Helmut Coing

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Helmut Coing (born February 28, 1912 in Celle ; † August 15, 2000 in Kronberg im Taunus ) was an important German legal scholar and university professor in Frankfurt am Main and for many years Chancellor of the Pour le Mérite order for science and the arts . The focus of his work was the history of European private law, especially of the Middle Ages, the history of law in Germany and the philosophy of law .

Live and act

Helmut Coing came from a Huguenot civil servant family. After graduating from the Ratsgymnasium in Hanover , he studied law at the Universities of Kiel , Munich , Göttingen and Lille (France). In 1935 he was awarded a Dr. jur. PhD. He then moved to the University of Frankfurt am Main , where he completed his habilitation under Erich Genzmer in 1938 . In August 1939, the reserve officer Coing was drafted into the German Wehrmacht . Most recently he was captain of the reserve and division adjutant. In 1941 Coing became professor for Roman and civil law at the University of Frankfurt am Main. He remained unaffected during the time of National Socialism and after his return from captivity in 1948 was appointed professor for civil and Roman law at the re-established University of Frankfurt am Main . At times Coing also taught legal philosophy .

As rector of the University of Frankfurt am Main for the academic years 1955/56 and 1956/57, Coing took on organizational operational tasks in the scientific community for the first time and was chairman of the West German Rectors' Conference from 1956–1957 and, after his replacement as university rector, chaired the Science Council (1958–1960) . In 1964 Coing was founding director of the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History and remained its director until his retirement in February 1980. In 1968 he was elected both to the corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen and the Bavarian Academy of Sciences . In 1972 he became a corresponding member of the British Academy . From 1970 to 1973 he was chairman of the humanities section of the Max Planck Society and from 1970 to 1972 he was also head of the statutes commission and finally from 1978 to 1984 Vice President of the Max Planck Society. In 1984 Coing, who had already been accepted into the Order Pour le Mérite for Science and the Arts in 1973, was elected Chancellor of the Order. He held this office until 1992.

Coing is an honored scientist because of his research. In 1958 he was awarded the Goethe plaque by the city of Frankfurt am Main . In 1966 he became an officer in the French Legion of Honor . In 1973 he became a member of the Pour le Mérite Order for Science and the Arts . A year later he was awarded the Great Cross of Merit with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1990 he received the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy and in the same year the Great Federal Cross of Merit with Star and Shoulder Ribbon and the Hessian Order of Merit . He was awarded honorary doctorates from the Universities of Lyon (1959), Montpellier (1959), Vienna (1965), Aberdeen (1968), Brussels (1975) and Uppsala (1977).

In 2008, the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt am Main awarded the Helmut Coing Prize for the first time. The prize is intended to give young researchers the opportunity to work at the institute for 4 to 5 months at the end of a dissertation or habilitation dealing with a field of European legal history. The scholarship is advertised around the world every three years.

A path on the Westend campus was named after him.

Fonts (selection)

  • The Frankfurt Reformation of 1578 and the common law of its time. Frankfurt am Main 1935 (dissertation) Digitized in the repertory of digital legal sources .
  • The reception of Roman law in Frankfurt am Main. A contribution to the history of reception , Frankfurt am Main 1939, 2nd edition 1962 (habilitation).
  • The supreme principles of law , Schneider, Heidelberg 1947.
  • Grundzüge der Rechtssphilosophie , de Gruyter, Berlin 1950, 4th edition 1985; 5th edition 1993.
  • Inheritance Law , Ed. Together with Theodor Kipp , Mohr, Tübingen 1953, 13th edition 1978; from the 14th edition under the name Kipp-Coing: Inheritance Law , 1990.
  • Roman law in Germany , Giuffré, Mediolani 1964.
  • Epochs of Legal History in Germany , Munich 1967, 2nd edition 1976.
  • The original unity of European law , Steiner, Wiesbaden 1968.
  • The trust by virtue of a private legal transaction , Beck, Munich 1973.
  • European Private Law , Vol. 1: Older Common Law (1500–1800) , Munich 1985.
  • European Private Law 1800–1914 , Vol. 2. Munich 1989.
  • Ed .: Handbook of the sources and literature of recent European history of private law , Frankfurt am Main 1973 ff.
  • Collected essays on legal history, legal philosophy and civil law 1947–1975 , 2 volumes, ed. by Dieter Simon , Frankfurt am Main 1982.
  • For sciences and arts. Life report of a European legal scholar , edited, commented and with an afterword by Michael F. Feldkamp . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-428-14253-8 .


  • Klaus Luig , Helmut Coing. In: A portrait of lawyers. Publisher and authors in 4 decades. Beck, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-406-33196-3 , pp. 215-224.
  • Klaus Luig: Helmut Coing (February 28, 1912– August 15, 2000). In: Journal of the Savigny Foundation for Legal History. Romance Department 119 (2002), pp. 662–678.
  • Bernhard Diestelkamp , Michael Stolleis (Ed.): Lawyers at the University of Frankfurt am Main. Nomos Verlags-Gesellschaft, Baden-Baden 1989, ISBN 3-7890-1832-5 .
  • Notker Hammerstein : The Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. From a foundation university to a state university. Vol. 1: 1914 to 1950 , Neuwied, Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-472-00107-0 .
  • Thomas Duve : Helmut Coing (February 28, 1912– August 15, 2000). In: Revista de Historia del Derecho 28 (2000) p. 659 f.
  • Dieter Simon: Between Science and Science Policy: Helmut Coing (February 28, 1912– August 15, 2000) , In: Neue Juristische Wochenschrift 54 (2001) pp. 1029–1032.
  • Ernst-Joachim Mestmäcker , Commemorative Words for Helmut Coing , in: Orden Pour le mérite for Sciences and Arts, Speeches and Commemorative Words 31 (2001–2002) pp. 31–39.
  • Raoul C. Van Caenegem, Legal historians I have known: a personal memoir. In: Rechtsgeschichte, Journal of the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History , 2010, pp. 252–299.
  • Michael F. Feldkamp : Afterword by the editor. In: Helmut Coing: For Sciences and Arts. Life report of a European legal scholar. Edited, commented and with an afterword by Michael F. Feldkamp. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2013, ISBN 3-428-14253-5 , pp. 243-258.
  • Rainer Maria Kiesow : Coing's dictation. In: myops 23 (January 2015), pp. 4–9.

Web links


  1. ^ List of members. In: Yearbook of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences. Volume 2000, 2001, p. 21.
  2. Member entry by Helmut Coing at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , accessed on January 17, 2017.
  3. ^ Deceased Fellows. British Academy, accessed May 16, 2020 .
  4. Official Journal Frankfurt 17/2015.