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Dr Lena Springer

Dr Lena Springer

  • Researchers

Research Associate in History and Philosophy of Science

Contact details


Lena Springer gained her Dr. phil. in Sinology at the University of Vienna. She researches the transmission of scientific and medical heritage. In the project team “Cosmological Visionaries”, Springer investigates scientists’ and shamans’ efforts at reforestation in Southwest China and Siberia to tackle climate change. As a research fellow of Sichuan University, she investigated multi-ethnic folk medicines in China’s West. In a database team at Charité Medical University Berlin, she contributed to the translation, scientific identification, and interdisciplinary accessibility of Chinese historical pharma-recipes. Springer publishes on ethnicity in Western China, on ethnographic archivers and medical-history-writers in China, on spatial and social migration to Europe and on the anthropology of science. She has taught Sinology, organised summer schools for Sinologists and pharmacognosists in China, and provided consultancy service based on her research and fieldwork throughout China`s diverse regions. Lena is also an Affiliate of the Lau China Institute.

Research interests and PhD supervision

To tackle global climate change, developments in China are crucial. The involved environmental sciences fall into different disciplines of science, which include forestry and philosophy and have national and ethnic histories in countries, such as in China. Based on its biological diversity, as well as ethnic knowledge and technology of nature preservation, Southwest China is a global hotspot of this crucial human project.

  • History of Science, Chinese Medicines, and Botany in China

Materia Medica are a unique case that challenges the current Euro-centred academic mainstream and its historiography. This undercurrent in world science, and the early, medieval and folk history in this multi-disciplinary field, are easily overlooked and still understudied, especially in the vast West of present-day China.

  • Ethnography and Oral history in China

The available historical record in Western China is more focussed on pre-modern sources and scattered surveys than in the East of China. As a consequence, Chinese folk culture and multi-ethnic regional dynamics shed light on heritage and history of science in China, even in the modern and contemporary context.

  • Spatial and Social Mobility in Higher Education and Academia

Elite and outcasts are most often researched in separate projects of migration studies. Academic migrants from China in Austria are one case where China plays a strong role on both levels, especially through mobility in healthcare and higher education, both as a source of tradition and of scientific innovation.


Healing and folk culture from China; Chinese modern history and society; Regional material culture; Anthropology of science; Narrative-biographical interviews.

Expertise and public engagement

Past and present of science, materials and culture in China; Migration; Radio and Newspaper interviews (about the Nobel Prize for Artemisin discovery, about migrants from China to the German-speaking world); Consultancy (Chinese materials and culture, medicinal and nutritious plants in Southwest China, intangible cultural heritage status)

Selected publications

  • Springer, L. (2022 in press), 'Encounters with Linnaeus? Modernisation of Pharmacopoeia through Bernard Read and Zhao Yuhuang up to the present', in Lo, V./Stanley-Baker (eds) Routledge Handbook of Chinese Medicine, London and New York: Routledge.
  • Springer, L. (2019), ‘Taibai Materia Medica: “Unofficial Physicians” in Northwestern China’, special issue ‘Nouvelles géographies de la collecte. Perspectives croisées sur le «cueilleurs» contemporains/ New Spaces of Collection: Crossing Perspectives on Today ‘Gatherers’, EchoGéo. DOI: 10.4000/echogeo.17396
  • Springer, L. (2015, © 2016, open access PMC 2017), ‘Collectors, Producers, and Circulators of Tibetan and Chinese Medicines in Sichuan Province’, in double special Issue (Guest editor) "Efficacy and Safety in Tibetan and Chinese Medicine: Ethnographic and Historical Perspectives”, Asian Medicine 10 (1+2), Brill, pp. 177-220. PMID: 28239310, PMCID: PMC5321519, DOI: 1163/15734218-12341357
  • Springer, L. with Katja Pessl (2013), ‘MigrantInnen aus China im Wiener Hochschul- und Gesundheitswesen: Dynamische Zwischenzonen und Einzelinitiativen’. (Migrants from China in Vienna’s Higher Education and Health Care Systems: Dynamic In-Between Zones and Individual Initiatives). In: Dahlvik, J. /Reinprecht, C./Sievers, W. (eds.). Migration und Integration: Wissenschaftliche Perspektiven aus Österreich Jahrbuch 2/2013. Series: Migrations- und Integrationsforschung Vol. 5. Vienna University Press/ V&R unipress. [ISBN 978-3-8471-0187-1], pp. 69-86.