Manfred Eigen

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Manfred Eigen
Eigen,Manfred 1996 Göttingen.jpg
Manfred Eigen, Göttingen 1996
Born(1927-05-09)9 May 1927
Died6 February 2019(2019-02-06) (aged 91)
Göttingen, Germany
Alma materUniversity of Göttingen
Known for
Scientific career
FieldsBiophysical chemistry
ThesisErmittlung der molekularen Struktur reiner Flüssigkeiten und Lösungen aus thermischen und kalorischen Eigenschaften (1951)
Doctoral advisorArnold Eucken[3]
Doctoral studentsGeoffrey Hoffmann
InfluencesWerner Heisenberg
Arnold Eucken
WebsiteOfficial listing at Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry
Dutch Queen Beatrix meets five Nobel prize winners (1983): Paul Berg, Christian de Duve, Steven Weinberg, Manfred Eigen & Nicolaas Bloembergen

Manfred Eigen (German pronunciation: [ˈmanˌfʁeːt ˈaɪ̯ɡn̩] (listen); 9 May 1927 – 6 February 2019) was a German biophysical chemist who won the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry[1] for work on measuring fast chemical reactions.[4]

Eigen's research helped solve major problems in physical chemistry and aided in the understanding of chemical processes that occur in living organisms.

In later years, he explored the biochemical roots of life and evolution. He worked to install a multidisciplinary program at the Max Planck Institute to study the underpinnings of life at the molecular level. His work was hailed for creating a new scientific and technological discipline: evolutionary biotechnology.[5]

Education and early life[edit]

Eigen was born on 9 May 1927 in Bochum,[6][7] the son of Hedwig (Feld) and Ernst Eigen, a chamber musician.[8] As a child he developed a deep passion for music, and studied piano.[5]

World War II interrupted his formal education. At age fifteen he was drafted into service in a German antiaircraft unit. He was captured by the Soviets toward the end of the war. He managed to escape (he said later that escape was relatively easy),[5] and walked hundreds of miles across defeated Germany, arriving in Göttingen in 1945. He lacked the necessary documentation for acceptance to university,[9] but was admitted after he demonstrated his knowledge in an exam. He entered the university's first postwar class.

Eigen desired to study physics, but since returning soldiers who were previously enrolled received priority, he enrolled in Geophysics. He earned an undergraduate degree and entered graduate study in natural sciences. One of his advisors was Werner Heisenberg, the noted proponent of the uncertainty principle.[5] He received his doctorate in 1951.

Career and research[edit]

Eigen received his Ph.D. at the University of Göttingen in 1951 under supervision of Arnold Eucken.[3] In 1964 he presented the results of his research at a meeting of the Faraday Society in London. His findings demonstrated for the first time that it was possible to determine the rates of chemical reactions that occurred during time intervals as brief as a nanosecond.

Beginning in 1953 Eigen worked at the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Göttingen, becoming its director in 1964 and joining it with the Max Planck Institute for Spectroscopy to become the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry. He was an honorary professor of the Braunschweig University of Technology. From 1982 to 1993, Eigen was president of the German National Merit Foundation. Eigen was a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.[10][11]

In 1967, Eigen was awarded, along with Ronald George Wreyford Norrish[12] and George Porter,[13] the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. They were cited for their studies of extremely fast chemical reactions induced in response to very short pulses of energy.

In addition, Eigen's name is linked with the theory of quasispecies, the error threshold, error catastrophe, Eigen's paradox, and the chemical hypercycle, the cyclic linkage of reaction cycles as an explanation for the self-organization of prebiotic systems, which he described with Peter Schuster in 1977.[14][15][16][17]

Eigen founded two biotechnology companies, Evotec and Direvo.[18]

In 1981, Eigen became a founding member of the World Cultural Council.[19]

Eigen was a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences even though he was an atheist.[20] He died on 6 February 2019 at the age of 91.[21][22][23][24]

Personal life[edit]

Eigen was married to Elfriede Müller.[8] The union produced two children, a boy and a girl.[8] He later married Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch, a longtime scientific partner.[5]

Honours and awards[edit]

Eigen won numerous awards for his research including:

Honorary doctorates[edit]

He received 15 honorary doctorates.[34]


  1. ^ a b Weisskopf, V. F.; Eyring, H.; Eyring, E. M. (1967), "Nobel Prizes: 4 named for international award (Hans Bethe, Manfred Eigen, R.G. Norrish, George Porter)", Science (published 10 November 1967), vol. 158, no. 3802, pp. 745–8, Bibcode:1967Sci...158..745W, doi:10.1126/science.158.3802.745, PMID 4860395
  2. ^ a b "Professor Manfred Eigen ForMemRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015.
  3. ^ a b Manfred Eigen at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. ^ a b Winkler-Oswatitsch, R. (1987), "Manfred Eigen. Scientist and musician", Biophys. Chem. (published 9 May 1987), vol. 26, no. 2–3, pp. 109–15, doi:10.1016/0301-4622(87)80015-7, PMID 3300805
  5. ^ a b c d e Weil, Martin (12 February 2019). "Obituaries: Manfred Eigen". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Manfred Eigen Festschrift: special issue dedicated to Professor Manfred Eigen on the occasion of his 60th birthday", Biophys. Chem. (published 9 May 1987), vol. 26, no. 2–3, pp. 101–390, 1987, PMID 3300802
  7. ^ a b Schlögl, R. W. (1997), "To Manfred Eigen on his 70th birthday", Biophys. Chem. (published 30 June 1997), vol. 66, no. 2–3, pp. 71–3, doi:10.1016/S0301-4622(97)00075-6, PMID 17029872
  8. ^ a b c d "Eigen – Biographical". Nobel Media AB. 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  9. ^ Czikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (2013). Creativity: The psychology of discovery and invention. Harper Perennial. p. 54.
  10. ^ "List of publications by Manfred Eigen", Biophys. Chem. (published 9 May 1987), vol. 26, no. 2–3, pp. 103–8, 1987, doi:10.1016/0301-4622(87)80014-5, PMID 3300804
  11. ^ "Curriculum vitae of Manfred Eigen", Biophys. Chem. (published 9 May 1987), vol. 26, no. 2–3, p. 102, 1987, doi:10.1016/0301-4622(87)80013-3, PMID 3300803
  12. ^ Dainton, F.; Thrush, B. A. (1981). "Ronald George Wreyford Norrish. 9 November 1897-7 June 1978". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 27: 379–424. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1981.0016. ISSN 0080-4606. S2CID 72584163.
  13. ^ Fleming, G. R.; Phillips, D. (2004). "George Porter KT OM, Lord Porter of Luddenham. 6 December 1920 - 31 August 2002: Elected F.R.S. 1960". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 50: 257–283. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2004.0017. ISSN 0080-4606.
  14. ^ Eigen & Schuster (1977) The Hypercycle. A Principle of Natural Self-Organisation. Part A: Emergence of the Hypercycle. Naturwissenschaften Vol. 64, pp. 541–565.
  15. ^ Eigen & Schuster (1978) The Hypercycle. A Principle of Natural Self-Organisation. Part B: The Abstract Hypercycle Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Naturwissenschaften Vol. 65, pp. 7–41.
  16. ^ Eigen & Schuster (1978) The Hypercycle. A Principle of Natural Self-Organisation. Part C: The Realistic Hypercycle Archived 16 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Naturwissenschaften Vol. 65, pp. 341–369.
  17. ^ Manfred Eigen and Peter Schuster The Hypercycle: A principle of natural self-organization, 1979, Springer ISBN 0-387-09293-5
  18. ^ Jackle H; Rotte C; Gruss P (2017). "Manfred Eigen: the realization of his vision of Biophysical Chemistry". European Biophysics Journal. 47 (4): 319–323. doi:10.1007/s00249-017-1266-y. PMC 5982432. PMID 29230510.
  19. ^ "About Us". World Cultural Council. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  20. ^ "HKHPE 03 02". Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  21. ^ "Manfred Eigen, 1967 Nobel Chemistry Laureate, Dies at 91". The New York Times. 7 February 2019. Archived from the original on 9 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  22. ^ Merlot, Julia (7 February 2019). "Der Bezwinger des Unmessbaren". Der Spiegel (in German). Hamburg. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  23. ^ "Göttingen Nobel Laureate Manfred Eigen has died". The Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry. Göttingen. 7 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  24. ^ Lindinger, Manfred (7 February 2019). "Die Klaviatur des Lebens". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  25. ^ a b c "Manfred Eigen". Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  26. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1967 –". Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  27. ^ a b "Manfred Eigen".
  28. ^ "Pour le Mérite: Manfred Eigen" (PDF). 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Vita".
  30. ^ "Academy of Europe: Eigen Manfred".
  31. ^ "Der Niedersächsische Staatspreis". Portal Niedersachsen. 2019. Archived from the original on 13 September 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  32. ^ Brünjes, Angela (5 December 2014). "Manfred Eigen erhielt 1967 den Nobelpreis für Chemie". Göttinger Tageblatt (in German). Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  33. ^ Editor, ÖGV. (2015). Wilhelm Exner Medal. Austrian Trade Association. ÖGV. Austria.
  34. ^ Rotte, Carmen (7 February 2019). "Göttingen Nobel Laureate Manfred Eigen has died". Munich: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Retrieved 18 April 2020.


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