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Using the relaxation technique to study enzyme reactions


Trying to set up the Max Planck Society Institute of Music
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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We also tried to found in the Max Planck Society an Institute of Music. So again, I have said before that I did much music as a child. The first year during my study I didn't have a piano, but later on I could manage to get, first, access to a piano and, finally, to buy one myself...

[Q] Second-hand?

Yes, and started again to take lessons and went to a brother of Paul Hindemith, Rudolph Hindemith at Munich and his wife Maria Landers, who was a professor of piano classes at the music academy in Munich. There I stayed with them for ten days or so and practised eight hours a day. So I really took up my piano work again, which later on when I become more closely known and related to Paul Sacher, who heads the Basel Kammerorchester, Chamber Orchestra, we played several times piano concertos, mostly from Mozart and we also took the CD later on with David Epstein in Boston with a very good orchestra, partly... Boston Symphony Orchestra... members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. So that appeared at the same time.

Now what about the Max Planck Institute for Music? We had one of our big annual meetings of the Max Planck Society.

[Q] May I just interrupt? You are always talking about 'we'. Would you please let us... who is we? There must be many musicians but...

I will immediately tell you. We had... we is the Max Planck Society had one of its annual meetings and that's usually in the morning, there is some orchestra playing some music and I found the music lousy, and said this later on at dinner. They said, 'Why is that?' So I say, 'Well, they don't have Max Planck Institutes'. Then one of the elder statesmen in Germany, an industrial... Wurster, say, 'That's a good idea, I get you some money, and you bring together a committee for having a Max Planck Institute of Music'. The idea was to have something like the Bauhaus, which came about in the '20s in art and in painting and architecture. We thought that such an institute could have four divisions; one with practising musicians with chamber music, another one with...

[Q] Creating music...

Creative music... composition.  That's a good word - creative music. A third one on technology of music; that means new development of sound, new development of instruments and computer music, and finally music history. And we had a good committee with famous musicians, Rudolph Serkin was among them, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was... Edith Picht-Axenfeld, Georg Picht. The scientists among was Werner Heisenberg, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, and our chairman was Paul Sacher. That is the origin of our friendship with Paul Sacher.

So we tried, we came up with the proposal for the institute, but the proposal didn't get through in the Max Planck Society. I forgot the main person in that... that was Pierre Boulez and Pierre Boulez was supposed to become the Director of the Institute. Now, Pierre got the money from Pompidou and founded it finally in Paris.

[Q] Yes but this was...

... the Centre Pompidou... later. But he could manage and I think he really used part of the plans we had worked out during that time. There were many trips down to Heidelberg, to Basel, we met in Paul Sacher's house.

And so at the same time I meanwhile had founded a family also in the '50s already, had married Frieda Müller, had two children, Gerhard, a son, who is now professor of elementary particle physics in Bergen in Norway, a daughter who is an interpreter in English and French.

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: Boston Symphony Orchestra, piano, Max Planck Society, Max Planck Institute of Music, Bauhaus, Centre Georges-Pompidou, Elfriede Müller, Gerald Eigen, Angela Eigen, Paul Hindemith, Rudolph Hindemith, Maria Landers, Carl Wurster, Rudolf Serkin, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Edith Picht-Axenfeld, Paul Sacher, Werner Karl Heisenberg, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, Pierre Boulez, Georges Jean Raymond Pompidou

Duration: 5 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008