Deceased Academicians

Manfred Eigen


Manfred Eigen

Date of birth 09 May 1927

Place Bochum, Germany (Europe)

Nomination 12 May 1981

Field Physical Chemistry

Title Professor, Nobel laureate in Chemistry, 1967

Place and date of death Göttingen, Germany † 06 February 2019

  • Biography
  • Publications
  • Commemoration

Most important awards, prizes and academies
Awards: Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1967); Otto-Hahn-Prize; Linus Pauling Medal; Carus Medal; Palmes Académiques; Ordre pour le mérite; Paul Ehrlich/Ludwig Darmstädter Prize; Paracelsus Medal; Keilin Medal; Faraday Medal; Helmholtz Medal; Diesel Medal, Küpfmüller Ring. Honorary Degrees: Washington (St. Louis), Harvard, Chicago, Nottingham, Jerusalem, Hull, Bristol, Cambridge, Debrecen, München, Bielefeld, Utah, Alicante. Academies: Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher, Halle; Akademie der Wissenschaften, Göttingen; Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, München; Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften; Honorary member, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften; Royal Society, London; Honorary member, Weizmann Institute of Sciences; Royal Danish Academy of Sciences; Institut de France, Paris; Académie Royale de Belgique; Honorary member, Hungarian Academy of Sciences; Pontifical Academy of Sciences; Russian Academy of Sciences; American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia; National Academy of Sciences, USA; American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Honorary member, New York Academy of Sciences; Honorary member, European Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Summary of scientific research
The mechanisms of biochemical reactions (enzyme kinetics, code reading, biopolymerization); the origins and evolution of life (theory and experiments); evolutionary biotechnology.

Main publications
Eigen, M., Über die Kinetik sehr schnell verlaufender Ionenreaktionen in wässriger Lösung,Z. phys. Chem. N.F., 1, p. 176 (1954); Eigen, M., Methods for Investigation of Ionic Reactions in Aqueous Solutions with Half Times as Short as 10-9 sec., Disc. Farad. Soc., 17, p. 194 (1954); Eigen, M., Proton Transfer, Acid-Base Catalysis, and Enzymatic Hydrolysis, Angew. Chem. Intern. Ed., 3, pp. 1-19 (1964); Eigen, M., Kinetics of reaction control and information transfer in enzymes and nucleic acids. Nobel Symp. 5 on Fast Reactions and Primary Processes, Chem. Kinetics (Stig Claesson, ed.), Almquist & Wiksell, Stockholm, Intersci. Publ., p. 333 (1968); Eigen, M., Die "unmeßbar" schnellen Reaktionen Nobelvortrag, Les Prix Nobel en 1967, p. 151 (1968); Eigen, M., Selforganization of Matter and the Evolution of Biological Macromolecules, Naturwissenschaften, 58, p. 465 (1971); Eigen, M., Das Spiel – Naturgesetze steuern den Zufall, Piper-Verlag, München 1975 (with Winkler-Oswatitsch, R.), Laws of the Game – How the Principles of Nature Govern Chance, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, 1981) (with Winkler-Oswatitsch, R.); Eigen, M., The Hypercycle, "A Principle of Natural Self-Organization", Naturwissenschaften, 64, pp. 541-65 (1977), 65, pp. 7-41 and 65, pp. 341-69 (1978) (with Schuster, P.); Eigen, M., Die Kunst zu Titrieren. Vom klassischen Endpunktverfahren zur modernen differentiellen und dynamischen Analyse, Angew. Chem., 91, pp. 20-51 (1979) (with Winkler-Oswatitsch, R.); Eigen, M., Evolutionary Molecular Engineering Based on RNA Replication, Pure & Appl. Chem., 56, pp. 967-978 (1984) (with Gardiner, W.); Eigen, M., Stufen zum Leben. Die frühe Evolution im Visier der Molekularbiologie, R. Piper-Verlag, München (1987), Steps towards Life, A Perspective on Evolution, Oxford University Press (Oxford, 1992), pp. 173 (with Winkler-Oswatitsch, R.); Eigen, M., The Molecular Quasispecies, Adv. Chem. Phys., 75, Ch. 4, pp. 149-263 (1987) (with McCaskill, J.S. and Schuster, P.); Eigen, M., Sequence Space and Quasispecies Distribution, RNA Genetic (Domingo, E., Holland, J.J. und Ahlquist, P., Hrsg.), vol. III, Variability of RNA Genomes, pp. 211-45, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL (1988) (with Biebricher, C.K.); Eigen, M., Statistical Geometry in Sequence Space: A Method of Quantitative. Comparative Sequence Analysis, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 85, pp. 5913-7 (1988) (with Winkler-Oswatitsch, R. and Dress, A.); Eigen, M.,Perspektiven der Wissenschaften, Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart, p. 288, S. (1988); Eigen, M., How Old Is the Genetic Code? Statistical Geometry of tRNA Provides an Answer, Science, 244, pp. 673-9 (1989) (with Lindemann, B.F., Tietze, M., Winkler-Oswatitsch, R., Dress, A. and von Haeseler, A.); Eigen, M., The Hypercycle, Coupling of RNA and Protein Biosynthesis in the Infection Cycle of an RNA Bacteriophage, Biochem., 10, pp. 11005-18 (1991) (with Biebricher, C.K., Gebinoga, M. and Gardiner, W.C.); Eigen, M., The Fifth Paul Ehrlich Lecture, Virus Strains as Models of Molecular Evolution, Medicin. Res. Rev., 13, pp. 385-9 (1993); Eigen, M., Sorting single molecules: Application to diagnostic and evolutionary biotechnology, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 91, pp. 5740-7 (1994) (with Rigler, R.); Eigen, M., Quasispecies: The concept and the word, Molecular Basis of Viral Evolution (A. Gibbs, C.H. Calisher, eds.), pp. 181-91, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1995) (with Domingo, E., Holland, J., Biebricher, C.); Eigen, M., Die 'unmeßbar' schnellen Reaktionen. Frühe Arbeiten (1954-1967). Mit einem Vorw. und Einf. von R. Winkler-Oswatitsch. Ostwalds Klassiker der exakten Wissenschaften Band 281, Verlag Harri Deutsch, Frankfurt am Main (1996); Eigen, M., Detection of HIV-1 RNA by nucleic acid sequence-based amplification com bined with fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 93, pp. 12811-6 (1995) (with Oehlenschläger, F. and Schwille, P.); Eigen, M., Prionics or the kinetic basis of prion diseases, Biophysical Chemistry, 63, (1996) A1-A18 – M. Eigen; Eigen, M., Rapid assay processing by integration of dual-color fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy: High throughput screening for enzyme activity, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 95, pp. 1421-6 (1998) (Koltermann, A., Kettling, U., Bieschke, J., Winkler, T., Eigen, M.); Eigen, M., BSE und das Prionen-Problem, Spektrum der Wissenschaft, 4, pp. 40-9 (2001).

Manfred Eigen, member of this Academy since 1981, passed away on 6 February 2019 in Göttingen (Germany) at the age of 91 years. Without doubt, the community lost with him one of the most important scientists of the last decades, whose broad activities covered the fields of chemistry, physics, and biology.

The measurement of the velocity of the reaction between two species in a solution is usually limited by their rate of mixing. Processes taking place on even shorter timescales were called immeasurably fast, until Eigen invented the relaxation techniques which permitted, in fact, the determination of the rates of the fastest reactions. For this development he was honoured in 1967 at the age of forty with the Nobel Prize of Chemistry.

He then directed his main interest to biological evolution. Starting with the problem of molecular self-organisation in living systems he became the founder of evolutionary biotechnology. His attempts to unify the approaches by chemistry, physics and biology led to the foundation of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, which is now at the forefront of research and has then to become the home of further Nobel Prize Winners. He became honoured by numerous awards and distinctions. 

Gerhard Ertl