Short Portrait: Emil Zimmermann

Emil Zimmermann
Emil Zimmermann

Prof. Dr. em Emil Zimmermann was born in Pirmasens in 1933, where he spent his childhood years. Due to evacuations at the end of World War II his family resettled in Frankental, where Zimmermann finished school in 1952.

The same year Zimmermann began to study Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry at the University in Heidelberg. Furthermore, he developed a growing interest in Psychology, through which he eventually came into contact with Anthropology and Sociology.

After his pre-diploma Zimmermann changed his major subjects and began to study at the Institute of Sociology and Ethnology in Heidelberg in 1959/60. His minor subjects were Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry. At the newly founded Institute of Sociology and Ethnology E.W. Mühlmann was head chairman. Zimmermann not only attended courses by Mühlmann, Ernst Topitsch and E.W. Müller but eventually became Mühlmanns assistant.

Furthermore, Zimmermann participated in a field research trip to Sicily in 1963, where he worked on several topics, namely on migration and the cultural dimension of disease and health. Through his studies and his experiences in Sicily Zimmermann began to focus on the relation between Culture and Medicine, an approach which eventually led to the academic field of Medical Anthropology.

In 1972 Zimmermann graduated. He took up his work in a psychiatric hospital and began lecturing at the Institute of Sociology and Ethnology in Heidelberg. Moreover, he did further field researches (e.g., in Turkey and Iran) and began lecturing in Freiburg in 1976.

In 1980 Zimmermann took up a position at the Department of Medical Sociology in Freiburg. He not only gave lectures but also worked in transcultural medical teams. Furthermore, Zimmermann worked in the pediatric hospital (Freiburg), where he established an ethno-medical counseling center.

Throughout the years he published a large number of books and essays on the specific socio-cultural conditions of health and their importance for the medical practice.

Emil Zimmermann retired in 1999.

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