The starting point – June 2015
I’m not sure exactly how and when the concrete plans for this study matured in my mind. The first announcement of my autobiographical intentions came at the end of June, 2015, a month after I had left as director of the Medical Museion. I wrote on my own FB timeline:
As Søren Kierkegaard said, life is lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards. Having always, for decades, explored new intellectual vistas, I’ve rarely had time or interest in looking backwards. Now it seems to be time to change the priorities. Time to take stock before the next phase, whatever direction it will take. γνῶθι σεαυτόν (know thyself).
“Are you drafting a memoir?, asked one of my history of science colleagues, Carsten Timmerman a few minutes later, and I answered:
Memoir sounds so boring. Autobiography is way too pretentious. I would rather call it a ‘spiritual exercise’ in the Augustinian confessional sense, based on my archive, my memories, and my library.
From this moment forth, I was suddenly deeply involved in what rapidly developed into a full-time research enterprise, a ‘project‘. And accordingly, I changed my scholarly identity: from a professional museionist to an emeritus memoirist.
What I have done after June 2015
In the academic year 2015-16 I focused my efforts on revisiting my childhood and teenage years; I went through all archival material that were kept at home, mainly my grandfather’s diaries (more here); I also scanned hundreds of photos from my early life; and I used much time trying to generate spontaneous memories from the age of 5-6 and onwards (more here). In addition, I made a lot of efforts to locate my former class fellows, all the way back to primary school, and asked them to help me remember our years together.
In the autumn of 2016 — after having collected all possible information I could get my hands on from the childhood and school years — I began to dig into my adult professional career, i.e., the half century from the late 1960s to the late 2010s. This was greatly facilitated by the moving of my professional archival, mainly manuscripts, conference papers, lecture notes, etc., from my office at Medical Museion into a small basement room in our house; having the material nearby made it much more easy to go through it chronologically. Until September 2017, I had browsed and sometimes carefully read, all archival material up to the end of 1991. In the autumn of 2017 I took a break in the archival work to reflect on the project so far and to organize this website.
I have begun to present the general ideas behind the investigation at a few academic seminars and I also have a couple of seminars and lectures in the pipeline (see project outreach here). The major publication outlet so far has been social media, primarily Facebook, because I’ve realized that the FB platform provides a most useful virtual seminar for academic discussions and comments.