Manfred Eigen Biography

Manfred Eigen is a German biophysical chemist who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1967. This biography profiles his childhood, life, research career, achievements and timeline.

Manfred Eigen
Quick Facts

Birthday: May 9, 1927

Nationality: German

Famous: Chemists German Men

Age: 91 Years, 91 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Taurus

Born in: Bochum, Germany

Famous as: Biophysical Chemist


Spouse/Ex-: Elfriede

father: Ernst Eigen

mother: Hedwig nee Feld

children: Angela, Gerald

More Facts

education: University of Göttingen

awards: Otto Hahn Prize (1962)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1967)
ForMemRS (1973

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Manfred Eigen is a German biophysical chemist who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1967, for his work on kinetics of extremely rapid chemical reactions. He is a pioneer in his field of kinetic reactions, and received the Nobel Prize at a very young age of 40, along with R.G.W. Norrish and George Porter. In his rich and varied research career, Eigen was able to study many fast chemical reactions. He also focused his attention on a countless number of several unanswerable questions. He devised a variety of methods which he used to study the nature of fast chemical reactions. They are popularly known as ‘relaxation techniques’. His research interests are not limited to the just chemical reactions, but also about evolution. He has proposed and demonstrated several visionary ideas about the same.

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Manfred Eigen
Childhood & Early Life
  • Manfred Eigen was born on 9th May 1927 to Ernst Eigen and Hedwig, nee Feld at Bochum, Germany. His father was a chamber musician.
  • He did his schooling from Bochum Humanistic Gymnasium.
  • Eigen was enrolled to be a part of the German army at the age of 15, where he was made to serve an anti-aircraft unit. He was captured by the Russians at the end of Second World War. He escaped captivity and joined the University of Gottingen in 1945 in autumn, where he studied physics and chemistry along with a batch of other post-war students.
  • He obtained his doctorate in Natural Sciences in 1951 under the guidance of Arnold Euken. His doctoral work was based on the specific heat of heavy water and aqueous electrolyte solutions.
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  • From 1951 to 1953, Eigen worked as an Assistant Lecturer at the Institute of Physical Chemistry at the University of Gottingen. At this time, he began his work on fast ionic reactions which were detected by ultrasonic absorption measurements. In his research work, he collaborated with other colleagues, Konrad Tamm and Walter Kurtze. In 1953, the trio published their work on the absorption of sound by various salt solutions. With this they proposed, how sound absorption helped in detecting the speed of the fast reactions.
  • In 1953, he joined the Max Planck Institute of Biophysical Chemistry, Gottingen.
  • In the following years, Eigen developed several techniques to record time below nanosecond. Leo de Maeyer joined his laboratory in 1954 and helped Eigen in developing several techniques for his research. Her research interest was in the area of reactions involving protons, and she was instrumental in finding out the speed of neutralization. Together, they also figured out the anomalous conduction properties of protons in ice crystals. Eigen and De Maeyer are still in close collaboration in research at the Max Planck Institute, Gottingen.
  • During 1960s his major work was in the area of physical chemistry of organic compounds. His profound interest in the study of reactions enabled him to determine the intermediate stages in a series of chemical reactions and experimentally prove it for an acid base catalysis reaction.
  • He was appointed the director of the Max Planck Institute in 1964 and served as the Institute’s Managing Director from 1967 to 1970.
  • He is also an elected member of the Council of Scientists of the Federal Republic of Germany.
  • He is presently the Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute.
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  • Every year he travels together with his friend and colleague Leo De Maeyer, to Boston, to conduct discussions of topics of common interests with American neurologists, biochemists and biophysicists.
  • He still works on finding answers to numerous unanswered questions with respect to biochemistry.
Awards & Achievements
  • He received the Otto Hahn Prize in 1962.
  • He received the most prestigious Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1967 for his work on ‘Kinetics of extremely fast running chemical reactions with relaxation methods’.
  • In addition to the Nobel Prize, he has received several other awards such as Prize Bodenstein (1959), the Kirkwood Medal (1963), the Harrison Howe award (1965), the Carus Medal (1967) and Pauling Medal (1967).
  • He has developed more than 100 research papers on thermodynamic properties of water and aqueous solutions, theory of electrolytes, thermal conductivity and sound absorption of fast chemical reactions.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • He is married to Elfriede, nee Muller. They have two children, Gerald and Angela.
  • He is an amateur musician and loves to play guitar as a hobby during his free time.
  • He loves mountaineering, which is his favorite holidaying sport activity.

See the events in life of Manfred Eigen in Chronological Order

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Article Title
- Manfred Eigen Biography
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Last Updated
- October 30, 2017
Manfred Eigen

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