200th anniversary of the GDNÄ: a glittering celebration of the sciences

200th anniversary of the GDNÄ: a glittering celebration of the sciences

by Prof. Dr. Michael Dröscher, Treasurer and Secretary General

Just how vital and sustainable the interdisciplinary research society remains today was demonstrated at its 200th anniversary celebration at its founding site in Leipzig. It was a magnificent celebration of science that the Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians (GDNÄ) hosted from September 8 to 11, 2022, in the beautiful atmosphere of the Leipzig Congress Hall at the Zoo under the patronage of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Around 800 GDNÄ members and guests, including more than 200 high school and university students, came to celebrate the Society’s birthday with a high-caliber program on the theme of “Images in Science”. 

Founded in 1822 by free-minded thinkers in Leipzig at the invitation of Lorenz Oken, the GDNÄ has evolved over the course of its 132 meetings from a gathering of Europe’s scientific and medical elite to an exchange of high-ranking scientists with people interested in the natural sciences. The generally understandable lectures from chemistry, physics, biology, computer science and medicine showed how interdisciplinary science is and must be today.

© MIKA-fotografie | Berlin

At the festive evening after the first day of the meeting: Michael Dröscher welcomes the guests with humorous words (behind him from left to right: Ronald Werner, Jörg Junhold, Martin Lohse).

For the special anniversary celebration, the program was not only extended to four days, but also offered participants a science exhibition with hands-on activities and a significant expansion of the student program. The students not only participated in the full scientific program. They contributed to the program with their questions to science, created an enthusiastically received science slam, took advantage of the opportunity to get advice on their studies, and freely exchanged ideas with speakers and guests.

The opening day was marked by the festive session, attuned and framed by the Albero String Quartet with music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Maurice Ravel and Ludwig van Beethoven.

GDNÄ President Professor Martin Lohse and local CEO and host Zoo Director Professor Jörg Junhold opened the festive session in the Congress Hall. With the words “The GDNÄ stands for exchange and openness”, the Federal Minister for Education and Research, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, welcomed the festive society in her video message. In his greeting, the President of the State Parliament, Dr. Matthias Rößler, pointed out Saxony’s close connection with the GDNÄ, which was meeting in the Free State for the ninth time, and emphasized the promotion of dialogue between science and the public. Mayor Professor Thomas Fabian pointed out the great importance of Leipzig as a science location.

The GDNÄ thrives on the commitment of its members. Therefore, it awards the Alexander von Humboldt Medal every two years for special contributions to the development of society. During the festive meeting, it honored Professor Joachim Treusch for his services as a board member, president and long-time companion of the board. In her laudatory speech, Professor Eva-Maria Neher said, “Our laureate today, Joachim Treusch, belongs with Alexander von Humboldt to the ‘far-sighted people’ who not only shaped the GDNÄ, but with and as part of it, shaped the sciences, advanced communication to society, and significantly convinced politics to promote innovation and change.” In particular, the medal recognizes the awardee’s contribution to the implementation of the student program and his linking of society with the networks of science. As the founding president of the Helmholtz Association, a member of the Senate of the Leopoldina, and a member of the German Academy of Science and Engineering, Professor Treusch has helped shape many connections to the GDNÄ.

© MIKA-fotografie | Berlin

Students surround physics Nobel laureate Reinhard Genzel after his lecture, “A 40-year Journey to the Center of the Milky Way.”

The focus of the celebration session was the exchange of students with science. Around 200 participants in the scholarship-funded student program, which was once again under the competent leadership of student advisor Paul Mühlenhoff, had agreed in preparatory meetings on key questions to science on the topic of “We have only one world”. Three of the six subject area groups presented their questions on the podium at the opening ceremony. The topic was introduced by a video message from Dr. Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim: She will receive the Lorenz Oken Medal of the GDNÄ on October 5, 2022, at the Forum on Science Communication in Hannover, Germany, to honor her contributions to communicating science to society.

In the Biology Department, young people discussed the question “How would an alga have to be modified and used to convert greenhouse gases, such as atmospheric CO2 and CO2 dissolved in seawater, into usable organic material as quickly, practically, reliably and risk-free as possible, and how could this be technically realized?” with Professor Antje Boetius, director of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. “What do you think is necessary to be able to realize individual medicine for every person in a timely manner?” – was the question posed by the medical team to Professor Patrick Cramer, President of the Max Planck Society from 2023. “How does science realize the perfect city of tomorrow?” was the question posed by Professor Johann-Dietrich Wörner, President of the German Academy of Engineering Sciences, to the Technology/Engineering Group. The conversation, moderated by Martin Lohse, can be found, along with all the presentations, on the Society’s video channel.


© MIKA-fotografie | Berlin

The lecture by physics Nobel Prize winner Professor Reinhard Genzel attracted many Leipzigers to the Congress Hall at the Zoo.

Also on the big stage, three other student groups presented their questions the next day during the biology session. Vice President Professor Heribert Hofer moderated the second round. “Does chemistry have to reinvent plastic to get the benefits as well as eliminate the known drawbacks, and can science eliminate plastic waste that already exists and make this economically attractive?” asked Professor Michael Buchmeiser, director of the Institute of Polymer Chemistry at the University of Stuttgart. The question posed by the mathematics/computer science group, “How can computer science minimize the energy and resource consumption of data storage and communication despite advancing digitalization?” was addressed to Professor Wolfgang Wahlster, German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. Professor Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus, Bielefeld University, responded to the question on science communication posed by the physics group, “How can science succeed in communicating the most urgent problems in such a comprehensible way that it leads to direct action?”

Back to the celebration session: images and journeys was the topic of the panel in the second part. President Lohse introduced the conference theme. “All sciences strive to produce accurate images. To do so, they use artificial as well as natural intelligence, the large toolbox of computer science, sophisticated methods of physics and specially designed building blocks of chemistry. Optimized dyes and labeling strategies, complex light and electron microscopes, efficient algorithms and clear visualizations are needed to depict the molecules of life with ever greater precision. Impetus for the panel discussion was provided by Professor Oliver Lubrich, University of Bern, on “Alexander von Humboldt’s Images of Science”, Professor Antje Boetius with a report on the MOSAiC expedition, which was additionally documented by images in the exhibition, and Professor Günther Hasinger, European Space Agency, with his view on black holes and the fate of the universe.

With a glass of champagne in hand, Professor Jörg Junhold and Dr. Ronald Werner, the representative of the Saxon state government, opened the festive evening in the zoo’s concert garden. With music from the Alberto Quartet and a flying buffet, the party was duly celebrated.

But not only that. At 7:30 p.m., “Science in 5 Minutes” was scheduled in the White Hall. This format took place for the third time, always moderated by Vice President Professor Heribert Hofer. In front of a full hall, 13 young people, individually or in teams, competed. With their topics “Alkylpolyglucosides and preservatives in a different way,” “Gender in medicine,” “Use of clay in commercial construction – a significant contribution to ways out of the climate crisis,” “Fullerenes and medical use,” “Will AI take over our world?”, “Why can the number Pi be calculated from two colliding blocks? “, “Voltage or current, which is the killer?”, “How can machines weighing tons fly?”, “The periodic table of the elements – deadlier than you think” and “Interstellar travel”, the young speakers were able to inspire the audience and provoke storms of applause to such an extent that in the end there were 5 first and 5 second places, each rewarded with 200 and 100 euros respectively.


© MIKA-fotografie | Berlin

Well attended, gladly used: The study counselling by proven experts on Saturday, 10 October.

The second day began with the biology session led by Professor Tina Romeis. Dr. Andreas Wilting was on the trail of hidden wild animals of tropical rainforests, while Professor Markus Sauer introduced the “Latest developments in super-resolution microscopy”.

The science market was open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It offered not only interesting insights, for example into the MOSAiC exhibition “Into the Ice” and the exhibition “Fascination of Science” by photographer Herlinde Koelbl, but also hands-on activities. Represented were the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (research site of Professor Svante Pääbo, 2022 Nobel Laureate in Medicine), the Leibniz Institutes for Photonic Technologies, Jena, Tropospheric Research and Regional Geography, both from Leipzig, and the Leipzig Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences. The Society’s archivist, Dr. Matthias Röschner, had brought along some particularly interesting items from the GDNÄ archive at the Deutsches Museum.

In the acatech “Science and Technology Café”, private lecturer Marc-Denis Weitze invited participants to discuss the topic “In which world do we want to live/Science for tomorrow” during the lunch break. In parallel, Lilo Berg moderated a discussion on the history of the GDNÄ with Professor Dietrich von Engelhardt and archivist Dr. Matthias Röschner.

The afternoon began in the context of the chemistry session chaired by Professor Wolfgang Lubitz with the award of the Liebig Memorial Medal of the German Chemical Society by GDCh President Dr. Karsten Danielmeier to Professor Claudia Felser, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids. The laudator, Professor Barbara Albert, Rector of the University of Duisburg-Essen, praised the award winner as a visionary in solid materials. In her talk, Claudia Felser reported on “Chirality and Topology. Contributions on NMR-assisted structural biology by Professor Bernd Reif, insights into the molecular architecture of cells by Professor Wolfgang Baumeister, and encounters with nanomachines at work, mediated by Professor Helmut Grubmüller, completed the chemistry session.

The public evening lecture by Nobel Prize winner in physics Reinhard Genzel about his 40-year journey to the center of the Milky Way attracted not only conference participants but also many citizens of Leipzig. Professor Genzel took plenty of time after the lecture to talk to the students. Afterwards, conference participants flocked to St. Nicholas Church to hear works by Georg Phillip Telemann, Johann Sebastian Bach, Max Reger and Richard Wagner. Music was performed by Viktorija Kaminskaite (vocals), Alexander Bernhard (trumpet) and Reiko Brockelt (alto saxophone) under the direction of University Music Director David Timm (organ). Between the musical pieces, Superintendent Sebastian Feydt explained the significance of St. Nicholas Church to the Peaceful Revolution of 1989.

After the early GDNÄ general meeting, Saturday morning began with the physics session led by Professor Thomas Elsässer. With images from the nanoworld, time-resolved X-ray crystallography and the diversity of extrasolar planets, Professor Roland Wiesendanger, Professor Petra Fromme and Professor Heike Rauer impressed the audience.

The topic of the well-attended acatech “Science and Technology Café” during the lunch break was the digitalization of medicine. At the same time, large numbers of students sought advice from members of the GDNÄ’s Board of Directors about study opportunities in the natural sciences, computer science, medicine and veterinary medicine.

The afternoon was devoted to topics in technology and computer science and was led by Professor Johannes Buchmann. Professor Stefan Roth reported on image analysis and understanding for autonomous driving and Professor Christian Theobalt on machine learning in computer graphics and image recognition. Professor Philipp Slusallek concluded the computer science section with the topic of real-time ray tracing for photorealistic visualization.

For the following public Leopoldina lecture by Markus Gross, computer science professor at ETH Zurich and director of Disney Research, on computer-generated Hollywood movies with impressive images and technologies, many citizens of Leipzig again flocked to the Congress Hall at the Zoo.

After the lecture, the speakers were invited by the mayor and the zoo director to the zoo’s Gondwanaland for an evening in tropical surroundings.


© MIKA-fotografie | Berlin

Magnetic resonance tomography in real time: Professor Jens Frahm showed fascinating images, including interior views of a horn player.

Sunday was dedicated to medicine, introduced by Professor Jürgen Floege. Professor Jens Frahm kicked things off with impressive images of real-time magnetic resonance tomography. To be able to watch artists playing the trumpet and singing from the inside was impressive.

Afterwards, the focus was on the new RNA medicine. Professor Jörg Vogel, Professor Lorenz Meinel and Professor Stefanie Dimmler introduced the field and discussed future developments together with GDNÄ President Professor Martin Lohse.

The President concluded by thanking the participants who had traveled from near and far, the speakers and panel guests, the members of the Executive Board and the Board Council, and the local Zoo and Congress Hall teams led by Professor Jörg Junhold. He highlighted the tremendous efforts of those who helped prepare and host this meeting. In particular, he thanked the office staff, Ms. Landeck and Ms. Diete, who received great applause from the participants.

The president also thanked the city of Leipzig and the state of Saxony for their hospitality, the superintendent of the Nikolaikirche, Sebastian Feydt, as well as the musicians of the anniversary concert, the students around Studienrat Paul Mühlenhoff, the Instagram team from Stuttgart around Professor Alexander Mäder, the archive of the GDNÄ around Matthias Röschner and all exhibitors in the conference-accompanying “Market of Sciences”, the team of authors of the commemorative publication around Lilo Berg and Thomas Liebscher as well as all sponsors, donors and donors.

The next meeting of the GDNÄ will take place in Potsdam in September 2024, then under the leadership of the Berlin zoologist Professor Heribert Hofer.

All lectures were livestreamed and are available as video via www.gdnae.de. A photo gallery, the meeting diary and many other contributions on the website commemorate the festive 200th anniversary of the German Society of Natural Scientists and Physicians in Leipzig in September 2022.

Matthias Röschner © Deutsches Museum

© MIKA-fotografie | Berlin

The anniversary concert in the Nikolai Church – an unforgettable experience at the end of the second day of the meeting.

Further information:

GDNÄ elects Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla to the Presidium

GDNÄ elects Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla to the Presidium

The Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians (GDNÄ) has elected Prof. Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla as Vice-President during the 200th anniversary celebration in Leipzig. The Chairwoman of the Executive Board of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) will become President of the GDNÄ in 2025 and 2026.

The Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians (GDNÄ) elected a new president at its general meeting during the Kaysser-Pyzallla as 2nd Vice-President for the years 2023 and 2024. She will take over the presidency of the GDNÄ in 2025 and 2026, making her the third woman in the 200-year history of the the third woman after Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Eva Maria Neher to chair the GDNÄ.

Heribert Hofer, who will take over the presidency of the GDNÄ from Martin Lohse in early 2023, says: “With Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla comes a very committed researcher and science manager to the Presidium of the GDNÄ. As an engineer, she represents the interdisciplinarity of the modern sciences.”

The GDNÄ is the oldest interdisciplinary scientific society in Germany. Since 1822 it has been bringing together scientists and those interested in science for interdisciplinary exchange. The dialogue between natural sciences, medicine, technology and the public is the basic concern of the GDNÄ. Another focus is the promotion of young people with a special interest in the natural sciences. Thus, more than 200 students took part in the 132nd Assembly and Ceremony in Leipzig.

Nobelpreisträger Paul J. Crutzen


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla

About the person

Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla studied mechanical engineering and mechanics in Bochum and Darmstadt. She completed her doctorate and habilitation at the Ruhr University in Bochum. After research activities at the Hahn-Meitner-Institut (HMI) and at the Technical University of Berlin, she researched and taught at the Vienna University of Technology. In 2005, she moved as a scientific member, director and managing director to the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research GmbH in Düsseldorf. In 2008 she was appointed Scientific Managing Director of the Helmholtz-Centre Berlin for Materials and Energy GmbH, which was created under her leadership from the merger of HMI and BESSY. In 2017, Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla was elected President of the Technische University of Braunschweig. Since 2020, she has been Chair of the Board of the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

The GDNÄ mourns the death of its former president Professor Harald Fritsch

Professor Harald Fritzsch

The GDNÄ mourns the death of its former president

The former President of the Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians (GDNÄ), the physicist Prof. Dr. Harald Fritzsch, passed away in Munich on 16 August 2022 at the age of 79. Harald Fritzsch was President of the GDNÄ in 2003 to 2004 and chaired the 123rd Assembly in Passau.

“Harald Fritzsch was a theoretical physicist who made important contributions to the theory of quarks”, says GDNÄ President Professor Martin Lohse. “He also made a name for himself as an author of popular science books, for example with his book ‘Quarks’, which appeared in 1981. In his later works, he had scientists from different eras discuss difficult physics topics with each other.”

Harald Fritzsch was born in Zwickau in 1943. After graduating from the Gerhart Hauptmann extended secondary school, he was a soldier in the GDR’s National People’s Army in Kamenz from the summer of 1961, where he trained with the air force. He studied physics in Leipzig from 1963 to 1968. In 1968, he and a friend were the initiators of a risky, extremely high-profile protest action against the demolition of the 700-year-old Paulinerkirche. Fritzsch and his friend managed a daring escape by folding boat across the Black Sea to Turkey. He continued his studies in Munich, where he received his doctorate in 1971 under the guidance of Heinrich Mitter with a thesis “On the algebraic structure of observables in the strong interaction”. After his doctorate, he went to the European Research Centre CERN near Geneva for a year. He then moved with Murray Gell-Mann to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. From 1977 to 1978 he was a professor at the University of Wuppertal. In 1979 Fritzsch moved to the University of Bern, then in 1980 to the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich. He became emeritus professor in 2008. Fritzsch was a full member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences.

The GDNÄ will honour the memory of its former president, the renowned physicist Professor Harald Fritzsch.

Nobelpreisträger Paul J. Crutzen

© Rotary Magazin

Professor Harald Fritzsch

Commemorative publication for the GDNÄ anniversary

Commemorative publication for the GDNÄ anniversary

200 eventful years on 200 pages

A lavishly designed commemorative publication in the style of a modern non-fiction book will be available from beginning of September 2022, just in time for the anniversary meeting in Leipzig. On two hundred pages it deals with the eventful history of the GDNÄ, its present range of tasks and the perspectives for the future.

The richly illustrated book sketches the path of the GDNÄ through two centuries. It stops at important stations, looks far into the future, and lets research spark. Then, for example, when renowned scientists, including many GDNÄ members, give inspiring and comprehensible accounts of their own research and the development of the field. These “workshop reports” deal, for example, with an expedition to the deep sea, the search for dark matter, new techniques of energy storage and the history of modern climate research. Also exciting to read are the interviews with a pioneer of the new RNA medicine and the Nobel Prize winner who was honored for the invention of organic catalysis.

Greetings from politicians and scientists introduce the festschrift. The book is rounded off with a multifaceted outlook into the future.

Editor and co-author of the commemorative publication is Professor Martin Lohse, President of the GDNÄ. The work was designed by Thomas Liebscher, graduate graphic designer, founder and owner of the Leipzig publishing house Passage-Verlag. Here are some sample pages:

Impressionen vom Vorbereitungstreffen des Schülerprogramms im Juni 2022 in Leipzig.

From the commemorative volume for the great anniversary of the GDNÄ. © Thomas Liebscher, Passage-Verlag

Further information:

A society with history(s)

United in advancing the sciences, in open discussion and a friendly atmosphere – that was what the group around Lorenz Oken wanted when they founded the Society of German Naturalists and Physicians (GDNÄ) in Leipzig in 1822. Initially ridiculed as a “scientific nomadic horde,” the research society quickly developed into a meeting place for Europe’s scientific and medical elite. To this day, the GDNÄ remains committed to its core concerns –interdisciplinary exchange, dialogue with society and the promotion of young scientists.

The book contains contributions by Christiane Angermann, Marie-Luise Beck, Lilo Berg, Rainer Blatt, Matthias Bochtler, Angelika Brandt, Dietrich von Engelhardt, Georg Ertl, Jörg Hacker, Günther Hasinger, Heribert Hofer, Robert Huber, Sandra Kumm, Benjamin List, Martin Lohse, Thomas Lohse, Jochem Marotzke, Ansgar Schanbacher, Robert Schlögl, Jörg Vogel, Wolfgang Wahlster, Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, Ekkehard Winter and many others.

Lohse, Martin (ed.): Wenn der Funke überspringt, Passage-Verlag Leipzig 2022, ISBN 3954151308, 29 euros (to be published on beginning of September 2022).

Michael Dröscher: “Bringing people together, developing ideas”

“Bringing people together, developing ideas”

He was an innovation manager in the chemical industry and now keeps the Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians on its toes: Michael Dröscher on his plans for the GDNÄ of the future. 

Professor Dröscher, you have been Secretary General since 2015 and a member of the Board and Treasurer of the Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians since 2017. What is its greatest treasure?
Clearly the people who are close to our society. I include our members and all those who take an interest in us and contribute to our activities, for example by giving talks at our meetings. A great treasure is also the student programme, which gives us wonderful access to young people. Of course, we hope to attract even more people from science, society, and schools to become members. This is not easy these days. 

Why is that?
Most associations are losing members and don’t have enough new blood. The GDNÄ, which is also organised as an association, is no exception. Fortunately, we are very generously supported by foundations, so our existence does not depend solely on membership fees. We do not simply accept the decline but do our utmost to fight it. 

How can we do that?
First, we involve young people more than in the past, for example with our own formats at our meetings. For example, at the start of the 200th anniversary celebrations in Leipzig, schoolchildren will organise a part of the programme under the motto “We only have one Earth”. Second, we want to activate our members more strongly, we still see a lot of potential there. As soon as the Corona situation allows, there will also be regional presence meetings again. We introduced this new format before the pandemic and hope to be able to invite our members again soon to exchange ideas with them across disciplines. 

Is the interdisciplinary approach of the GDNÄ still up to date in view of ever greater specialisation in the natural sciences?
Both are important, but the importance of the interdisciplinarity is growing. Let us take my field, chemistry. There is still the classical synthesis of molecules and the development and optimisation of processes. But the great advances occur where chemists work together with biologists and computer scientists. In the GDNÄ we want to inspire this, at our meetings and in between at the regional meetings. I see an enormous need here that is not met by any other scientific society. The personal exchange about new findings in biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, engineering, and medicine without direct pressure to exploit them and with leading experts – that is a great opportunity for the GDNÄ.

Saarbrücken 2018 © Robertus Koppies

Aerial view of the Marl Industrial Park in the Ruhr region: with an area of more than six square kilometres, the site is one of the largest industrial parks in Germany.  What was once the address of Chemische Werke Hüls AG is now Evonik’s largest site. A total of more than ten thousand people work in the Marl Industrial Park – in almost twenty companies. © Evonik Industries AG

Is this only about basic research or also about applied knowledge?
Both should play a role. However, applied research is often neglected in public discourse as well as within the GDNÄ. It deserves more attention.  

You know both worlds and, after professional beginnings in academia, you moved to industry. In 1982 you started your industrial career at Chemische Werke Hüls AG, a company that no longer exists. How did you experience the structural change in the German chemical industry?
This change began soon after I joined Hüls AG in the early 1980s with more and more company mergers and start-ups. When you are in the middle of it, it is not always easy. Overall, however, this development was inevitable in order to survive in an increasingly globalised world. Ultimately, the many mergers have made the German chemical industry stronger and more innovative.  One example: the Marl Chemical Park, where I started, is now Evonik’s largest site and is also home to about 25 other chemical companies. 

You worked as an innovation manager for many years. There is a continuous need for creative and at the same time practicable solutions. Do you have a recipe?
Unfortunately, there is no patent remedy. What worked for me was this approach: bring together good people from different company divisions, let them develop their ideas in protected start-up-like structures, so-called project houses, and feed the solutions, as soon as they are close to the market, into the divisions of the parent company. This approach proved successful, for example, with the Hüls subsidiary Creavis, which then became part of Degussa, both of which have since been merged into the Evonik Group.  

Have successful innovations come from this approach?
I think so. At Creavis, for example, we developed biochemical processes for the production of amino acids, in which Evonik is now the world market leader. Very early on, work was done there on functional nanoparticles, which are indispensable in many areas today – just think of the production of microchips and the application in paints and cosmetics.


Production facilities in the evening light: The Marl Industrial Park is connected in many ways to the European road, rail and waterway network. © Evonik Industries AG

How do you see the future of Germany as an industrial location?
We are in the middle of a major transformation towards more climate-friendly energy sources and raw materials. The fossil age is coming to an end, and it is clear to industry that it must completely reposition itself. The investments for the next 15 to 30 years are already geared to this. The transformation can succeed if we have enough hydrogen and can reliably obtain it from sun-rich countries. Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, are preparing for this. As a member of the Enquete Commission on the Future of the Chemical Industry in North Rhine-Westphalia, I have dealt extensively with this topic and continue to advise companies on these issues.  

Much of the public debate is currently about gas as a transitional solution. What is your opinion?
In order to meet the growing energy demand in our country and to replace the coal and nuclear power plants that we have shut down and will shut down in the near future, we cannot do without gas in the foreseeable future. In the future, the chemical industry alone will need as much electricity as all private households together today, and electromobility will need as much again. Gas-fired power plants will probably be needed as a bridging technology for another 15 to 20 years. We also need to build new plants. Evonik is currently building two new gas-fired power plants in the Marl Chemical Park to replace two coal-fired units. In any case, we have to ensure that we can obtain as much gas as we need, whether it comes as liquefied gas by tanker or via the pipelines. If Nord Stream 2 does not come for political reasons, we will need other supply routes.  

Finally, let’s take another look at the GDNÄ, which will soon be 200 years old. How far are you with the preparations for the celebration?
We are right on schedule. With the Leipzig Congress Hall we have found a wonderful venue for the festive assembly in September, the lecture programme with renowned scientists is set and the students will come together in early summer to design their part of the programme. There will be an attractive, generally understandable commemorative publication in book form. We are increasingly addressing the public this time: with media reports, via Twitter and other social media, and with lectures to which all Leipzigers are invited. We attach great importance to the exchange with society – entirely in the spirit of the Year of Science 2022, which aims to strengthen citizen participation in science and research under the motto “Nachgefragt!” – which means both, “Inquired” and “in demand!”.

Prof. Dr. Michael Dröscher Dorsten © GDNÄ

Prof. Dr. Michael Dröscher © GDNÄ

About the person

Prof. Dr Michael Dröscher has been Treasurer and Board Member of the GDNÄ since 2017 and its Secretary General since 2015. He comes from Kirn on the Nahe, where he was born in 1949. He studied chemistry in Mainz, where he also completed his doctorate.  He then took a position as a scientific assistant at the University of Freiburg and habilitated in macromolecular chemistry at the age of only 31. He continued his academic career first as a Privatdozent and from 1988 as an adjunct professor at the University of Münster.

Even more than basic research, Michael Dröscher is interested in the application of scientific results – and so his path led him to industry. He started in 1982 as a laboratory manager and in 1984 as a department head at Hüls AG in Marl, North Rhine-Westphalia. He was to remain with the chemical company, or rather the successor companies Degussa-Hüls, neue Degussa and Evonik-Industries AG, for 27 years – in changing functions. In 1997, the experienced chemist was appointed managing director of the newly founded Hüls subsidiary Creavis Gesellschaft für Technologie und Innovation mbH; today the company operates under the umbrella of Evonik Industries AG as Evonik Creavis GmbH. Five years later, in 2002, Michael Dröscher became Innovation Manager at Degussa AG, which later became part of Evonik.

Michael Dröscher was also involved in professional societies and professional politics, including as chairman of the German Bunsen Society (2005 to 2006) and from 2020 to 2011 as president of the German Chemical Society and as manager of the CHEMIE.NRW cluster. He holds an honorary doctorate from Kazan National Research Technological University (Russia).

In addition to his duties in the GDNÄ, Michael Dröscher is active in many honorary capacities: as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research in Mülheim and as a member of several boards of trustees and advisory boards of institutes of the Max Planck Society, the Leibniz Association and university institutes. He is also a member of the supervisory board of bValue AG, which promotes and co-finances start-ups.


How innovation can revitalise the chemical industry: This is described in a practical way by renowned experts in this book co-edited by Michael Dröscher. Here is a reading sample from the English-language title (ISBN 3-00-012425-X.) © Festel Capital

Weitere Informationen:

Martin Lohse Exciting times for science

“Exciting times for science”

Martin Lohse, President of the GDNÄ, invites to the celebration of the 200th anniversary celebration in Leipzig.

Professor Lohse, the GDNÄ will be 200 years old in September 2022. How will this anniversary be celebrated?
200 years: this is really a significant and wonderful anniversary. During these 200 years science has developed in an incredible way, all over the world, but particularly in Germany – and often from within the GDNÄ. We want to celebrate this special anniversary with a very special four-day anniversary conference in September: in the city where the GDNÄ was founded, Leipzig, and in the beautifully modernised Art Deco Congress Hall at the Leipzig Zoo.

Who is invited to this celebratory conference?
All members are cordially invited, plus participants in the student programme and former scholarship holders, as well as the general public for some of the events. We hope that the Federal President, the Prime Minister of Saxony, and the Mayor of Leipzig will honour us with their presence. Leading scientists from Germany and abroad, including Nobel Prize winners, will give lectures and celebrate with us. And aspiring students of science journalism as well as regional and national media will cover the conference.

As the President, you were able to choose the topic of the conference. Why did you choose “Images in Science”?
This topic has a general, but also a very personal component. You will find both aspects in the conference. Images have always conveyed central messages in and from science. Let us think, for example, of the many drawings Alexander von Humboldt made on his travels, of the spectacular photos of the North Pole MOSAiC expedition, or of the fantastic images of the space telescopes. In my own research, fascinating detailed images can be produced with new types of microscopes: images of individual biomolecules and from the innermost parts of cells and organisms. The anniversary conference will bring us up to date in this very broad spectrum of images.

Saarbrücken 2018 © Robertus Koppies
Last kiss: The picture shows a cell that is dividing into two daughter cells. The cell nuclei are in blue, the mitochondria in green and the microtubules in orange. Image taken with optical ultra-high resolution microscopy (Structured Illumination Microscopy). © Markus Sauer, University of Würzburg
Preparations for the big anniversary are in full swing. Let us take a look behind the scenes!
Preparations for GDNÄ conferences always take well over a year: topics and speakers are discussed and found, conference logistics are planned, a social programme is organised. We started planning for the anniversary conference a good two years ago, because this meeting should be even more beautiful than usual. We have attracted many excellent speakers from all over the world. The conference rooms in the Congress Hall provide a magnificent setting for the meeting, the cooperation with the zoo is very close and committed and offers many highlights, and the social programme will make the meeting particularly delightful.

Let us turn our gaze back once more. 1822 to 2022, that is a long time: how has the GDNÄ managed to last over so many years?
The two centuries of its existence are without doubt the most exciting times science has ever experienced. Never before have the developments in science, but also those that science brought to society, been so great – and this is true for the entire spectrum of the GDNÄ. Many disciplines were actually born during this time, and they have all evolved into their own specific worlds. The GDNÄ has always been at the centre of these developments, and many specialist societies have sprung from the GDNÄ, and have often become much larger than the GDNÄ itself. However, during all these years, the GDNÄ has retained some unique features.

What are these special features?
Three aspects characterise the GDNÄ and make it unique: First, the GDNÄ cultivates interdisciplinary discussions across a broad spectrum of subjects – in a way that cannot take place in specialist societies. Second, the GDNÄ runs a student programme with great potential for the future. And third, the GDNÄ addresses the general public: with its activities in science communication, via its homepage, and invites citizens of the city and its region to its meetings. We will highlight all three aspects in Leipzig.


View into the Great Hall of the lavishly renovated Gründerzeit building from 1900. The building has a total of 15 halls and rooms as well as foyers and lounges. © Leipzig Trade Fair

What will be the role of young people at the Leipzig conference?
We invite more than two hundred young people: Selected high school students from the region, former programme participants, winners of the “Jugend forscht” and “Jugend präsentiert” competitions. There will be preparatory workshops and a presentation of the results at the opening ceremony. The aim will be to define and express young people’s expectations of science. With this programme, which has been organized by Mr Mühlenhoff for many years, we want to address young people and open up paths to science for them. And, of course, also into the GDNÄ. 

The Corona pandemic has shown the importance of the dialogue between science and the public. How has the GDNÄ been involved in this issue?
The Corona pandemic has highlighted both strengths but also weaknesses of our society. The strengths include an incredible number of rapidly produced research results, including, above all, the development of vaccines in less than a year. However, it has also become clear how difficult it is to connect to the entire population, to convey research knowledge. And it has also become clear how much basic knowledge is needed for conversations about the disease and meaningful countermeasures. The GDNÄ aims to provide information about this topic on its homepage, it participated in the discussion about risk-adapted measures at an early stage and, together with science academies and research institutions, aimed to inform politicians. Some of its members participated, for example, in a symposium of the Hamburg Academy of Science on “infections and society”. Together with German science academies, we now want to increasingly devote ourselves to the follow-up and ask address two big questions: How did we as a society and how did science fare in this crisis? And what can we learn from this for the future – for future pandemics and other crises, but also for science communication? 

What role will the Corona pandemic play in the anniversary meeting?
Corona will not be the focus at the Leipzig meeting. So much has already been said about it that it did not seem to make sense to us. But RNA medicine, which has brought us the best vaccines so far and opens up completely new opportunities for innovative therapies, will be a central topic of the “Medicine” session on Sunday morning in Leipzig. 

What are your wishes for the GDNÄ in the coming years?
Of all the wishes I have for the GDNÄ, one is central: that it may continue to play an important role in the dialogue between the sciences, with the public and especially with young people. And that for 200 more years!

Saarbrücken 2018 © Robertus Koppies

Prof. Dr. Martin Lohse © Bettina Flitner

About the person

Prof. Dr Martin Lohse has been President of the German Society of Natural Scientists and Physicians (GDNÄ) since 2019. In this honorary office, he is responsible for the programme of the assembly celebrating the 200th anniversary. In his main profession, the renowned pharmacologist has been a professor at the University of Würzburg since 1993, and Chairman of the incubator ISAR Bioscience Institute in Planegg/Munich since 2020. His research focuses on receptors and their signals; they represent the most important targets for drugs.

Martin Lohse studied medicine and philosophy at the universities of Göttingen, London and Paris and did his doctorate in Göttingen at the Department of Neurobiology of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry. After working with Ulrich Schwabe in pharmacology in Bonn and Heidelberg, he joined the laboratory of Bob Lefkowitz, who later won the Nobel Prize, at Duke University, where he became an assistant professor. From 1990 to 1993 he was head of a research group at the Gene Centre in Martinsried/Munich, established by Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker. In Würzburg, he founded the Rudolf Virchow Centre, one of the first three DFG research centres, as well as the university’s graduate schools in 2001. After six years as Vice President for Research at the University of Würzburg from 2009 to 2015, he was Chairman of the Max Delbrück Center in the Helmholtz Association in Berlin from 2016 to 2019. He has received numerous awards, including the DFG’s Leibniz Prize, the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine and two grants from the European Research Council. He has co-founded four biotechnology companies. Martin Lohse has held numerous honorary positions in science in Germany and abroad; amongst these, he was Vice President of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina from 2009 to 2019.


Congress Hall Leipzig exteriorThe Congress Hall at Leipzig Zoo is a modern conference centre in a historical ambience. © Leipzig Trade Fair

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