In memory of Herbert Gottweis

On Monday, March 31, 2014 Herbert Gottweis died in Vienna. With his death the Austrian political science and the Department of Political Science at the University of Vienna loses a ground-breaking personality, a passionate scientist and a central actor. During the 16 years he worked at the University of Vienna, he represented the discipline of comparative political science and particularly built up a reputation in the field of comparative-interpretive policy analysis. He dedicated his passion to the investigation of questions posed for society and politics due to the technical possibilities of manipulation of the human genome and fundamental biological processes. With his habilitation, published in 1998 as ‘Governing Molecules. The Discursive Politics of Genetic Engineering in Europe and the United States’ at MIT Press, he laid the foundation of his scientific work comprising many influential international publications.

Herbert Gottweis founded and headed the research platform ‘Life-Science-Governance (LSG)’ dedicated to the interdisciplinary research of the impacts of biotechnology, biomedicine and molecular biology. In doing so, he was also always concerned about the challenge of how the biotechnical development could be organised in a democratic and participatory manner. In his research as well as his teaching he can be considered as a pioneer of an interdisciplinary, internationally networked political science at the intersection of society, technology and politics. Already at an early stage, Herbert Gottweis recognised the potential and relevance of political regulation of the technological development.

Herbert Gottweis was born on February 8, 1958 in Vienna, where he also took his school-leaving exam (Matura) in 1976. Already during his studies of political science at the University of Vienna he spent an academic year at the University of Rochester/USA. After his return he became University Assistant at the Department of Political Science at the University of Salzburg. Soon his attention was drawn to the US again: first as Erwin-Schrödinger-Fellow to the Centre of European Studies at Harvard University and shortly afterwards as Visiting Research Fellow in the programme ‘Science, Technology, and Society” at the MIT, where his lifelong research interest took shape. His scientific career was continued at the prestigious Cornell University, where he worked as Assistant Professor at the Department of Science and Technology Studies from 1993 until 1995. In 1998 Herbert Gottweis returned to Austria and was appointed to the Department of Political Science of the University of Vienna.

At the University of Vienna Herbert Gottweis contributed his research and international experience in an utmost productive way. He became a proponent of the internationalisation of the Austrian political science, which was reflected in numerous international research cooperations, e.g. with the BIOS Centre at the London School of Economics, numerous research projects with international participation in the context of the research platform ‘Life-Science-Governance (LSG)’ und in many study visits to the US, Japan, Australia, Korea and China. His foresight and knowledge about the international research community predestined him for the position of Vice-President of the Austria Science Fund (FWF), where he, inter alia, was responsible for the funding of social-scientific research since 2005.

At all times Herbert Gottweis was role model and mentor for his students and colleagues. He offered an opportunity for many junior scientists to learn from and grow by him and to find their own scientific path.

The Department of Political Science mourns for Herbert Gottweis. Our deepest condolences and sympathies go to his wife and his three children.

His colleagues of the Department of Political Science.