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Four Generations – A Short History of Karger Publishers

From 'Turning Medical Progress into Print' to 'Connecting the World of Biomedical Science'

The five portraits below of the founder, his successors and the current CEO succinctly summarize the company's development over four generations from 1890 and the first book publication in Berlin, Germany to today's globally active publishing house in Basel, Switzerland, with a publishing program of 105 journals as well as 50 new book releases per year.


For those interested in the full story of 125 years of medical and scientific publishing, the richly illustrated Festschrift chronicles how the company evolved in much more detail, placing its unique history in the context of world events as well as medical, scientific and technical progress made in those years. Available online as a free cover-to-cover PDF, the anniversary publication can also be ordered as a hard-cover book.

Samuel Karger

Samuel Karger
The family business was founded in 1890 in Berlin, Germany, when Samuel Karger, a young bookseller, decided to launch a publishing company devoted entirely to medicine and science. Recognizing the medical professionals' need for compact surveys of the state of the art of important fields Samuel Karger created a series of reviews. In 1890 the first manual entitled 'Geburtshülfliches Vademecum für Studirende und Aerzte', a pocket guide to obstetrics, proved an immediate and long lasting success.
Samuel Karger was also amongst the first to foresee the demand for specialized journals. The first Karger journal was founded in 1893: 'Dermatologische Zeitschrift' (now Dermatology). The company soon enjoyed a reputation for high technical production standards and published the works of eminent scientists such as Herman Oppenheim and Sigmund Freud. By 1930, Samuel Karger could list more than 850 titles that had been produced under his direction. At about this time, his son, Heinz Karger, began to co-manage the publishing house, which he took over after his father's death in 1935.

Heinz Karger

Heinz Karger
In the face of mounting political pressure, Heinz Karger relocated the company from Berlin to Basel, Switzerland in 1937. Having lost all German authors and editors due to a Nazi interdict, Heinz Karger decided to restructure his journals to meet the information needs of a European market: most journal titles were changed from German to Latin and carried reports in either German, English, French, or Italian with summaries in each of the other languages. During the war years, Karger continued to produce books and journals, even though their distribution had become nearly impossible. The publications were stored in the cellar below the offices and mailed out after the end of the war to grateful researchers all over the world. The post-war years saw unprecedented growth in the development of the medical sciences which was paralleled by a rapid increase in Karger's publication program.

Thomas Karger

Thomas Karger
When Heinz Karger suddenly died in 1959, his son Thomas Karger, born in 1930, took over the publishing house. He continued his father's style of maintaining close personal contacts with his authors and editors worldwide. It was his decision to make English the predominant language for Karger publications, and within ten years most journals had been given English titles. Under his direction, the company expanded internationally and by 1971 he had established distribution centers throughout the world. In 1960, he founded a new company: Karger Libri, an international subscription agency, followed 1967 by the scientific bookshop. In recognition of his efforts on behalf of medical science, Thomas Karger has been awarded honorary doctor's degrees by the University of Hamburg in 1972 and the Medical Faculty of the University of Basel in 1993. Nowadays he serves the company as chairman of its board of administration.

Steven Karger

Steven Karger
Steven Karger, the eldest son of Thomas Karger, joined the family business in 1982. After studies in marketing and economics, Steven chose to learn and hone the skills of his trade directly on the job, first as an intern with other publishers, then as his fathers right hand, and later as managing director of the bookshop and agency Karger Libri as well as the German branch of the publishing business. As of July 1999, Steven was responsible for the day-to-day business of all Karger enterprises worldwide. Keenly interested in the new technologies and media, he was a key influence in the electronic/online development of the publishing house. Sadly, Steven Karger passed away much too early in 2008 (Obituary)

Gabriella Karger

Gabriella Karger
In 1992, Steven Karger asked his youngest sister Gabriella Karger, born in 1964, to support him in relocating their German subsidiary from Munich to a new site in Freiburg i.Br., closer to the headquarters in Basel. She stayed on in Freiburg and later joined the Basel offices in various functions. She left the family business for an other medium, the Swiss National Radio. After several years as a member of Program Management for its cultural second channel, she re-joined her family's publishing company in 2007 as Managing Director. Taking over responsibilities during her brother's final illness, Gabriella Karger successfully guided the company through the difficult loss and was appointed CEO in 2012. In a 2015 interview, she outlines her views on publishing and her own role as a publisher in the 21st century: 'Managing Knowledge is Ever More Important'