Dr. Matthias Röschner: “We are digitizing on a grand scale”

“We are digitizing on a grand scale”

Dr. Matthias Röschner on the online future of the GDNÄ archive, important research questions and highlights of the collection. 

Dr. Röschner, your first year as head of archives at the Deutsches Museum is up – how are you doing in your new position?
Since I had already been working in the archive since 2009, the transition to head of the archive has been fairly smooth. Of course, my main tasks have shifted and increased, but my predecessor Dr. Füßl prepared me wonderfully. So I am looking forward to continuing to shape the future of the archive together with a highly motivated team.  

How can we imagine your job?
It is more varied than some might think. I am involved in all processes in the archive – from acquiring archival materials to organizing their indexing, from conservation measures and digitization to coordinating their use. In addition to research, public relations work is also very close to my heart: I give lectures, offer guided tours and write generally understandable articles in order to familiarize interested people with the archive work and our valuable archival records. I spend a lot of time answering scientific inquiries.  

Can you explain this with an example?
For example, if a researcher from Berlin asks what sources we have on the professionalization of engineering at the end of the 19th century, I use my knowledge of the holdings to research the estate records of Rudolf Diesel, Oskar von Miller, Franz Reuleaux, Walther von Dyck and others, for example, and send her lists of relevant archival records. The researcher is thus well prepared for a successful visit to our reading room in Munich. 

Quite a workload for a full-time position…
…there is still a lot to do. For example, the important committee work, for example within the framework of the Leibniz Association, the Bavarian Archive Day or in the Munich Archive Circle, and cross-sectional tasks such as personnel management and maintaining contacts with universities and institutes of the history of science. For the GDNÄ, I regularly comb through scholarly antiquarian bookshops and auction catalogs and follow up on promising leads in order to be able to add to what is missing. 

With success?
Yes, absolutely. For example, we were able to acquire some original documents from the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century from the private collections of board members. But there are still large gaps, mainly due to the old archive that was confiscated by the Soviets towards the end of the Second World War and has since disappeared.

Museumsinsel Ansicht Herbst © Deutsches Museum

In autumnal light: the exhibition building on Munich’s Museum Island. © Deutsches Museum

Your predecessor, Dr. Füßl, repeatedly campaigned for the return of the collection. Will you do the same?
Yes, we will of course continue to keep an eye on it. But I don’t think we will reach our goal quickly. The Ukraine war further darkens the prospects.  

What is the importance of the GDNÄ archive for your institution?
The GDNÄ is the oldest interdisciplinary scientific society in Germany and the mother of renowned professional societies in Germany and abroad – its archive is therefore of great national importance. In addition: Unlike other scientific institutions whose archives were completely destroyed during World War II, at least some historical pieces from the early days have been preserved by the GDNÄ. 

What is particularly impressive?
For example, the nine-page print of a speech from 1828 in which Alexander von Humboldt promoted the establishment of sections and thus initiated the first major reform of the GDNÄ. Or the handwritten list of participants from the 1834 meeting in Stuttgart. Albert Einstein’s letter from 1913 is also very impressive. In it, the physicist asks to be allowed to give his lecture in a joint session for mathematics and physics, as he is going into “some formulas so that what I have to present is not too vag[e].” 

On the Internet, you can still hardly find anything about the GDNÄ archive in the Deutsches Museum. Do you want to change that?
Yes, we are in the process of digitizing our holdings on a large scale. In the next few years, you will be able to find indexing data for all archival materials on the web, with information on title, scope and chronological classification. This will enable worldwide research on topics, persons, institutions and companies – and links to other estates and holdings that would be inconceivable in the analog world. We will also offer digital copies of the archival records online, provided there are no copyright objections. This applies, for example, to the assembly reports from 1822 to 1900, with which I would like to do a separate project of digitization followed by full text recognition. 

That sounds exciting, but also like a lot of work. How big is your team?
There are eleven archivists working with me, who have plenty to do even without additional projects. However, we are actively supported by our in-house “Deutsches Museum Digital” initiative. It is in the process of making the museum’s scientific holdings and object collections publicly available via a central online portal. By 2025 at the latest, on the centenary of the opening of Munich’s Museum Island, the goal is to be able to search all available data and digitized material on the Internet.

Lesesaal des Archivs © Deutsches Museum

Space for concentrated work: the reading room of the archive. © DMA CD 65461a

Do you still find time for your own research?
Less than before, but I am currently very interested in provenance research. That is, how and under what circumstances did objects and archival materials come to the Deutsches Museum? There is a cross-departmental working group in the museum that is investigating these research questions and which I coordinate together with a colleague from the area of object collections. The archive plays a key role in this, because this is where the museum’s historical administrative files are kept. A joint publication is also planned, in which I would like to contribute with the provenance of archive holdings.

What open research questions do you see when you think about the recent history of the GDNÄ?
There are quite a few, for example: How did the GDNÄ manage to gain a foothold in the Federal Republic after the war? What personal and thematic continuities are there between the Nazi and post-war periods? The topic of women and the GDNÄ has hardly been dealt with. I am convinced that the documents available to us would yield a great deal for such research.

Your institute will have an exhibition booth at the anniversary meeting in Leipzig. What can visitors expect?
We will be showing some of the highlights of the GDNÄ archive in a poster exhibition, including the medal for the centenary of the GDNÄ with a portrait of Lorenz Oken on the front and a city view of Leipzig on the back, and also the commemorative publication for the Leipzig meeting in 1922. Also on display will be artfully designed Art Nouveau publications from the early 20th century and the Einstein letter mentioned above. We are happy to be available for discussions and look forward to receiving tips on interesting new documents for the collection. You can find us in the Market of Sciences in the basement of the Leipzig Congress Hall, where several scientific institutes from Leipzig will also have booths.

What you tell us about your work does not fit at all with the ideas of dusty files and sleeve protectors that many lay people associate with your profession. What encouraged you as a young person to go in this direction?
Even during my history studies, I was fascinated by the – literally – unique archive sources. There is something very special about working with letters, notebooks, reports, and drawings that exist only once and that often only one person before me, the scribe, held in his or her hands. I found out in several internships that the profession is very future-oriented and involves a lot of responsibility. For only those records that the archivist evaluates as “worthy of archiving” and then actually takes into the archive will be available to future generations. As an archivist, I can not only discover the fascination of the original for myself, but also pass it on to others. In addition to my task of acquiring and preserving historical sources, I see myself above all as a mediator of information and a builder of bridges between history and the present.

Matthias Röschner © Deutsches Museum

Matthias Röschner. © Private

About the person

Dr. Matthias Röschner is head of the Archive Department of the Deutsches Museum in Munich.  Previously, he was deputy to Dr. Wilhelm Füßl, who retired in 2021. Röschner comes from southern Hesse, studied Latin and history, and received his doctorate in 2001 with a study on hospital history. He then completed an archival clerkship and worked at the Ludwigsburg State Archives from 2004 to 2009. In his research, Matthias Röschner deals, for example, with the history of the Deutsches Museum, the provenance of archival holdings and colonial traces in the archives of the Leibniz Association. He is the responsible editor of “ARCHIV-info”, the archive journal of the Deutsches Museum.

Archivplakat © Deutsches Museum

In preparation for the 85th GDNÄ meeting in Vienna in 1913: handwritten letter from Albert Einstein, who was invited to speak. © DMA FA 016 vorl. Nr. 1042

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Archivplakat © Deutsches Museum

Title page of Alexander v. Humboldt’s famous speech to the Assembly of German Naturalists and Physicians in Berlin in 1828. © DMA CD 86986

Archivplakat © Deutsches Museum

Poster of the archive in the Deutsches Museum @ DMA CD 71578

Eva-Maria Neher: “Ambitious research, presented from a qualified source”.

“Ambitious research, presented from a qualified source”

Promoting young research talent is particularly close to the heart of biochemist Eva-Maria Neher. She founded the Göttingen Experimental Laboratory for Young People (XLAB) and gave decisive impetus to the GDNÄ’s student programme. 

Professor Neher, you have been involved with the GDNÄ for many years: for the student programme, in committee work and, a few years ago, as president. What drives you?
Clearly my love of science, especially the natural sciences. I am interested in many fields, but today it is almost impossible to keep up to date everywhere. That’s where the GDNÄ comes in handy: at its conferences, it brings together top-class scientists from different disciplines who present the latest research as if on a silver platter – you just have to grab it. 

When was the first time you had this silver platter experience?
It was, I can still remember it well, at the 2004 meeting in Passau. It was under the motto “Space, Time, Matter”. I was thrilled by the lectures, by the stimulating atmosphere and became a member shortly afterwards.

Saarbrücken 2018 © Robertus Koppies

The XLAB attracts young talent from all over the world.  © Sven Dräger

That was the time when you also set up and ran the experimental laboratory for young people XLAB in Göttingen – a very active time.
For me it was a period of big changes. After a scientific career that had just begun, I had to take a long family break with five children – nine years in total. After that, I really wanted to return to science. But in the 1990s there was practically no chance of returning to research. So I looked for other ways and developed plans for a laboratory where students in grades 11 and 13 could experiment together with scientists. We were able to hold the first courses in the laboratories of the Faculty of Chemistry at Göttingen University in 1999; the XLAB opened a year later. 

At that time, there was much public discussion about the human genome, stem cells and green genetic engineering. At the same time, science was opening up more and more to exchange with society. So the conditions were good for the XLAB?
Yes, it came at exactly the right time. Public interest in research topics was great, but many people lacked basic scientific knowledge. I am convinced that this is best acquired by experimenting in well-equipped laboratories and in personal contact with scientists. Fortunately, we were able to convince not only many great researchers at Göttingen University of this, but also the state government of Lower Saxony, which has been supporting us ever since. Soon we had our own building, and highly motivated, hand-picked students flocked in from all over the world for courses lasting several days in chemistry, physics, biology and computer science. Over time, I was able to establish two XLAB experimental labs abroad: one in Argentina at the Max Planck Research Centre in Rosario and another in China, in Shenzhen. Both projects are very actively run by highly appreciated researchers. However, interest in Göttingen as a location continues unabated, although in Corona times, online courses naturally dominate. Currently, the XLAB is being expanded to include a meeting centre with overnight accommodation in order to be prepared for the anticipated post-pandemic onslaught.

Science calls, Göttingeners come: Eva-Maria Neher in front of a packed auditorium at the Science Festival 2012. © Theodoro Da Silva

You retired from the XLAB in 2018 but remain involved with the GDNÄ’s student programme. How has it developed from your perspective?
The programme is on a good course, I would say, and a win-win situation. The GDNÄ needs the young people to give it a new shine in the long term. And the students are enthusiastic about the challenging programme, as the feedback shows. Some are meeting peers for the first time who tick just like them and are passionate about science – so the joy is naturally great. When I was elected to the GDNÄ board in 2012, I immediately took care of the student programme and brought Paul Mühlenhoff, an excellent member of staff from the XLAB, on board. He dug deep into the new task and made the programme what it is now.

Distinguished group: After receiving the Lower Saxony State Medal, the recipients gather around Prime Minister Stephan Weil (from left to right: Martin Kind, Managing Director of the Kind Group and President of Hannover 96; Gudrun Schröfel, Director of the Hannover Girls’ Choir; MP Weil; Professor Eva-Maria Neher and entrepreneur Dirk Roßmann). © Nds. Staatskanzlei

Where does the student programme stand today?
The young people are taking an increasingly active role in the meetings. For example, at the 2016 meeting, which fell during my presidency, we relaunched the “Science in 5 Minutes” format. It is a kind of science slam by students for students with the aim of presenting a research topic in five minutes in an understandable and entertaining way. The participants are always very enthusiastic and can practise presenting and discussing along the way. We are planning exciting new programme formats for the 200th anniversary celebrations in Leipzig – I am already looking forward to it. 

The student programme is undoubtedly an important task of the GDNÄ. What else?
Above all, sophisticated science communication. There are many people who want to learn more about high-level research – not from books and not from the media, but from scientists themselves. At its meetings, the GDNÄ is already moving in this direction. But I would like to see more of this happening between meetings in the future.

The CEO of Sartorius AG , Dr Joachim Kreuzburg, hands over a 3D printer as a gift to the XLAB in 2016. © Sven Dräger, XLAB

If I may ask something personal: You are married to a famous scientist, the Nobel laureate in medicine Erwin Neher. One always hears that the Nobel Prize upsets the lives of laureates. Was that also the case in your family?
My husband actively prevented his life from being disrupted – and our lives didn’t change too much either. We are both very down-to-earth, live in a small community near Göttingen and have tried to raise our children as modestly as possible. They have all completed their studies according to their interests and are now confidently following their respective professional careers. 

Coming from the Ruhr area, you yourself took a completely different path. How do you look back on it?
I was born in 1950 in Mülheim an der Ruhr as the daughter of a gardener. The most I was expected to achieve was a secondary school leaving certificate, because girls, as they said at the time, would marry later and stay at home. I was only allowed to take the Abitur on the condition that I didn’t have to repeat a year. I applied for admission to the natural science grammar school, which today bears the name of the Nobel Prize winner Karl Ziegler from Mülheim – and I was successful. At that time, the school was attended by about 800 boys and only four other girls. It was a good school for life. I learned to go my way even without special privileges.

Saarbrücken 2018 © Robertus Koppies

Prof. Dr. Eva-Maria Neher © Nds. Staatskanzlei

About the person

As GDNÄ President in 2015 and 2016, Professor Eva-Maria Neher organised the Assembly in Greifswald on the theme of “Natural Sciences and Medicine”. She is currently involved in the preparation of the 200th anniversary assembly in Leipzig. The biochemist from Mülheim an der Ruhr became internationally known as the founder of the XLAB, the Göttingen experimental laboratory for young people. She directed the XLAB, which opened in 2000, until 2018.

From 1969 to 1973, Neher studied biochemistry, organic chemistry and microbiology at the Georg-August University in Göttingen. She graduated in 1974 and received her doctorate in 1977 with a thesis on the regulation of the biosynthesis of poly-β-hydroxybutyric acid in Alcaligenes eutrophus H16. She then worked as a scientific assistant in renowned Göttingen research institutes. Following a family break, Eva-Maria Neher taught experimental courses in chemistry and biology at the Freie Waldorfschule Göttingen in the 1990s and developed the first concepts for the XLAB. Eva-Maria Neher has been married to Nobel Prize winner Erwin Neher since 1978. She is the mother of five children.

For her social commitment, the scientist was awarded the Lower Saxony Order of Merit in 2002 and the Lower Saxony State Prize in 2007. In recognition of her scientific career and her services to science education, the Faculty of Chemistry at Göttingen University awarded Eva-Maria Neher an honorary professorship in 2009. In 2013, she was awarded the Cross of Merit 1st Class of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 2018 she received the Lower Saxony State Medal and in 2019 the Initiative Award of the Susanne and Gerd Litfin Foundation. From 2014 to 2021, Neher was Chair of the University Council of the European University of Flensburg. She has been a member of the University Council of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HAWK) in Lower Saxony since 2008; she has held the chair since 2012. Eva-Maria Neher is the chairwoman of the XLAB Foundation for the Promotion of Natural Sciences, which she founded, and works on the design of the XLAB Encounter Centre.

The XLAB building on the campus of Göttingen University. © Architects Bez+Kock

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Jürgen Floege The pandemic has driven us deep into the red

“The pandemic has driven us deep into the red“

Now it’s up to the politicians, says Professor Jürgen Floege. He heads the University Clinic for Renal and Hypertension Diseases in Aachen, is committed to more research and likes to think outside the box – also in the GDNÄ.

Professor Floege, with what thoughts and feelings do you as clinic director look forward to the second pandemic winter?
I am relatively relaxed. I don’t expect the kind of strain we had at the beginning of the pandemic this winter. In the spring of 2020, there were many seriously ill patients on the wards, which also had to do with the geographical proximity to the then Corona hotspot Heinsberg. We are currently looking after about a dozen Covid 19 patients in our clinic. One hundred percent of them are unvaccinated. Some of them are young and have no previous illnesses, yet they now have to be artificially ventilated. This shows quite clearly that no immune system, no matter how strong, can help against this disease; the best protection is offered by vaccination.

Do the employees in your clinic also see it that way?
Yes, most of them have been vaccinated twice. In the meantime, many of them – including myself –have had a third vaccination. We don’t have any compulsory measures, but we appeal for common sense and consideration. So far, we have done well with this. We are currently concerned about a completely different issue.

Is it also related to the pandemic?
Directly. The pandemic has burdened us with high additional expenses and driven us deep into the red. Even before the pandemic, three quarters of the German university hospitals were running deficits, and now almost all of them are like us. Each of these hospitals treats patients that no other hospital can or wants to treat; in addition, we are responsible for training young doctors on a large scale. This costs time and money and is not sufficiently rewarded by the current remuneration system. Therefore, we urgently need supplements, which politicians have so far refused to grant. At my hospital, but also in many other hospitals, this has led to an investment backlog of the highest order. Important projects now have to wait.

© Peter Winandy

The University Hospital Aachen was founded in 1985 and today employs around 8,500 staff in 35 specialist clinics, 30 institutes and six interdisciplinary units. Every year, more than 50,000 patients are treated there as inpatients and a good 200,000 as outpatients. The hospital is located in the west of Aachen in the immediate vicinity of the municipality of Vaals in the Netherlands.

Your speciality is the kidney – an organ that medical laypeople do not necessarily associate with the coronavirus.
Yet the kidneys are one of the most frequently affected organs after the nasal mucosa and lungs. One third of all people who are severely affected by Covid-19 suffer from kidney failure. And it is not at all rare for an infection to lead to late damage in the kidneys that does not disappear.

How common is kidney damage in this country?
Very common. In about four million people, the kidney function is below 30 percent of its possible capacity. And in half a million people, kidney function has dropped to 15 percent or less. If the function drops to five to seven percent, those affected are dependent on dialysis as kidney replacement therapy, unless a new kidney is available for transplantation.

It is estimated that kidney disease will be the fifth leading cause of death worldwide by 2040. Yet in your field, nephrology, there are currently the fewest clinical trials for new therapies. Why is that?
It has to do with the complexity of kidney diseases. They are difficult to control and difficult to research. Very few patients only have kidney problems; most of them also suffer from diseases of the cardiovascular system, the lungs or the gastrointestinal tract, to name just a few diagnoses. People with pronounced kidney damage are often kept away from drug studies because these studies depend on a functioning organ – after all, the vast majority of active pharmaceutical ingredients are excreted via the kidneys. In addition, the treatment of kidney patients is highly individualised, there are hardly any standard prescriptions. And medicines that have the intended effect in healthy kidney patients can in some cases have a completely different effect in patients with severe kidney disease.

© J. Floege

Visiting dialysis patients is part of the daily work of Jürgen Floege’s team.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of research going on in your clinic. On which topics?
Apart from kidney diseases, it is about rheumatological-immunological diseases. We initiate and participate in clinical studies, but also do basic research. Just recently, the Collaborative Research Centre “Mechanisms of Cardiovascular Complications in Chronic Renal Insufficiency”, which we run together with the outstanding heart specialists at our university, was rated very highly and recommended for a second funding period. We are also involved in Covid-19 research: some colleagues are currently in the process of creating an artificial kidney in the test tube in order to test new therapeutic approaches on it. With my own research group, I want to find out whether high-dose administration of the coagulation vitamin K can help dialysis patients. There are indications that the K2 variant in particular protects the blood vessels that are under great strain in chronic kidney disease. K2 is only found in very few foods, for example in the Japanese soy product natto. For our study, we use synthetically produced vitamin.

What can we do ourselvesf for healthy kidneys?
It is important to have a normal weight, blood pressure values below 130/80 millimetres of mercury and little salt. The optimal salt intake is up to five grams a day, which corresponds to just one teaspoon – much more is unhealthy. In addition, diabetes is associated with a considerable risk of kidney disease: For this reason, too, the disease should be avoided if possible or the blood sugar should be well adjusted if the disease is present.

Allow me to ask you a personal question: How did you get involved in kidney research yourself?
It was clear to me early on that I wanted to do medicine. The decision also had to do with the early death of my father. In the 1970s there wasn’t much we could do about his heart attacks, fortunately there was a lot of progress. I spent my training years in Hanover, New York and Seattle and became more and more interested in renal medicine.

© Peter Winandy

The University Hospital of RWTH Aachen University (pictured front left) is one of the largest hospital buildings in Europe. North of it is the Melaten Campus with technology-oriented research facilities of RWTH and companies.

You have now been working in Aachen for more than twenty years. How does it feel to work as a medical doctor at a technical university?
Today I am doing very well here. It was different when I took up my post at the end of the 1990s. At that time, medicine was more of an appendage of the technical subjects here. The German Science Council took a look at that in 2000 and recommended that the state of North Rhine-Westphalia close the medical faculty. What followed was a huge jolt. Everyone made an effort, a lot of fresh research money was raised, good scientists were appointed and to this day great young people are vitalising the operation – we have become a highly esteemed and valued faculty within RWTH Aachen University.

How did you become a GDNÄ member?
I joined only recently, at the suggestion of the Würzburg cardiologist, Professor Georg Ertl. He also won me over to take on the task of group chairman for medicine.

As a clinician and researcher, you do not suffer from a lack of work. What made you decide to get additionally involved in the GDNÄ?
I like to look beyond the horizon of my discipline and am very interested in other areas of the natural sciences. The GDNÄ meets this need with its diversity of subjects. What also fascinates me is the great tradition – that is already unique.

Do you have any ideas for the future of the GDNÄ?
I think we need a “Young GDNÄ” parallel to the established Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians. Role models could be the Young Internists within the German Society for Internal Medicine or the Young Academy of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and the Leopoldina. It is important that the young people organise themselves and can be productive independently of their elders.

Saarbrücken 2018 © Robertus Koppies

© J. Floege

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Floege

About the person
Since 1999, Professor Dr. med. Jürgen Floege has been head of the Medical Clinic II of the University Hospital RWTH Aachen (Clinic for Kidney and High Pressure Diseases, Rheumatological and Immunological Diseases). He studied at the Hannover Medical School and at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. In Hanover he completed his specialist training, habilitated and took up a position as senior physician in 1995. In the 1990s, he also worked for three years as a visiting scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle. His scientific focus, on which he has published more than 600 original articles, reviews, editorials and book chapters, includes kidney diseases and their central importance for internal medicine, for example in the development of cardiovascular diseases. Professor Floege is the editor of the international best-selling textbook “Comprehensive Clinical Nephrology” and co-editor of the leading nephrology journal “Kidney International”. He has received numerous honours for his research, including the highest award of the German Society for Nephrology (DGfN), the Franz Volhard Medal, in 2020. In addition to his clinical activities, Floege is involved in renowned societies, committees and organisations. He is a founding member and past-president of the German Society for Nephrology (DGfN), past-president of the German Society for Internal Medicine (DGIM) and on the steering committee of KDIGO – an organisation that draws up globally valid guidelines for nephrology. Jürgen Floege has been a member of the GDNÄ since 2019; he has taken on the role of Group Chair of Medicine.

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Dietrich von Engelhardt – In free speech and friendly solidarity

“In free speech and friendly solidarity”

Born in the spirit of awakening, the GDNÄ has always been a forum for great debate and thoughtful analysis. How it has managed this over almost two centuries is described here by the historian of science Dietrich von Engelhardt.

Professor von Engelhardt, next year the GDNÄ will be 200 years old. Not all science organisations last that long. How do you explain the robustness of the GDNÄ?
First and foremost with its uniqueness – also in comparison to other scientific societies. Since its foundation in 1822, its core concern has been the interdisciplinary exchange between natural scientists and medical doctors as well as the connection to philosophy and society. In the humanities, this interest in other disciplines is not as pronounced; there is no comparable overarching humanities society. What also stabilised the GDNÄ were the great scientific debates that took place at its meetings and that radiated far into society and culture.

Which debates are you thinking of?
For example, the debates on natural science and natural philosophy, on the freedom of research, Darwin’s theory of evolution, mechanism and vitalism, and on popularisation and school education. I am thinking, for example, of Emil du Bois-Reymond’s speech at the 45th Assembly in Leipzig in 1872 on “The Limits of Natural Knowledge”, which dealt with the relationships between force and substance, body and soul, which, in his view, were fundamentally not discernible by natural science. The speech provoked both agreement and opposition ­– just like Ernst Haeckel’s advocacy of Darwin and Darwinism. Rudolf Virchow’s plea for the freedom of science and for the renunciation of the dissemination of the unproven in school lessons and in public also triggered a variety of reactions.

The GDNÄ as a forum for great debates: can it still do that today?
Today there are many other platforms for the competition of ideas, the GDNÄ has got strong competition. Its heyday was certainly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. But I also see great opportunities for the GDNÄ in our time, be it in the field of education or in the dialogue between disciplines and in its relationship to society and culture. The response of many meetings has shown this impressively and repeatedly. In this perspective, an important and high-profile topic is also “Image in science”, which will be the focus of the 2022 Assembly in Leipzig.

© Deutsches Museum, München, Archiv, CD79207

The Mathematics and Astronomy Section at the 1890 GDNÄ meeting.

Let us go back to the beginnings. The first meeting of the GDNÄ took place in Leipzig, in the autumn of 1822. What were the founders concerned with?
The driving force was the natural scientist and natural philosopher Lorenz Oken. He had gathered a group of like-minded people around him, including the romantic natural philosopher, painter and physician Carl Gustav Carus and the chemist and mythologist Johann Salomo Christoph Schweigger. Once a year and always in a different city, hence the epithet Wandergesellschaft, they wanted to inform each other about the state of their own research – in free lecture and friendly solidarity, but also in open discussion. The founders were concerned with lively exchange, also as a counter-design to the rituals of the universities and academies of science that had existed for a long time at that time.

Did they succeed in this from the beginning?
As far as can be deduced from the sources, yes. Oken’s call for the Assembly of German Natural Scientists was answered by 13 natural scientists and physicians as members at the first meeting in 1822; a total of 60 people took part in the lectures and discussions. Later it became much more, occasionally 5000 to 7000 visitors came. In the present, the numbers of members and visitors have declined again – younger scientists are setting other priorities for their careers and research. In the early years, the lectures, entirely in the spirit of the romantic philosophy of nature, were about the unity of nature, the connection between nature and spirit, man’s responsibility for nature and also about social commitment. After lively and sometimes controversial discussions, the days came to an end in convivial company with witty table speeches and joint singing.

Could it be sustained like that?
Not quite. In 1828, there was a profound structural change and indeed the first crisis. In his speech at the Berlin Assembly, Alexander von Humboldt had strongly advocated the formation of sections in addition to the general sessions, in order to be able to respond appropriately to scientific progress in the individual disciplines and in divergent debate. This initiative was to prove immensely important for the continued existence of the Society, but was initially met with resistance. Some feared a drifting apart of the disciplines, a development that the founding of the GDNÄ had been intended to counteract. Lorenz Oken was also not at all enthusiastic about the division into sections, but it was finally accepted. However, the commonality was by no means completely abolished: the local newspaper wrote about the evening get-together at the 67th meeting in Lübeck in 1895: “One dined I sections and sang together.

How did Oken react?
He withdrew somewhat and no longer attended all the meetings. His own activities and commitments took a toll on him in those years. Oken was a committed, pugnacious man who strove for a united Germany, fought for freedom of the press and courageously stood up to his opponents – even if they were sovereigns or named Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He wrote and published a great deal, campaigned for science education in schools, edited the first interdisciplinary scientific publication “Isis oder Encyclopädische Zeitung” – it appeared from 1819 to 1848 – and finally went to Zurich. There he was appointed the first rector of the university and died in 1851.

© Deutsches Museum, München, Archiv, CD85577

View of the auditorium at the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the GDNÄ in Munich in October 1972.

At that time, the GDNÄ was thirty years old. How was it doing?
The GDNÄ was doing very well. Its meetings were highlights of scientific and it united the scientific and medical elite of Europe. The lectures, which were printed in proceedings, reflected the development of natural sciences and medicine in the 19th century. Researchers from Italy, England, France, Russia and other countries came to the meetings, even if this was not politically safe for some. Inspired by the GDNÄ’s example, similar societies were founded abroad: in 1831 the British Association for the Advancement of Science, two years later the Congrès Scientifiques de France and in 1839 the Italian Riunioni degli Scienziati Italiani. In Germany, numerous scientific and medical societies emerged from the GDNÄ – in physics as well as in chemistry, pharmacy, pathology, gynaecology, surgery and psychiatry. 

The 20th century was marked by war and reconstruction. How did this affect the GDNÄ?
During both world wars, meetings were suspended. During the Third Reich, the situation was extremely complex in the three assemblies in 1934 in Hanover, 1936 in Dresden and 1938 in Berlin. In their welcoming speeches, the First Chairmen affirmed the new Nazi era, sometimes with opportunistic rhetoric, sometimes with inner conviction. They dealt with the relationship between German and international research in different emphases, spoke of an orientation towards the national welfare and the benefit for mankind, and at the same time gratefully emphasised the participation of foreign scientists.  The scientific and medical lectures were predominantly free of Nazi ideology, although the lectures on hereditary biology certainly corresponded to the racial ideological discussions of the time. Overarching lectures, such as those by Werner Heisenberg on “Changes in the Foundations of the Exact Sciences in Recent Times” in 1934, by Walter Gerlach on “Theory and Experiment in Exact Science” in 1936 or by Ludwig Aschoff in 1936 on “Pathology and Biology”, were purely scientific and theoretical and explicitly without any connection to the world of politics. The first post-war meeting did not take place again until 1950 in Munich – with a keynote address by the then Federal President Theodor Heuss.

More than seventy years have passed since then. Is there a defining development in this long period of time that is still noticeable today that you would single out?
Yes, it has to do with the impetuous optimism about progress that characterised the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century and which was problematised in the 1970s at the latest. The Heidelberg medical historian Heinrich Schipperges outlined the new attitude in 1972, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the GDNÄ, in my opinion very aptly: “At the end of the 20th century, we no longer expect that rational social development is coupled with the progress of scientific discoveries and inventions.” However, he added: “We remain convinced that science is still the most reliable instrument for managing progress.”

What is the importance of the GDNÄ today? What function can it assume in the spectrum of science organisations?
The dialogue with the public, which the GDNÄ has always cultivated, is important. In the 19th century, leading naturalists such as the naturalist and natural philosopher Gotthelf Heinrich von Schubert wrote natural science books for school lessons. Today, unfortunately, there is no such thing. In the mid-1990s, an educational commission of the GDNÄ had developed convincing concepts for general science education as, as it put it, “interdisciplinary subject teaching”. However, the implementation in teacher training and everyday school life is still pending. In addition, the GDNÄ as an independent institution is excellently suited to take up central and controversial issues from the natural sciences and medicine for society and culture and to bring them into public discussion. Last but not least, I would like to see it build bridges to the humanities, also to shed light on connections between knowledge of the world and self-knowledge and to address ethical and legal challenges of the present. 

One question in conclusion: Today, the term “natural researcher” in the GDNÄ name sounds somewhat antiquated. What did people mean by it two hundred years ago?
If we leave out the natural philosophical dimensions, natural research at that time meant roughly what we understand by natural sciences today. The fact that this term finally prevailed has to do with influences from abroad and the English language. I still consider the term “natural researcher” to be meaningful, attractive and by no means antiquated. In contrast to “natural science” and in agreement with the French “recherche” and English “research”, it emphasises the searching, the questioning, the setting out into the unknown. This is what it is all about, today just as it was when the Society of German Natural Scientists was founded in 1822. 

Saarbrücken 2018 © Robertus Koppies

© Institut für Medizingeschichte und Wissenschaftsforschung Lübeck

The science historian Prof. Dr. Dietrich von Engelhardt.

About the person
Dietrich von Engelhardt was born in Göttingen in 1941. He studied philosophy, history and Slavic studies in Tübingen, Munich and Heidelberg, received his doctorate in 1969, worked for several years in criminology and criminal therapy and habilitated in 1976 in the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Medicine at the University of Heidelberg. From 1983 to 2007 he was full professor for the history of medicine and general history of science at the University of Lübeck, and from 2008 to 2011 he was acting director of a comparable Institute at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). Dietrich von Engelhardt took on many other responsibilities, including Prorector of the University of Lübeck (1993 to 1996), President of the Academy for Ethics in Medicine (1998 to 2002), Chairman of the Ethics Committee for Medical Research and the Clinical Ethics Committee of the University of Lübeck (2000 to 2007), and Vice-President of the Regional Committee for Ethics in South Tyrol (2001 to 2010). In 1997 he initiated and organised a symposium in Lübeck on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the GDNÄ.

Dietrich von Engelhardt has been honoured several times, for example by being admitted to the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 1995 and to other national and international scientific academies. He received the Georg Maurer Medal of the TUM Faculty of Medicine in 2004 and the prize of the Zurich Margrit Egnér Foundation, also in 2004. In 2016, he was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Medal for his research on the history of the GDNÄ.

Dietrich von Engelhardt’s scientific focus areas include: Theory of Medicine; Medical Ethics; Medicine in Modern Literature; 16th Century Botany: Natural Philosophy, Natural Science and Medicine in Idealism and Romanticism; History of Psychiatry; Scientific and Medical Journeys in Modern Times; European Scientific Relations; Dealing with Illness by the Sick; Bibliotherapy; Biographies and Pathographies of Natural Scientists, Physicians and Artists.

Further links:

Bücher (Ed. Dietrich von Engelhardt)

>> Forschung und Fortschritt, Festschrift zum 175-jährigen Jubiläum der Gesellschaft Deutscher Naturforscher und Ärzte, Stuttgart 1997 (anthology with seminal speeches from Lorenz Oken to Hubert Markl; available in antiquarian bookshops)
>> Zwei Jahrhunderte Wissenschaft und Forschung in Deutschland, Entwicklungen – Perspektiven (Two Centuries of Science and Research in Germany, Developments – Perspectives), Stuttgart 1998 (conference proceedings on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the GDNÄ; available in antiquarian bookshops)

© G. C. Wilder / Stadtmuseum Fembo-Haus, Nürnberg

On the occasion of the 23rd meeting of the „Gentlemen Natural Scientists and Physicians” in 1845, the city of Nuremberg invited to a banquet in the town hall.

Tina Romeis – Fascinating and beautiful

„Fascinating and beautiful“

They provide oxygen and food and create a healthy environment: plants are vital and yet increasingly threatened. Professor Tina Romeis at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB) in Halle is researching how their resistance to drought and other stress factors can be specifically improved.

Professor Romeis, climate change is affecting plants worldwide. Even in our latitudes, trees, shrubs and many other plants have been affected by the droughts of recent years. Does this concern you in your research?
Yes, drought stress is a major issue for me and many of my colleagues here at the institute. As basic researchers, we want to understand down to the molecular details what happens in plants during prolonged water shortages. With this knowledge, it should be possible to increase their resistance in a targeted way.

How are you tackling the problem?
Our institute specializes in small molecules. We focus on certain metabolites that make a decisive contribution to a plant’s resistance to drought. We determine such metabolites in plants that cope differently well with water shortages. Trees such as beech and oak still have a fairly high drought tolerance, while conifers have major problems. We also identify the small molecules in signaling pathways that spread information about environmental conditions within a plant. The plant also uses these pathways to mobilize its defenses, for example in the event of water shortage.

Das deutsche Tiefsee-Forschungsschiff „Sonne" © Thomas Walter

© IPB

 In the foyer of the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB) in Halle.

How can we imagine plant defenses?
When plants are attacked, for example by bacteria or feeding insects, they activate defense mechanisms and substances with which they can defend themselves against future attacks. Calcium-dependent protein kinases are involved in this, and I am particularly interested in them in my research. These are enzymes that are not only important for the immune defense of plants, they also shape plant stress tolerance to drought, cold and nutrient deficiency. Interestingly, there are similar calcium-regulated protein kinases in the human brain that are critical for learning and memory.

Can plants also remember?
Yes, you can certainly say that. Of course, plants don’t have a brain or nervous system like we humans do. But they do have a kind of molecular memory. My research group is investigating exactly how it works, what information plants store in the short or long term, and what factors regulate the forgetting of information.

What do you do with findings that could be interesting for application?
If that’s the case, we turn to the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in nearby Gatersleben. The exchange and cooperation between our institutes works excellently and the division of roles is mutually agreed: We at the IPB are responsible for basic biochemical research, while Gatersleben has species-rich seed banks that are ideally suited for new breeding or targeted genetic modification.

Such developments are very important for feeding a growing world population under climate change. Does this have an impact on your work?
Admittedly, we do not carry out plant breeding, so we do not provide directly applicable solutions. But the questions we ask in our basic biochemical research are naturally guided by global challenges such as climate change. The fact that these research questions urgently need to be answered is also evident from the fact that science in our field is booming worldwide. In Germany, we are currently still in a very good position. However, I am somewhat skeptical about the future. Many young people don’t want to do a doctorate after graduation. Among them, I observe a strong interest in nature conservation, environmental management and ecological education – basic research is not their main concern.

Was that the reason why you moved from Freie Universität Berlin to the Leibniz Research Institute in Halle three years ago?
I wanted to concentrate on research, and the conditions at the IPB are ideal for that. The equipment we have here is something you can only dream of at most universities. One example is our mass spectrometer, which we use to determine the masses of atoms and molecules in plants, another is the confocal microscope, which makes tiny plant reactions visible. And with the help of so-called FRET microscopy, we can observe biochemical processes in the plant live.

© IPB

With this confocal microscope, the scientists led by Professor Romeis study the behaviour of living plants under different conditions, such as severe drought. The image tiles on the screen show the same leaf of the thale cress Arabidopsis thaliana, which is frequently used for research purposes. Individual sphincter cells (stomata) on the underside of a leaf are shown – they control the gas exchange and water balance in the plant. The microscope demonstrates the biochemical processes that lead to the opening of the cells in favourable conditions and to their closing in dry conditions.

These sound like good prerequisites for success stories.
And there are always success stories, even across disciplines. Just a few months ago, a spectacular discovery was published to which research at our institute contributed. It was about the trigger of a mysterious neurodegenerative disease in bald eagles, which was identified after years of joint research with American scientists. Since the 1990s, the disease had killed many birds, reptiles and fish in the southern United States. The cause was a toxin produced by cyanobacteria that thrive on certain aquatic plants in the affected areas. The study was published as a cover story in the journal “Science” and brought large reputation to plant research in Halle. My colleagues at the institute have now just succeeded in the total chemical synthesis of this toxin, which is a toxic metabolite.

The study was also reported in the German media. Was that due to the attractive topic or is public interest in scientific topics generally high?
It had a lot to do with the particular subject matter. In general, I’m observing an increasing scientific fatigue and a loss of confidence. The many plagiarism scandals have done a lot of damage to the relationship between science and society. We have a lot of catching up to do.

What role can the GDNÄ play in this? After all, the exchange with society is one of its major concerns.
I believe that the GDNÄ can achieve a lot here. It is a neutral body and does not represent any specific professional interests. That is a good basis for a trusting dialog with the public.

In the GDNÄ, you have recently started representing the subject of biology. What would you like to achieve in this function?
Plants are extremely important for our lives, for energy supply and the entire ecosystem, and they are becoming increasingly important. In addition, plants are beautiful and fascinating. I would like to raise awareness of that and also communicate it to the next generation. The GDNÄ’s programs for students and teachers offer excellent opportunities for this.

Saarbrücken 2018 © Robertus Koppies

© IPB

Prof. Dr. Tina Romeis

© IPB

A research facility in green surroundings.

About the person
Since 2019, Tina Romeis has headed the “Biochemistry of Plant Interactions” department at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB) in Halle an der Saale. At the same time, the then 54-year-old was appointed professor at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.  Prior to this, Tina Romeis had headed the Department of Plant Biochemistry at Freie Universität Berlin for 15 years. The call to Berlin was preceded by research activities at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany. There she was able to establish herself as an independent group leader thanks to the highly endowed Sofia Kovalevskaja Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which she received in 2001. Her habilitation in genetics and molecular phytopathology took place at the Institute of Genetics of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich. Further milestones in her career were research residencies in Munich and at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, and before that a PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen. In Tübingen, at the Eberhard Karls University, Tina Romeis studied biochemistry, organic chemistry and plant physiology. Born in Würzburg, she grew up in the Steigerwald region of Franconia.

Professor Romeis’ research interests focus in particular on calcium-dependent protein kinases. These enzymes are not only important for the immune defense of plants, they also shape their stress tolerance to drought, cold and nutrient deficiency. The biochemist wants to make her basic research useful in cooperation with research institutions in the region: both for agriculture and forestry as well as for understanding ecological relationships.

Further links:

Thomas Elsässer – Snapshots of twitching molecules

Snapshots of twitching molecules

Berlin-based experimental physicist Thomas Elsässer uses ultrashort light pulses to make tiny movements of matter visible. What he and his team are investigating is of great practical use for the development of new materials, for medicine and biology – and for a fast, stable Internet. 

Professor Elsässer, you head the Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy.  That sounds pretty complicated. Can you explain it simply?
We generate ultra-short and ultra-intense light pulses and study their interaction with matter. In this way, we can image and precisely study extremely fast processes in atoms and molecules.

So you are doing speed imaging in a world that is normally hidden from the human eye?
Yes, you could put it that way. In fact, it is now possible to follow electron movements in solids, molecular movements in liquids or the processes of chemical reactions in real time. First, the process under investigation is triggered by an ultrashort light pulse, and then, in the next step, a second light pulse is used to determine the current value of an optical measurand, for example the instantaneous reflectance of a molecular sample. Repeated measurements result in a sequence of snapshots that show a sequence of movements, similar to a motion picture film. But it’s not just about observing and imaging: Tailored ultrashort light pulses can also be used to specifically control processes, for example to optimize chemical reactions.

Ultrashort pulses are obviously the linchpin: What exactly is meant by this?
We’re talking about light flashes lasting just a few femtoseconds. A femtosecond is one billionth of a millionth of a second. Such unimaginably short light pulses, in which a power of several million megawatts is concentrated for a very short time, are generated in special lasers. This is the only way to study ultrashort processes in matter.

Das deutsche Tiefsee-Forschungsschiff „Sonne" © Thomas Walter

© Max-Born-Institut

An experimental setup for generating intense femtosecond pulses in the infrared range at a wavelength of five micrometers. At the Max Born Institute, the system is used to generate ultrashort hard X-ray pulses.

Can the findings also be applied in practice?
Yes, there are already a large number of applications in the technical and medical fields, and new ones are being added all the time. One example is the Internet, whose main strand today consists of fiber optic cables. There, huge amounts of data are transmitted with light pulses in the picosecond range – a picosecond is one millionth of a millionth of a second. Another example comes from materials science: If materials are processed with a femtosecond laser, high-precision holes can be produced without fraying the edges. Very good experience has been made with this in the production of injection nozzles. Or let’s take medicine: Here, research in my field is contributing to ever more precise imaging processes and precisely fitting laser therapies, for example for retinal welding in ophthalmology.

What are the major trends in your field?
Currently, there is massive international investment in large-scale machines to detect ultrafast structural changes in matter with ultrashort X-ray pulses. Applications range from physics, chemistry and materials research to biology. Such large-scale machines already exist in Stanford, Hamburg, Rüschlikon and some Asian countries, and further machines are under construction elsewhere. It is already clear that the determination of instantaneous atomic structures together with results from ultrafast spectroscopy can capture the dynamics of matter down to the smallest detail.

What are the current focal points at your institute?
In my research group, the main focus is currently on the BIOVIB project, for which I have received a second ERC grant in 2019, associated with funding of 2.5 million euros. With BIOVIB, we are trying to elucidate dynamic electrical interactions in biological macromolecules. The current focus is on transfer RNA, or tRNA for short, which reads information from messenger RNA (mRNA) in the cell like a read head and enables the synthesis of proteins from amino acids. The structure of tRNA is stabilized by electrical interactions with its environment, which we would like to understand in detail. If we find the right starting points here, targeted modifications in the sense of molecular engineering are also conceivable. Other groups at the institute are working, for example, on the dynamics of electrons in the sub-femtosecond time range and ultrafast magnetic processes.

Today, the Max Born Institute is a vital, renowned research institution. Was this foreseeable in 1993 when you came to the southeast of Berlin?
I hoped so, of course, but it was not yet apparent at the time. At the beginning of the 1990s, the Adlershof research site was not yet competitive and at times looked like a sandy desert with rather dilapidated buildings. Our institute had emerged from parts of the Central Institute for Optics and Spectroscopy of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR and over the years transformed itself into an internationally competitive research facility. We have received much support along the way, including excellent cooperation with other research institutions in the region. Our basic funding from the federal and state governments, and here primarily from the state of Berlin, is good. As a scientist, I have every freedom. I really can’t complain.

So you are fully satisfied?
Not entirely. We are critical of the planned new Higher Education Act for Berlin, which will give the Senate significantly more influence, for example in appointing professors. In general, we have problems with the increasing density of regulations in research and administration. This often takes on Kafkaesque features, delays the allocation of research funds, and thus damages our competitiveness. The shortage of funds at Berlin’s universities is also a major problem for non-university research, because the universities are very important partners for us. Unfortunately, there is a pronounced culture of mistrust in some places in the Berlin administration, quite unlike in other federal states. This is not good for science at all.

You are committed to science and research far beyond your institute. What drives you?
I simply enjoy thinking outside the box and contributing my own experience. For example, at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, where I am currently involved in several projects. For example, we are looking at scientific freedom and cancel culture in academia, i.e., the trend toward excluding scientists with dissenting opinions. I also often give school talks in Brandenburg and talk to young people about my research, life as a scientist, and their ideas for the future.

You have been a member of the GDNÄ for many years and are involved as a representative of the subject of physics. Is there anything you would like to achieve in this role?
It would be wonderful if we could involve the public and especially young people even more – I would very much like to contribute to that. I was able to experience that the GDNÄ has an excellent image in the scientific community when we invited professional colleagues to give lectures at the 200th anniversary celebration in Leipzig: There were only acceptances. A good idea to strengthen the cohesion of the members between meetings are regional meetings. And we can certainly expand the programs for schoolchildren, which are already excellent. For example, with free Zoom lectures for young people – I would get involved in that right away. For adults, we could put info flyers on the web on relevant, current issues, such as electricity transport from the coasts to the south, climate change, or topics related to the Internet. The GDNÄ has a great deal of expertise in this area.

Saarbrücken 2018 © Robertus Koppies

© Max-Born-Institut / Ralf Günther

Prof. Dr. Thomas Elsässer

About the person
Prof. Dr. Thomas Elsässer is Director at the Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy in Berlin-Adlershof and Professor of Experimental Physics at the Humboldt University (HU). He came to Berlin in 1993, when Adlershof still “looked like a sandy desert with GDR buildings”, reports the native of Tübingen in our interview. He had made a conscious decision to do pioneering work in the southeast of Berlin and turned down calls to the universities of Zurich and Stuttgart.

In 1991, Thomas Elsässer had habilitated – at the Technical University of Munich, where he had earned his doctorate after completing his physics degree with a thesis in the field of picosecond spectroscopy and had spent several years conducting research. In 1990, he spent time as a postdoc at the famous Bell Labs in New Jersey.

Now 63, he has received many prizes and awards, including two European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grants in 2009 and 2019. In 2013, Thomas Elsässer turned down an offer from Stanford.

He is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy. He has been involved in the GDNÄ as a physics subject representative since 2014.

© Max-Born-Institut

An important institution on the Adlershof science campus in southeast Berlin: the Max Born Institute, which is housed in several buildings with its offices, laboratories, seminar rooms and a lecture hall.

The Institut

The Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy (MBI) is a scientifically independent research institution. It is part of the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. and a member of the Leibniz Association and is institutionally funded in equal parts by the Federal Government and the Länder, in particular by Berlin.

The MBI maintains close scientific ties with Berlin’s universities. Its directors have each been appointed jointly with one of the Berlin universities. Marc Vrakking is a professor at FU Berlin, Stefan Eisebitt at TU Berlin, and Thomas Elsässer at HU Berlin.

The institute was founded in late 1991 and has nearly 200 employees, almost half of whom are scientists. The annual budget is about 23 million euros.

Max Born, the institute’s namesake, is one of the most important pioneers of modern physics. Born (together with Walther Bothe) received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1954 for his fundamental research in quantum mechanics.