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Summing up: remembering co-workers and colleagues


Why the winter seminars are unique
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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I hated, if I get invited to a meeting, and first I say, 'Oh yes, that's an interesting subject'. And the next is, 'You have to provide an abstract and till then and then ... And you have to come with your manuscript', then already I say I can't go every month or every week to a meeting and then write a manuscript, otherwise I wouldn't do anything but writing manuscripts. This winter seminar doesn't require any written text. And the point we stimulate people to talk about work which is not yet finished, so which can be discussed still. In other words, people are uninhibited to talk things, because they are not pinned down, they can speculate in the seminar. And that makes it lively, that is the... And great people come now to the winter seminar. You don't have to take our thirtieth winter seminar where we had people like John Wheeler, Steven Weinberg and many... Roger Penrose, and many famous biologists.

Also many new ideas came out of the winter seminar. The first winter seminars we were concerned with macromolecular structures, with helix coil transitions, protein confirmation, allosterism, that all was discussed at the winter seminar. New ideas came there. Then enzyme kinetics, then the question of the origin of life and the evolution... evolutionary theory. These were ideas which were heavily discussed at those seminars, and many new papers came out of it. That continued with discussions of cell differentiation, of questions from embryology. It went on to the central nervous system. I remember several times David Ubell [sic] came and gave inspiring talks and we had theoreticians, Christopher Nomaltz [sic], Jack Cowan. And I think it was a meeting... I wouldn't know any example, it was unique, it was very unique... and the people who once participated were enthusiastic about it.

Nobel Prize winning German biophysical chemist, Manfred Eigen (1927-2019), was best known for his work on fast chemical reactions and his development of ways to accurately measure these reactions down to the nearest billionth of a second. He published over 100 papers with topics ranging from hydrogen bridges of nucleic acids to the storage of information in the central nervous system.

Listeners: Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitch

Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch is the eldest daughter of the Austrian physicist Klaus Osatitsch, an internationally renowned expert in gas dynamics, and his wife Hedwig Oswatitsch-Klabinus. She was born in the German university town of Göttingen where her father worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Aerodynamics under Ludwig Prandtl. After World War II she was educated in Stockholm, Sweden, where her father was then a research scientist and lecturer at the Royal Institute of Technology.

In 1961 Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch enrolled in Chemistry at the Technical University of Vienna where she received her PhD in 1969 with a dissertation on "Fast complex reactions of alkali ions with biological membrane carriers". The experimental work for her thesis was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Göttingen under Manfred Eigen.

From 1971 to the present Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch has been working as a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen in the Department of Chemical Kinetics which is headed by Manfred Eigen. Her interest was first focused on an application of relaxation techniques to the study of fast biological reactions. Thereafter, she engaged in theoretical studies on molecular evolution and developed game models for representing the underlying chemical proceses. Together with Manfred Eigen she wrote the widely noted book, "Laws of the Game" (Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1981 and Princeton University Press, 1993). Her more recent studies were concerned with comparative sequence analysis of nucleic acids in order to find out the age of the genetic code and the time course of the early evolution of life. For the last decade she has been successfully establishing industrial applications in the field of evolutionary biotechnology.

Tags: macromolecule, cell differentiation, embryology, central nervous system, helix coil transitions, protein confirmation, allosterism, enzyme kinetics, evolutionary theory, John Archibald Wheeler, Steven Weinberg, Sir Roger Penrose, Jack Cowan

Duration: 2 minutes, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010