Kiel University’s Nobel prize winners

We have been researching and teaching at the CAU at the highest level for over 350 years. The 20th century was a period of ground-breaking inventions - also in Kiel. Seven Nobel prize winners researched and worked here. However, genius did not always go hand in hand with humanity.

Otto Diels

The chemist Otto Diels (1876–1954) began studying in Berlin in 1895. After completing his studies, he worked there and earned his doctoral degree in 1915. From 1916 to 1944 and 1946 to 1948, he was Director of the Institute of Chemistry at Kiel University. Diels received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1950, together with his student Kurt Alder for the Diels-Alder reaction, which is named after them.

Otto Diels in the Kiel Directory of Scholars

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Kurt Alder

Kurt Alder (1902–1958) studied chemistry in Berlin and Kiel and earned his doctoral degree from 1922 to 1926 in Kiel. Alder worked as an assistant in chemistry from 1926 to 1930 and as a private lecturer at Kiel University from 1930 to 1934. After that, he was employed as a professor of chemistry until 1937. In 1950 he and his mentor Otto Diels won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering and developing diene synthesis, which is also known as the Diels-Alder reaction.

Kurt Alder in the Kiel Directory of Scholars

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Otto F. Meyerhof

The physician Otto Fritz Meyerhof (1884–1951) received his doctorate and worked in Heidelberg before moving to Kiel in 1912. He received his postdoctoral qualification as a professor there in 1913. Meyerhof was professor of physiology in Kiel from 1918 to 1924. Meyerhof received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1922 for his research on muscle metabolism, together with the Englishman Archibald Vivian Hill. He moved to Paris in 1938 and emigrated to the USA in 1940.

Otto Fritz Meyerhof in the Kiel Directory of Scholars

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Max Planck

Max Planck (1858–1947), a native of Kiel, studied physics in Munich and Berlin. Planck’s first professorship began in 1885 in Kiel, where he remained professor of theoretical physics until 1889. He taught in Berlin from 1889 until his retirement in 1926. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his quantum theory in 1918. In 1947 Planck was named honorary citizen of the City of Kiel.

Max Planck in the Kiel Directory of Scholars

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Theodor Mommsen

Theodor Mommsen (1817–1903) completed law studies in Kiel, where he met Theodor Storm. Starting in 1848, Mommsen taught as professor of law at Leipzig University, and he taught and researched as a professor at universities in Zurich, Wroclaw and Berlin. In 1902 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature for his main work, History of Rome.

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Eduard Buchner

Eduard Buchner (1860–1917) studied chemistry, botany and physics in Munich. He was professor of chemistry in Kiel from 1894 to 1896, after which he taught in Tuebingen, Berlin, Wroclaw and Würzburg. Buchner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1907 for discovering cell-free fermentation.

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Philipp Eduard Anton Lenard

Lenard (1862-1947) studied natural sciences in Budapest and Vienna as well as physics in Berlin and Heidelberg. In 1898 Lenard moved to Kiel, where he became a director and created a new institute for physics. The nine years Lenard spent in Kiel were, scientifically speaking, among his most productive. He discovered the most important laws of photoelectric effects in Kiel in 1900. He developed the dynamid atomic model, a precursor of the modern atomic model which argues the majority of atoms is empty space. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1905 for “important work on cathode rays”.

However, Lenard’s enthusiasm for Adolf Hitler and National Socialism overshadow his outstanding scientific achievements in physics. After World War I, Lenard was no longer able to come to terms with modern discoveries in physics. He rejected Einstein’s theory of relativity, not least because of anti-Semitic prejudices. In 1920, he publicly attacked Einstein at the natural scientists’ convention in Bad Nauheim and eventually left the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (German Physics Society). As early as 1924, he openly professed his support for Hitler and National Socialism in his appeal in favour of Hitler’s principles and science.

Philipp Eduard Anton Lenard in the Kiel Directory of Scholars

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Great researchers from the Fjord

Nobel Prize winners are not the only people who have researched and taught at Kiel University. Many renowned scholars have left their mark on research and teaching at the CAU over the last three centuries. Here is a selection of great researchers from the Fjord:

  • Hans Geiger (1882 - 1945)
    Physicist, inventor of the Geiger counter, professor of experimental physics in Kiel from 1925 to 1929
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  • Bernhard Harms (1876 - 1939)
    Economist, founded the current Institute for the World Economy in 1914, professor of national economics in Kiel from 1908 to 1933
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  • Victor Hensen (1835 - 1924)
    Physiologist and marine biologist, introduced the term “plankton”, professor of physiology in Kiel from 1868 to 1911
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  • Heinrich Rudolf Hertz (1857 - 1894)
    Physicist, discovered electromagnetic waves, private lecturer in theoretical physics in Kiel from 1883 to 1885
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  • Felix Jacoby (1876 - 1959)
    Historian, professor of classical philology from 1907 to 1935 in Kiel
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    Hermann Kantorowicz (1877 - 1940)
    Hermann Kantorowicz is one of the most important legal scholars of the twentieth century. He made ground-breaking contributions in the areas of legal theory, legal history and criminal law, some of which continue to have an effect to this day.
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  • Johanna Mestorf (1828 - 1909)
    Archaeologist, first female professor and museum director in Germany, director of the Museum of National Antiquities in Kiel from 1891, professor from 1899
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  • Eilhard Alfred Mitscherlich (1874 - 1956)
    Agronomist, formulated the law of the minimum and the law of decreasing crop yield, worked at the Landwirtschaftliches Institut (Agricultural Institute) in Kiel from 1897 to 1905
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  • Karl August Möbius (1825 - 1908)
    Zoologist and ecologist, professor of zoology and Director of the Zoological Museum in Kiel from 1868 to 1888
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  • Gustav Radbruch, (1878 - 1949)
    Lawyer, important legal philosopher and new Kantian, professor of criminal law and legal philosophy in Kiel from 1919 to 1926
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