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Choosing between music and science


Walking home at the end of the war
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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At the end of the war on the airport of Salzburg, where we were taken over by American troops, and were supposed to come into a camp, prisoner of war camp, but my friend Werner Bongard and I decided that we escape. And we could manage to do so, and that was just the day the war ended, May 8th maybe a day earlier, and the 9th May was my eighteenth birthday so we were free already but down in southern Germany, and where to go? We wanted to go back to our parents, which is in northern Germany. So we... at that time no trains and nothing was running so we had to walk. And we did so. Thousand kilometres of walking, and we decided... we said to ourselves we probably never will have a chance to walk through Germany. So let's do it in a way that we, if there's something to see, let's do it, not the most direct way but the nicest way, and that's what we did.

We went to the Burg Hohenstaufen and we went up and looked at it and we were friendly accommodated by people, we prevented large cities, we went largely through rural areas which were not much destroyed or so, and we were free. I have wonderful recollections to that month of walking.

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: Salzburg, Burg Hohenstaufen, Werner Bongard

Duration: 2 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008