Manfred Eigen was one of the most versatile German scientists. He is best known, however, for his pioneering work on ultrafast chemical reactions, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967. Later, he turned to biochemistry and dealt with questions of evolution. His theories about self-organization of complex molecules and his development of the evolution machine founded a new branch of German biotechnology industry – the evolutionary biotechnology. Manfred Eigen was co-founder of two successful companies, Evotec AG in Hamburg and DIREVO Biosystems AG / Cologne (now Bayer HealthCare AG).
Manfred Eigen studied physics and chemistry at the University of Göttingen. After receiving his doctorate in physics working with Arnold Eucken and two more years of research at the Institute of Physical Chemistry at the University of Göttingen, he joined the Göttingen Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry. There, he became Head of the Department of Biochemical Kinetics and was appointed as Director in 1958.
On his initiative, in 1971, the Max Planck Institutes for Physical Chemistry and for Spectroscopy merged to become the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (MPI-BPC). Manfred Eigen's vision was to study complex life processes using biological, chemical, and physical methods at the newly-established institute. This vision of an interdisciplinary approach has had a decisive influence on the success of the MPI-BPC over the years and is still held by the institute's departments and research groups today.
Hardly any other German scientist has been honored as often as Manfred Eigen. For his research on "fast kinetic reactions," he, along with Ronald George Wreyford Norrish and George Porter, received the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In addition to a large number of other prestigious awards such as the Otto Hahn Prize for Chemistry and Physics (1962), the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstädter Prize (1992), and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore (2005 ), Manfred Eigen was conferred 14 honorary doctorates. He was a member of numerous national and international academies.