a presentation.

Presentation, 29 Januar 2012
Laudation, 29. Januar 2012


  • Born 1948 in Radstadt (Austria)
  • 1968-72 Studies in psychology, mathematics and philosophy at the University of Salzburg
  • 1972-78 Studies and doctorate at the University of Toronto under Anatol Rapoport
  • 1978-79: ‘wissenschaftlicher mitarbeiter’ (research and teaching fellow) at the University of Basel
  • 1979-94 Member of the Faculty of Experimental Psychology at the University of Sussex
  • 1988-89 Alexander-von-Humboldt Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research, Munich
  • 1993-94 Visiting Professor at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research, Munich
  • Since 1995 Professor of General Psychology, University of Salzburg
  • 2005-06 Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University
  • Member of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina

Selection Committee's Nomination Statement

Through his research, Perner has laid the foundation for lively and productive theoretical debate. This debate takes up classical philosophical questions and discusses them in the light of new empirical findings: What can we know about the thoughts, feelings and intentions of other people? How is this knowledge formed? What if this knowledge is not acquired? Perner's research on the theory of the mind has inspired numerous studies in related scientific disciplines, such as comparative behavioural research, cognitive neurobiology, and social robotics. He has become a pioneer and architect of a worldwide research network. Thus, in a unique way, Perner exemplifies the concept of interdisciplinary scholarship, to which the Bielefeld Science Prize is particularly committed, in keeping with Luhmann’s own convictions.

The award ceremony took place on 19 November 2010 at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld (Bielefeld Art Museum).

The laudation was delivered by Professor Christoph Markschies.

The award winner gave his lecture on “The sacredness of the person”.

Lecture and Laudation, 19 November 2010


  • Born 1948 in Munich
  • 2002-2011 Director of the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, Erfurt
  • Doctorate and habilitation at the FU Berlin
  • Positions at the Universities of Tübingen, Erlangen-Nuremberg, FU Berlin and at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin (Heisenberg scholarship holder)
  • Visiting professorships and fellowships: University of Chicago; University of Toronto; University of Uppsala, Indiana Institute for Advanced Study, Bloomington, Indiana; University of Wisconsin at Madison; New School for Social Research, New York; Duke University, Durham, North Carolina; University of Vienna and Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin
  • Full member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (since 1998)
  • Editor of various social science journals, e.g. "Leviathan - Zeitschrift für Sozialwissenschaft”

Selection Committee's Nomination Statement

By awarding Hans Joas, the jury recognises one of the most distinguished German sociologists and social philosophers of the so-called "middle generation”.

Internationally renowned, he brought the dimension of action theory, which had been largely neglected since the time of Max Weber, back into the theoretical debates of sociology. Joas does not emphasize social determinacy, but rather the creativity of human action, which is closely related to an identification with cultural values. Through his reception of American pragmatism, he has not only made a lasting contribution to the theoretical debates in sociology, but also to its practical importance in German. Accordingly, his research interests focus primarily on the social dimension of values: Their emergence and change, forms of value communication and their impact in subjective experiences of self-transcendence. He has made significant contributions to the sociology of religion, to the interaction between the emergence of values and the history of violence in the 19th and 20th centuries, and thus also to a sociology of war. His major works have been translated into several languages.

The award ceremony took place on 30 January 2009 at the AudiMax (Bielefeld University).

The laudation was delivered by Professor Axel Honneth.

The award winner gave his lecture on “A genealogy of liberty”

Lecture and Laudation, 30 Januar 2008


  • Born 1940 in Oldham, GB
  • Since 2008: Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities, Queen Mary University of London
  • 1996-2008: Regius Professor of History, University of Cambridge
  • 1999: Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge
  • 1979-96: Professor of Political Science, University of Cambridge
  • 1974-79: The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
  • 1967-74: Lecturer in History, University of Cambridge
  • 1965-67: Assistant Lecturer in History, University of Cambridge
  • 1962-2008: Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge
  • Since 2013 numerous visiting professorships incl. University of Chicago, Peking University, University of Amsterdam, Princeton University

Selection Committee's Nomination Statement

Quentin Skinner has put the history of political ideas on a new footing. He is opposed to a history of ideas that only strives to understand the great works of political philosophy in relation to the canon of Western political thought, thereby ignoring the historical context in which they were created. At the same time, however, he also resolutely rejects a history of ideas that claims to be able to explain a work solely from its context. Because of the inherent conditionality of all works of political philosophy, Skinner also opposes the widespread assumption that there are timeless truths in the history of political ideas that can be drawn on at any time to solve problems. Those who hope to learn from history in this sense, he believes, are mistaken. If they think that the solutions of past great philosophers to fundamental questions can be useful for the present day, they will discover that the answers are formed within such a different temporal or cultural context that it is doubtful whether questions are still the same. However, this does not mean that the history of ideas has no relevance for the present. But, he argues, its relevance lies above and beyond its application to the present. Instead, he argues that engaging with the history of ideas help uncover the conditionality of one's own conceptual world and thus contribute to a more accurate perception of the present. Skinner, therefore, teaches the healthy lesson that “We must learn to do the thinking for ourselves”. Skinner has enthusiastically employed this approach in numerous books and treatises on political philosophy of the early modern period. With his early two-volume work "The Foundations of Modern Political Thought" he became the founder of the so-called Cambridge School of Intellectual History. His books have been published in many editions and translated into many languages. He is now regarded as the world's most outstanding historian of ideas and his historical research also stimulates current discourse. Awarded many times in his career, this is the first time that Skinner has received an award in Germany, despite often being drawn to Germany in the pursuit of his work, in particular to the two Bielefeld scholars Niklas Luhrmann and Reinhart Kosselleck and having spent one year as a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin.

The award ceremony took place on 15 December 2006 at the City Town Hall in Bielefeld.

The laudation was delivered by Professor Jürgen Habermas.

The award winner gave a lecture on “Interpretation in general”

Lecture and Laudation, 15 Dezember 2006


  • Born 1931 in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA; died 2013 in London, UK
  • After 1999: Bentham Professor of Jurisprudence, University College London
  • After 1994: Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law, New York University Law School
  • 1998: Quain Professor of Jurisprudence, University College London
  • 1969: Professor of Jurisprudence and Fellow, University College, Oxford
  • 1968: Holder of the Wesley N. Hohfeld Chair of Jurisprudence, Yale Law School
  • 1965: Professor of Law, Yale Law School
  • 1962: Associate Professor of Law, Yale Law School
  • Fellow of the British Academy, Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as numerous national and international awards.

Selection Committee's Nomination Statement

In awarding this prize, the jury honours Ronald Dworkin, one of the most influential legal philosophers of the present day. Dworkin searched for a “third way” between a a legal positivism that is insensitive to justice and natural law that neglects democratic freedom of decision. Rejecting the positivist dogma of separation between law and morality, he insisted that the lawyer must have recourse to ideal political justice in the interpretation and application of positive law. However, he only allowed for specific legal concepts of justice that are linked to the positive norms and institutions of a particular legal community. For him, fundamental rights, as the most important positive legal expression of ideas of justice, played an important role in this mediation. He dedicated his most important book, “Taking Rights Seriously” to fundamental rights, just as Niklas Luhrmann did, “albeit with a systems theory approach”.


The award ceremony took place on 4 December 2004 at the City Town Hall in Bielefeld.

The laudation was delivered by Professor Jürgen Habermas.

Professor Scharpf gave a lecture on “Political governance today?”.

Lecture and Laudation, 4 Dezember 2004


Renate Mayntz studied in the United States and at the FU Berlin, where she completed her habilitation in 1957. Before her appointment as Founding Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, she was Full Professor of Sociology at the Free University of Berlin, the German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer and the University of Cologne. The internationally renowned scholar has received numerous honours, more recently being elected to Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Fritz W. Scharpf is a fully qualified lawyer and political scientist. After studying in Tübingen, Freiburg im Breisgau and at Yale Law School, he became Professor of Political Science at the University of Constance, where he established the first course of study in administrative science in the Federal Republic of Germany. From 1973 to 1986 he was Director and Research Professor at the WZB German Social Science Center in Berlin. Through his publications and policy advice, he has contributed to changing political assessments. His honours include the prestigous Johan Skytte Prize of the University of Uppsala.

Selection Committee's Nomination Statement

The jury recognises the internationally outstanding importance of the research on the governance of complex societies, which the two researchers initiated with the establishment and joint management of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. Within this framework, basic research is conducted aimed at developing an empirical based theory to establish a macrosociology of modern societies. This research focuses on political and social problem-solving forms "between state and market": formation of associations, negotiation systems, policy networks, institutional forms of coordination and mediation of interests, taking into account several political levels, etc. This dynamic research programme was developed through close examination of the key insights of the social theory of the sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998), who taught in Bielefeld and whom the Bielefeld Science Prize is intended to commemorate. Luhmann's systems theory emphasizes the inherent dynamics and "self-reference" of social systems and the resulting difficulties of governance. The work of Mayntz and Scharpf presupposes these difficulties and attempts to explain how political governance and coordination of collective actors is nevertheless possible. They call their theoretical response "actor-centred institutionalism": organizations are regarded as collective actors operating under certain institutional conditions that may be conducive or detrimental to collective problem solving. This is precisely what needs to be explored empirically. Many younger social scientists have been influenced and supported by the two prizewinners during their work at the institute. Not only have they explored new questions, they have also had a lasting influence on the standards of sociological teaching and research in the Federal Republic of Germany.

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