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Erwin Heinz Ackerknecht was born in Stettin, Germany (now Sczecin, Poland). He studied medicine, sociology and anthropology and earned an M.D. from the University of Leipzig in 1931. Ackerknecht was a member of the Institute of the History of Medicine, University of Leipzig where Henry Sigerist was director from 1928 to 1931. A leader in the German Trotskyist movement, Ackerknecht was forced to leave Germany in 1933 with the rise of Nazism. He studied medicine at the Sorbonne, Paris and received a certificate in ethnology from the Sorbonne in 1939. Interned in the French Army for a year, he was able to teach at the University of Aix-en-Provence before receiving a visa to the United States in 1941. Henry Sigerist, the director of the Johns Hopkins University’s Institute of the History of Medicine, appointed Ackerknecht as a research fellow studying ethno-history in January, 1942, and in 1945 he obtained a position as assistant curator in physical anthropology at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. The University of Wisconsin offered Ackerknecht a full professorship in the department of the History of Medicine in 1947, and he became its chairman in 1953. He left for University of Zurich in 1957 becoming the professor and director of the Institute of Medicine and Biology, a position he held until retirement in 1971. Ackerknecht was a prolific author on a wide variety of subjects covering medicine, history, anthropology and sociology.

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The Erwin H. Ackerknecht Collection contains correspondence to his friend and colleague, Charles Rosenberg.

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