Hoimar von Ditfurth

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Hoimar Gerhard Friedrich Ernst von Ditfurth (born October 15, 1921 in Berlin-Charlottenburg ; † November 1, 1989 in Freiburg im Breisgau ) was a German psychiatrist and neurologist , professor of psychiatry and neurology, as well as journalist and editor. Hoimar von Ditfurth was best known as a television presenter and popular science author .


Hoimar von Ditfurth comes from the noble family Ditfurth , a Prussian officer family. His father, Hans-Otto von Ditfurth, was a cavalry captain during World War I , after completing a banking apprenticeship he was in charge of asset management for the Hereditary Grand Duke Nikolaus von Oldenburg in rural Lensahn and finally worked as a senior commercial clerk at Siemens in Berlin-Lichtenberg until the end of World War II . After the Second World War he studied Classical Philology . After the state examination, he took on a teaching position for ancient languages ​​in Marburg.

Von Ditfurth was married to Heilwig von Raven from 1949 . The marriage had four children: Jutta Gerta Armgard (* 1951), Wolf-Christian (* 1953), Donata-Friederike (* 1956) and York-Alexander (* 1957). His daughter Jutta von Ditfurth became known as a politician of the Greens , his son Christian v. Ditfurth as a historian, journalist and author of alternative world stories .

He died on November 1, 1989 in Freiburg / Breisgau of complications from a thymus carcinoma and was buried in the Staufen im Breisgau cemetery, where he had spent the last years of his life.

Education, military service and occupation

Influenced by a nationally conservative Prussian family, he went to the humanistic Viktoria-Gymnasium in Potsdam (today Helmholtz-Gymnasium Potsdam ). After graduating from high school in 1939, he studied medicine (also psychology and philosophy ) at the University of Berlin . After the Physikum in spring 1941, he was drafted into the Wehrmacht . He completed basic military training and was deployed on the Eastern Front from the beginning of August 1941 to the end of February 1942 . After training in the medical school in Guben and special training for anesthetist in a reserve hospital in Antwerp it was used as a medical soldier in several hospitals. At the beginning of 1943, the Wehrmacht sent him to continue his studies at the University of Hamburg . With a thesis on the retothelial sarcoma , a slowly growing tumor emanating from the bone marrow, he received his doctorate in medicine on April 3, 1946 in Hamburg. From 1948 to 1960 he worked at the University Hospital Würzburg (most recently in the position of senior physician at the University Psychiatric Clinic). He was one of the first German researchers in the field of new psychotropic drugs ( chlorpromazine ). On April 8, 1958, he became a specialist in nervous and mental diseases (psychiatrist and neurologist). He completed his habilitation in 1959 at the University of Würzburg and became a private lecturer in psychiatry and neurology . On February 17, 1967, the University of Würzburg and on July 11, 1968 the University of Heidelberg appointed him extraordinary professor of psychiatry and neurology.

From 1960 Ditfurth worked for the CF Boehringer pharmaceutical company in Mannheim , where he was head of the company's pharmaco-psychiatric research laboratory for the development and clinical testing of psychotropic drugs until 1969 . He made first contacts with Konrad Lorenz . During this time he was also the editor of the journal n + m ( natural science and medicine , from 1964 to 1971), which was continued under the name Mannheimer Forum from 1972 and was published by Ditfurth until his death. He had brought it to life in this form himself. In 1969 he turned down - after a one-year probationary period that he himself had requested - from a managerial position and instead continued to work as a lecturer, freelance publicist and science journalist.

Author and television presenter

Hoimar von Ditfurth was very successful as a popular science author and television presenter ( WDR , SFB , SR , ZDF ). Using scientific knowledge, he crossed the boundaries between the natural sciences and the humanities (especially theology and philosophy). A significant part of his life's work was his advocacy against superstition , pseudosciences , creationism and anthropocentrism . A large audience was called by he designed in 1971 ZDF-series cross-section (later sections known) that he and Volker doctor led to the 1,983th

From the end of the 1970s, Hoimar von Ditfurth turned increasingly to environmental issues and at the beginning of the 1980s he supported the Green Party in the election campaign.

On the occasion of the NATO double resolution (1979) and other considerations, Ditfurth saw himself as a pacifist .

In his last books ( We are not only from this world and So let's plant an apple tree ) von Ditfurth attempted to draw a quintessence of his considerations. One of the convictions that had long dominated him was the assumption of a dualism between physical and psychological processes. In connection with the view that evolution relates not only to the living beings on earth but to the entire cosmos and that cosmic development ultimately strives towards an end point (“heat death”), he saw both in the cosmos itself and in the psyche as it were, references to a no longer scientifically accessible, "reality hidden behind", for which he used the religious term "beyond". Another starting point for this hypothesis, which he also identified as such, was for him the findings of the theory of relativity and quantum physics, from which he deduced that the human view of reality would virtually dissolve. Ditfurth therefore assumed that behind our recognizable and experienceable world there was an otherworldly, “transcendental reality”, which eluded perception but could have an effect on the recognizable reality. He considered the "knowledge of the truth" to be impossible and - following Plato - the "reality of our world" to be hypothetical. With his theses, he consciously wanted to attempt to bring science and religion back into conversation with one another.

In Incomprehensible Reality , Ditfurth again developed his own approach to evolutionary epistemology .

1984 Ditfurth criticized primarily on hunger oriented humanitarian aid through charities such as Bread for the World . With the world population growing from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 4.8 billion at the time , he noted that “anyone who restricts himself to feeding today's starving children instead of preventing the inevitable death through birth control is immediate and causal contributes to increasing the mountains of corpses that tomorrow's generation will face to even greater heights ”.

His autobiography Inside Views of a Kind Comrade, published in the year of his death, illuminates the youth of an aristocratic sprout under National Socialism and the seductiveness through the "successes" of the National Socialists, although the father saw a catastrophe looming before the war began. The pessimism that his book So let's plant an apple tree. It is marked so far , can also be found here. The book closes with an appeal to finally implement the love of enemies in the Sermon on the Mount . In this he sees a way out of the problems created by man himself. “Attempting to use it has never been seriously attempted. We don't have much time to make up for the failure. "

Hoimar von Ditfurth was a well-known wearer of the Schifferkrause beard costume and a member of the German PEN center.

Grave of Hoimar von Ditfurth in the Staufen cemetery

Awards and honors

  • 1968: Golden camera for the production Experiments with Life - Reaching for the Brain
  • 1968: Honorable recognition from the press jury at the Adolf Grimme Prize for the production Experiments with Life - Reaching for the Brain
  • 1972: Bambi
  • 1973: Bölsche medal
  • 1974: Golden Screen
  • 1974: Special prize from the Stifterverband for German science for the production of artificial memories - new discoveries in brain research
  • 1975: Prix ​​Futura of the Union of European Broadcasting Organizations
  • 1976: Special award from the Stifterverband for German science
  • 1980: Kalinga Prize of UNESCO
  • 2001: Renaming of a secondary school in Vreden to Hoimar-von-Ditfurth secondary school

Publications (selection)

Articles and essays

Television broadcasts


  • Helga Märthesheimer (Ed.): The woman at his side - conversations with women of famous men. Lübbe Verlag, Bergisch Gladbach 1988, ISBN 3-404-60195-5 (interview by Carola Benninghoven with Heilwig von Ditfurth. Pp. 31-55).
  • The living garment of the deity - evolution theory and belief . Franz Kreuzer in conversation with Hoimar von Ditfurth, Cardinal Franz König and Arnold Keyserling. Deuticke Verlag, 1982, ISBN 3-7005-4463-4 .
  • Eckart Löhr: Hoimar von Ditfurth - aspects of his thinking . A critical introduction to the thinking of the medical doctor, scientist and science journalist on the occasion of the 20th year of his death. Grin, Munich 2009, ISBN 3-640-26707-9 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The grave of Hoimar von Ditfurth. In: knerger.de. Klaus Nerger, accessed on August 1, 2019 .
  2. von Ditfurth: Inside views of a conspecific. 1989.
  3. Doctoral certificate from the University of Hamburg .
  4. Hans Bangen: History of the drug therapy of schizophrenia. Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-927408-82-4 , p. 100.
  5. Specialist diploma from the Bavarian State Medical Association .
  6. Wolfgang Hirsch (Hrsg.): The assistant type: A guide for clinic and practice. Barth, Munich 1961, ISBN 978-3-642-86112-3 , p. 4 ( The authors ).
  7. Von Ditfurth: Interior views of a conspecific. 1989, p. 323 f.
  8. Von Ditfurth: Interior views of a conspecific. 1989, p. 334
  9. Hoimar von Ditfurth, Inconceivable Reality , 1987, pp. 307–327
  10. see also: Popper and Eccles: The I and his brain. 1982. Both the epistemologist Popper and the neurophysiologist Eccles (Nobel Prize Winner) speak out in favor of dualism. Von Ditfurth does not explicitly name this book - he mostly dispenses with a bibliography - but Popper is often mentioned in his footnotes, e.g. B. in: So let's plant an apple tree. Note 182
  11. Von Ditfurth: We are not only from this world. 1981, p. 207 ff.
  12. Von Ditfurth: We are not only from this world. 1981, p. 159; Chapter: Reality is intangible
  13. ^ Rudolf Feustel: Descent history of humans . 6th edition. Gustav Fischer, Jena 1990, ISBN 3-334-00272-1 , p. 17
  14. The murderous consequence of compassion . In: Der Spiegel . No. 33 , 1984, pp. 85-86 ( online - 13 August 1984 ).
  15. Von Ditfurth: Interior views of a conspecific. P. 432
  16. July 11, 2017: The homepage of Hoimar-von-Ditfurth.de is currently "shot". The subpages are displayed without errors.