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My thesis: 'The specific heat of heavy water'


Göttingen University and some of its famous professors
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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Göttingen indeed has a big tradition in the natural sciences. You know, the University of Göttingen is not really an old university. It was founded in 1738 by the British king, George II, who at the same time was a king of Hannover. And Göttingen is the state university of Hannover... of the kingdom of Hannover. By the way, the same king, in the same year, founded also the University of Princeton, both having a good tradition in natural sciences.

Now, Göttingen then was... immediately became the university of enlightenment and had a very good start, because it was not dominated by church. And so it became the centre of enlightenment in Germany, and especially in mathematics it grew. Karl Friedrich Gauss was appointed Professor of Mathematics and he founded the tradition. Gauss... his successor was Dirichlet, who was married to Rebecca Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, a sister of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. His successor was Riemann. Riemann geometry came up in Göttingen, and it went on to Hilbert and Klein. Minkowski was in Göttingen, Hilbert, Klein, Weyl, Courant, Landau, Emmy Noether, it was a great time.

So I still got some of these famous mathematicians in my lectures, I heard them - Herglotz, Kaluza. Kaluza has become famous, we didn't know about that work, it became famous later for the five-dimensional geometry, which played some role in elementary particle theory in later years. And, well...

[Q] Rellich?

Rellich was one of my teachers, and...

[Q] Siegel?

And Carl Ludwig Siegel came back, he was immigrated to Princeton but he came back to Göttingen. So that was mathematics, but the tradition of physics was also great in Göttingen. You know, quantum mechanics came out of Göttingen in the '20s, all the famous physicists were at that time there at Göttingen, and now some of the founders of quantum mechanics came to Göttingen. Heisenberg came early in 1946... came to Göttingen, Max von Laue came, even Max Planck was at Göttingen. He died in 1947. Otto Hahn came to Göttingen, so it was a great time.

We were free. Could you imagine that time after the terrible wartime, we could study, we were hungry for science.

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: Riemannian geometry, Hannover, University of Göttingen, Princeton University, mathematics, George II, Amalie Emmy Noether, Edmund Georg Hermann Landau, Richard Courant, Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl, Hermann Minkowski, Christian Felix Klein, David Hilbert, Bernhard Riemann, Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Rebecka Henriette Lejeune Dirichlet, Rebecka Henriette Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Johann Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet, Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss, Gustav Herglotz, Theodor Franz Eduard Kaluza, Franz Rellich, Carl Ludwig Siegel, Werner Karl Heisenberg, Max Theodor Felix von Laue, Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, Otto Hahn

Duration: 3 minutes, 30 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008