Approaches to the life and influence of the Austro-American sports physician Hans Kraus (1905-1996)

  • Rudolf Müllner Centre for Sport Science and University Sports, University of Vienna
Keywords: Hans Kraus, history of fitness, improvement cultures, body enhancement, history of sport science


The Austrian physician Hans Kraus was a central figure in the founding of the American fitness movement. His life and work are to this day almost unknown both within the Austrian scientific community and to a broader public.

Kraus was born in Trieste in 1905 and obtained a doctorate in medicine from the University of Vienna in 1929. Subsequently he trained as an orthopedic surgeon at the Vienna General Hospital. After the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938, he flew to the United States and worked at the prestigious Columbia Presbyterian Hospital (now the New York Presbyterian Hospital).
His field of research was the physical performance and fitness of the American youth. At the beginning of the 1950s Kraus noted enormous deficits compared to the European youth. This attracted much public attention and led to significant public health interventions such as the founding of the "President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports". This council should encourage the American population to engage in physical activity. In addition, Kraus gained great prominence as one of John F. Kennedy's doctors. On the occasion of his death in 1996, the New York Times described him as the "originator of sports medicine in U.S.". 

This study has two goals: Firstly, it will outline the migrant biography of Hans Kraus based on the work of Susan Schwartz (2005). Secondly, approaches for the classification of the scientific work of Kraus in the cultural history of fitness and physical enhancement will be presented. The theoretical background to this is Foucault's concept of biopolitics. The knowledge gained by physicians such as Kraus is interpreted as knowledge of power, which has a disciplining and regulating effect on the body and the population.

How to Cite
Müllner, R. (2019). Approaches to the life and influence of the Austro-American sports physician Hans Kraus (1905-1996). Current Issues in Sport Science (CISS), 4, 014.
Pedagogy & History