Nobel Prizes

Gerhard Ertl

Chemistry 2007

Gerhard Ertl, born in 1936, received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for his studies of chemical processes on solid surfaces”. Prior to his retirement in 2004, Ertl was Director of the Department of Physical Chemistry at the Max Planck Society’s Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin. From 1973 until 1986 he served as Professor of Physical Chemistry at LMU. Important elements of the work that would win him the Nobel Prize were carried out during this period, including his elucidation of the catalytic mechanism of the Haber-Bosch process for the synthesis of ammonia.

Theodor W. Hänsch

Physics 2005

Theodor W. Hänsch (b. 1941) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2005. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences honored his contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, which enables the oscillation frequencies of atoms and molecules to be measured with unprecedented accuracy. Hänsch holds a Chair in Experimental Physics at LMU and is a Director of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Munich.

Gerd Binnig

Physics 1986

Gerd Binnig (b. 1942) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986, together with Heinrich Rohrer (both wored in the IBM research laboratory in Zurich at that time) for developing the scanning tunneling microscope. Gerd Binnig has been an honorary professor at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität since 1986.

Ernst Otto Fischer

Chemistry 1973

Fischer began to study Chemistry in 1941/42 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). He completed the course in 1949 and obtained his doctorate there in 1952. In 1957 he was appointed as an Extraordinary Professor at LMU, and from 1959 until 1964 he held a full professorship ad personam (which ended on his retirement) at LMU. Much of Fischer's research was devoted to organometallic sandwich complexes, i.e. main-group or transition metal complexes containing two parallel, planar or cyclic ligands. He received the Nobel Prize in 1973 – during his tenure at the TUM – for his work in this area. In 1972, LMU conferred an honorary doctorate upon him. Up until his retirement, Fischer held a full professorship at the TUM.

Karl Ritter von Frisch

Medicine 1973

Karl Ritter von Frisch (1886–1982) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Konrad Lorenz and Nikolaas Tinbergen (1907–1988) “for their discoveries on the organization and triggering of individual and social behavioral patterns.” In 1910, he joined the Zoological Institute at LMU. Following interim periods in Rostock and Breslau, he became a professor at LMU in 1925. He retired in 1958 but continued to carry out research.


Feodor Lynen

Medicine 1964

Feodor Lynen (1911–1979) received the Nobel Prize in Medicine together with Konrad Bloch (1912–2000) for their discoveries in relation to the mechanisms and regulation of cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism. Lynen remained faithful to LMU where he held a full professorship from 1953 until his retirement in 1979, even turning down an offer from Harvard University.


Adolf Butenandt

Chemistry 1939

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1939 went to Adolf Butenandt (1903–1995) for his research in the field of sex hormones. He shared the prize with Leopold Ružička, a researcher at ETH Zurich. Butenandt was called to the Institute of Pysiologic Medicine at LMU in 1952. From 1955 until he took up office as president of the Max Planck Society in 1960, Butenandt was simultaneously Chief Executive of the Institute of Physiological Chemistry at LMU and a Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry.

Werner Heisenberg

Physics 1932

Werner Heisenberg (1901–1976) received a scholarship from the Maximilianeum Foundation, and studied at LMU under the tutelage of Arnold Sommerfeld, who would remain his mentor. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics at the early age of 31, “for the creation of quantum mechanics, the application of which has, inter alia, led to the discovery of the allotropic forms of hydrogen,” as stated in the citation. Heisenberg formulated the quautum mechanical uncertainty principle, which is named after him.


Heinrich Wieland

Chemistry 1927

Heinrich Wieland (1877–1957) received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1927 for his research into the composition of bile acids and related substances. As his research was classified as being of strategic importance, several attempts were made to denounce him during the National Socialist dictatorship, but came to no avail. He even managed to take on a number of scholars who fell under the restrictions imposed by the anti-Semitic “Nuremberg Laws” as guests in his research group, thus shielding them from persecution by the Nazis.

Richard Willstätter

Chemistry 1915

The chemist Richard Willstätter (1872–1942) received the Nobel Prize virtually at the same time as he decided to accept a position at LMU. The prize was awarded in recognition of his study of plant pigments, especially chlorophyll, the pigment that is essential for photosynthesis in plants. Willstätter resigned from his position as a full professor in 1925, as he believed that anti-Semitism had begun to dominate the appointments procedure. Although he continued his research work in Munich, he left the city in 1939 for Switzerland.


Max von Laue

Physics 1914

Max von Laue (1879–1960) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1914. During his time at the University of Frankfurt am Main, he discovered the diffraction of X-rays by crystals. This enabled him to measure the wavelength of these rays as well as determine the structure of the crystals. Laue's association with LMU began in 1909 and he lectured, initially as a "Privatdozent", on optics, thermodynamics and the theory of relativity. In 1912, he took up a position at the University of Zurich, before moving to Frankfurt am Main in 1914.


Wilhelm Wien

Physics 1911

The Nobel Prize in Physics in 1911 went to the physicist Wilhelm Wien (1864–1928) in recognition of his research into the laws of thermal radiation. Wien was awarded the Nobel Prize while at the University of Würzburg. In 1920 he moved to LMU as Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen’s successor (as he had previously done in Würzburg). Wien served as Rector of LMU from 1925 to 1926.


Adolf von Baeyer

Chemistry 1905

The chemist Adolf von Baeyer (1835–1917) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1905, primarily for the synthesis of indigo and dyes made using triphenylmethane. After the death of Justus von Liebig he was chosen as his successor at LMU, and established a highly regarded chemistry laboratory where he worked until his retirement.


Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen

Physics 1901

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845–1923) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. Röntgen received the award primarily for his research into the X-rays he had discovered in 1895, while working at the University of Würzburg. Between 1900 and 1920, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen held a full professorship at LMU.


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