85th Birthday: Manfred Eigen

  • Author: ChemViews
  • Published Date: 09 May 2012
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
thumbnail image: 85th Birthday: Manfred Eigen

Manfred Eigen celebrates his 85th birthday on May 9th. Eigen was the winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967 for his work on measuring fast chemical reactions. Eigen’s relaxation techniques for measuring high-speed reactions allowed analysis of biochemical reactions near equilibrium. The technique involved using short pulses of microwaves or electrical signals to upset the balance of a chemical system that is near equilibrium and measuring the system as it relaxes to a new equilibrium. Eigen initially applied this technique to physical chemistry determinations in solvent systems, such as proton reactions and metal complex reactions, but later he also applied the technique to biology. Subsequently, Eigen became interested in the origins of life and he has developed a general theory of self-organization which is testable on enzyme systems.


Manfred Eigen studied physics and chemistry at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and gained his Ph.D. there in 1951. In 1953 he accepted a position at the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Göttingen. There, in 1962, he became head of the department for chemical kinetics and two years later was appointed director of the Institute. From 1971 onwards, he was Head of the Biochemical Kinetics Department at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, which was created in the same year through the merger of Max Planck Institutes for Physical Chemistry and for Spectroscopy. Eigen remained as Head of the Biochemical Kinetics Department until his retirement in 1995. He founded two biotechnology companies, Evotec and Direvo.

Eigen continues to be an active member of the chemical community and is still affiliated with the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry.


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