Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard Biography

Christiane Nusslein-Volhard is a famous Nobel Prize winning German biologist who studied genetic control of embryonic development in drosophila. Read on to know more about her childhood, career, profile and timeline

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Christiane Nusslein-Volhard
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Libra    Libra Women
Born in:
Magdeburg
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education:
University of Tübingen
awards:
1995 - Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
1991 - Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize
1992 - Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize

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German scientist Christiane Nusslein-Volhard has been one of the leading researchers in the field of genetics and embryology. Born in Germany at the crux of the World War II, she had a modest upbringing as her parents strived to provide them the best of everything. Books or toys were hard to come by during the post war era so her parents would give them handmade stuff. Encouraged by her family, Nusslein pursued a career in science; biology in particular was her favourite subject. After completing a diploma in biochemistry, she also received a doctoral degree in genetics. Christiane worked with some of the other leading researchers on the subject and came up with theories that went on to reshape the way in which genetics is studied all over the world. Her studies on the drosophila mutant paved the way for further research on how genetics control development of embryo. She has also worked in major research centres in Europe and has been felicitated by institutions that look for excellence in scientific study. Hallowed institutions like Harvard and Yale have presented her with honorary degrees. The eminent biologist is on board the National Ethics Council of Germany, which is an organization that monitors and assesses the new discoveries in the field of life science on ethical grounds. Read on to know more about her life and works

Childhood & Early Life
  • Christiane Nusslein-Volhard was born on 20 October, 1942 in the German town of Magdeburg to architect Rolf Volhard and his wife Brigitte Hass Volhard. Although her father was an architect by trade he was also a musician in his own right; her mother was interested in painting.
  • Volhard was an exceptional student but she only performed well in the subjects in which she felt interested, that included science and German literature.
  • She graduated from school in the year 1962 and wanted to study biology; although medicine interested her as well. In order to decide on her course of action she enrolled in a month long nursing course and decided against studying medicine.
  • Till the year 1964, she dabbled between biology and physics trying to decide the best choice of career but she found biology boring while another course in physics turned out to be too tough after a point.
  • However when she came to know of a new course in biochemistry that was being taught at Tubingen and she joined the university.
  • She graduated with a Diploma in Biochemistry in the year 1969 and four years later, after working extensively on the theories related to genetics she was awarded a Ph.D. in genetics by the ‘University of Tubingen’.
Career
  • In the year 1973, Nusslein met the famous developmental biologist Walter Gehring at a conference in Freiberg and she proposed the idea of working in his lab in Basel for her research. Two years later she moved to Basel to do post-doctoral research.
  • In the year 1978, the ‘European Molecular Biology Laboratory’ in Heidelberg, Germany appointed her as a group leader and there she was joined by American developmental biologist Eric Wieschaus.
  • During her time at the ‘European Molecular Biology Laboratory’ in Heidelberg, Germany, she conducted extensive genetic experiments on different varieties of flies and concluded that only 140 genes among the 20,000 that she studied were essential; thereby paving the way for the study of Drosophila mutants.
  • In the year 1981 she returned to ‘Friedrich Miescher Laboratory’ in Tubingen and continued her research on Drosophila mutants. Four years later she was appointed as the Director of the ‘Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology’, a position she holds till date.
  • In 1992, Nusslein started research on the developmental genes in zebra fish, since the embryo of these fishes have the characteristics of those in many other vertebrates. These findings of these studies have been regarded as some of the most important in genetics.
  • Other than being one of the most successful researchers in genetic studies; Volhard has also written two very important books. The first one is titled ‘Zebrafish: A Practical Approach’ in 2002 and four years later she followed it up with another highly acclaimed book titled ‘Coming Back to Life: How Genes Drive Development’.
Major Works
  • Christiane continues to make significant contribution to the field of genetics but undoubtedly her most important contribution would remain her study of the mutations in embryonic development in the drosophila. The studies provided crucial insights into how genetic mutation affects formation of complex multi-cellular structure from a single celled embryo.
Awards & Achievements
  • The ‘Leibniz Prize’ is awarded by the ‘German Foundation’ to outstanding scientists of German origin and Christiane was awarded the prize in 1986.
  • In the year 1991, she was awarded the ‘Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research’ by the ‘Lasker Foundation’.
  • In 1995, she jointly won the ‘Nobel Prize in Medicine’ with Eric Wiechaus and Edward B. Lewis for their work on embryonic development.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • The details about her married life is quite unclear, however according to many Christiane was married for a short while and the marriage ended in divorce while she was still a young researcher. The surname Nusslein belongs to her husband.

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Article Title
- Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard Biography
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Last Updated
- September 11, 2015
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