Hjalmar Fors

Hjalmar Fors

Head of Unit
Telephone: +46852485288
Visiting address: Annerovägen 12, 16970 Solna
Postal address: GVS Gemensamt verksamhetsstöd, GVS MHK Hagströmerbiblioteket, 171 77 Stockholm

About me

  • I am a PhD (2003) and Docent (2014) in the history of science and Head of
    Unit at the Hagströmer medico-historical library, Karolinska Institutet.
    As Head of Unit at the Hagströmer Library, I lead the work of preserving and
    making available Karolinska Institutet’s collections of rare books,
    manuscripts and images.


  • My main areas of interest are chemistry/alchemy, pharmacy, natural history
    and mining sciences from c. 1550 to the beginning of the nineteenth century.
    I am also interested in knowledge transfers between Europe and China, the
    history of modern medical gymnastics, history of technology and STS (Science
    and Technology Studies). Theoretically, I am interested in the global and
    European circulation of knowledge, as well as the philosophical issues
    arising from science’s claims to superior knowledge and power, especially
    in relation to encounters with non-European cultures. I also cooperate with
    natural scientists in doing reproductions of scientific experiments and craft
    practices (Experimental History of Science).
    In my most recent book, /The Limits of Matter: Chemistry, Mining and
    Enlightenment/ (Chicago, 2015) I studied the emergence of the modern concept
    of matter. A Swedish translation, /Upplysningens element: Materia och
    världsbild under 1600- och 1700-talet/, was published by Fri Tanke förlag
    in 2020.
    I am the director of a research cooperation with CESIMA (Centro Simao Mathias
    de Estudos em Historia da Ciencia) at the Pontifica Universidade Católica de
    Sao Paulo, Brazil. In this exchange, we make a critical evaluation of the
    recent theories of global knowledge exchange that has emerged out of
    postcolonial studies. On the Swedish side, the participants are the dept. for
    History of Science and Ideas and the Office for History of Science in
    Uppsala, and the Unit for Medical History and Heritage, Karolinska
    My most recent large research project, Reconstructing early modern pharmacy:
    Global trade networks, substances and practices started in 2015 and finished
    in 2018. The research was conducted at the dept. for History of Science and
    Ideas, Uppsala university, and pursued in cooperation with Nils-Otto Ahnfelt,
    an analytic pharmaceutical chemist. By recreating an early modern medicine,
    called Swedish Bitters, we reconstructed lost pharmaceutical, medical and
    botanical skills. The project integrated history of pharmacy into current
    research in global history and history of science, and reinterpreted the
    significance of exotic substances to early modern medical practice. The
    project was funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.


  • Head of Unit, Central Administration, Karolinska Institutet, 2024-
  • Head of Unit, Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska Institutet, 2023-2026

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