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Rigler's method of determining the rotation of single molecules


Rudolf Rigler: looking at fluctuations
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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Rudolf Rigler was a student, had finished his thesis at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and he met me when I got the Nobel Prize in '67 and asked whether he could come to Göttingen and do postdoctoral work with me. Of course he was invited to come, so he came, and there he had the idea to get down to small sizes... we have talked about fluctuations, we have said fluctuations go with the square root of the number of events you are watching. So he had the idea of looking at fluctuations, rather than on average values where the fluctuations are a small percentage of it. Look directly to the fluctuation.

There was a group in America also, it was in Professor Webb's laboratory at Cornell University. There were Magde and Elson, who also worked out a method which they called fluorescence correlation spectroscopy... and independently it was done in Stockholm by Rudolf Rigler, but the root was his time at Göttingen in the end of the '60s.  That was long before the other paper came out. He had the idea of looking at fluctuation... got together with Leo De Maeyer, whom I mentioned before, with whom we did the neutralisation kinetics. And Leo De Maeyer meanwhile has become a professor and has his own group and Leo and Rudolf went on to whether they could see the fluctuation style. For that they choose one of the very early lasers which became available, and they saw big fluctuations. Wonderful, but unfortunately it was a fluctuation of the laser light, so the lasers were not yet very stable. Simply, at that time technology wasn't yet ready for that. But Rudolf kept the problem in mind and developed it steadily when he returned to Stockholm, and worked out a method to determine the rotation of single molecules.

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: Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Göttingen, Cornell University, fluctuations, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, neutralisation kinetics, rotation of single molecules, Rudolf Rigler, Watt W Webb, Douglas Magde, Elliot Elson, Leo Carl Maria De Maeyer

Duration: 2 minutes, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010