Manfred Eigen

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Manfred Eigen (1996)
Queen Beatrix meets five Nobel Prize winners (1983): Paul Berg , Christian de Duve , Steven Weinberg , Manfred Eigen and Nicolaas Bloembergen

Manfred Eigen (born May 9, 1927 in Bochum ; † February 6, 2019 in Göttingen ) was a German biological and physical chemist and director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. Eigen was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967 in recognition of his work on measuring the rate of rapid chemical reactions .


Eigen came from a family of musicians. He attended the humanistic grammar school in Bochum ( grammar school at Ostring until 2010 ) and studied physics and chemistry at the University of Göttingen from 1945 , where he also received his doctorate in 1951 under Arnold Eucken . In 1953 Karl Friedrich Bonhoeffer brought him to the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Göttingen, where he became a scientific member in 1958, head of the department for chemical kinetics in 1962 and director of the institute in 1964, which he was able to expand considerably in 1971.

From 1965 he was honorary professor at the TU Braunschweig .

Manfred Eigen died in February 2019 at the age of 91.


Manfred Eigen developed kinetic methods to investigate extremely fast reactions. Using the relaxation method , he was able to study the kinetics of fast biochemical reactions. Eigenes Name is linked to the theory of the hypercycle , the cyclical connection of reaction cycles as an explanation for the self-organization of prebiotic systems , which he described together with Peter Schuster in 1979. The Eigen-Wilkins mechanism was named after him.

After studying enzyme reactions, he later turned to research into evolution . Eigen studied the behavior of nucleic acids that were replicated by polymerase and broken down by nucleases . The repetition of the breakdown and build-up cycles resulted in the build-up of nucleic acids which, due to mutation, were resistant to breakdown by the nucleases. The experiments often only lasted a few hours.

These attempts led to the development of so-called evolution machines . These are bioreactors in which, for example, virus cultures can be grown and their evolution observed under laboratory conditions.

By varying the reactor parameters, the frequency of mutations and the speed of evolution can be influenced. The process is used today on an industrial scale.

Self-founded two biotechnology companies , Evotec and Direvo, used in the fields of high-throughput screening and directed evolution (directed evolution) are active.

From 1983 to 1993 Eigen was President of the German National Academic Foundation . In this function he called for the formation of a performance elite , which earned him criticism from numerous quarters. He was the patron of the annual XLAB Science Festival in Göttingen.

The Manfred Eigen-Förderstiftung has existed since spring 2015 , which is an "dependent foundation within the private assets of the Max Planck Society". It supports scientific projects at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and is a consumer foundation.


In 1962 Eigen was awarded the Otto Hahn Prize for Chemistry and Physics . In 1964 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Leopoldina , in 1966 to the National Academy of Sciences and in 1968 to the American Philosophical Society .

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967 was split between two research teams. The 40-year-old Eigen, who worked with the Belgian chemist Leo De Maeyer , was honored together with Ronald George Wreyford Norrish and George Porter for his studies on the kinetics of extremely fast chemical reactions using relaxation methods .

From 1965 Manfred Eigen was a full member of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen , from 1971 an honorary member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and from 1972 a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , in 1973 he was accepted into the order Pour le Mérite and from 1976 he was a member of Soviet (today: Russian) Academy of Sciences . The Republic of Austria honored him in 1976 with the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Art .

In 1980 he received the Lower Saxony Prize in the science category. In 1992 he was awarded the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize . In 1994 the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences awarded him the Helmholtz Medal . In the same year he and Rudolf Rigler from the Karolinska Institute received the Max Planck Research Award . From 2001 Manfred Eigen was an honorary citizen of the Ruhr University Bochum . In 2002 he was made an honorary citizen of the city of Göttingen. He has received several honorary doctorates, including that of Harvard University . In 2005 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore. In 2007 Eigen was awarded the Golden Goethe Medal and in 2011 the Wilhelm Exner Medal .

See also


  • Molecular self-organization and evolution (Self organization of matter and the evolution of biological macro molecules). In: The natural sciences . Volume 58 (10), pp. 465-523, Springer, Berlin / Heidelberg 1971, ISSN  0028-1042 .
  • With Ruthild Winkler: The game. Laws of nature control chance. Piper, Munich / Zurich 1975, ISBN 3-492-02151-4 (14 editions); New edition: Rieck, Eschborn 2010–2016 (6th edition), ISBN 978-3-924043-95-7 (the book has been translated into 6 languages).
  • With Peter Schuster : The Hypercycle - A Principle of Natural Self-Organization. Springer, Berlin 1979.
  • Steps to life. Piper, Munich / Zurich 1987.
  • Perspectives of Science - Beyond ideologies and wishful thinking. DVA, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-421-02752-8 .
  • Peter Frieß, Andreas Fickers (eds.): Wolfgang Frühwald and Manfred Eigen talk about curiosity as a driver of scientific work (= TechnikDialog , issue 1). Deutsches Museum , Bonn 1993, OCLC 312759487 ( ISBN 3-924183-90-2 was assigned twice).
  • From Strange Simplicity to Complex Familiarity. A Treatise on Matter, Information, Life and Thought. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2013, ISBN 978-0-19-857021-9 ( English ).


  • Professor Eigen on his 80th birthday. Special section in MPIbpc News. [MPI for Biophysical Chemistry's in-house newspaper], May 2007 issue.
  • Thomas Jovin, Israel Pecht: Manfred Eigen (1927–2019) . In: Science . tape 364 , no. 6435 , April 5, 2019, ISSN  0036-8075 , p. 33–33 , doi : 10.1126 / science.aax2485 ( [accessed April 4, 2019]).

Web links

Commons : Manfred Eigen  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Göttingen Nobel Prize winner Manfred Eigen has passed away. In: Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, February 7, 2019, accessed on February 8, 2019 .
  2. Manfred Eigen - versatile researcher and visionary thinker. In: Retrieved October 30, 2019 .
  3. ^ A b c Manfred Eigen in: Orden pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts, 1842-2002. Bleicher Verlag, Gerlingen 2002, ISBN 3-88350-175-1 .
  4. ^ Biological data, publications and academic family tree of Manfred Eigen at, accessed on January 31, 2018.
  5. Evolution machine. In: Retrieved February 8, 2019 .
  6. Manfred Eigen-Förderstiftung. In: Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry , accessed on February 8, 2019 .
  7. ^ Bylaws of the Manfred-Eigen-Förderstiftung. (PDF; 1.6 MB) In: Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, April 2015, accessed on August 7, 2015 .
  8. ^ Member entry by Manfred Eigen (with picture and CV) at the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina , accessed on July 5, 2016.
  9. Member History: Manfred Eigen. In: American Philosophical Society, accessed July 27, 2018 .
  10. Manfred Eigen. Biophysicist. Short biography of Manfred Eigen. (No longer available online.) In: Formerly in the original ; accessed on February 8, 2019 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  11. ^ The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1967. In: Retrieved April 2, 2013 .
  12. Prof. Dr. Manfred Eigen ( Memento from May 7, 2016 in the Internet Archive ). Website of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen.
  13. Honorary citizen of the RUB. Nobel Prize Winner Eigen. Article - Rubens 66. In: Retrieved February 8, 2019 .
  14. Honorary Citizens of the City of Göttingen. In: Retrieved February 8, 2019 .
predecessor Office successor
Werner Maihofer SddV - President
Helmut Altner