History of the Institute

The Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (Karl Friedrich Bonhoeffer Institute) was established on the initiative of Manfred Eigen and officially opened its doors in 1971. Its story actually began in 1949, however, when Berlin's former Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry was re-established in Göttingen by Karl Friedrich Bonhoeffer. Initially called the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry, it was eventually consolidated with Göttingen's Max Planck Institute for Spectroscopy, out of which emerged the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry. Bonhoeffer, a physical chemist, early on employed a strong interdisciplinary aproach and was one of the first to apply physico-chemical methods in biological research. In recognition of this, the new institute was named after him with second name.

Manfred Eigen's vision was to study complex life processes using biological, chemical, and physical methods at the newly-established institute. This vision has had a decisive influence on the success of our institute over the years and is still held by our departments and research groups today. 

The history of our institute also encompasses a multitude of prestigious prizes and distinctions for its remarkable scientific achievements. In 1967, Manfred Eigen (at that time associated with the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contributions to the field of rapid reaction kinetics. Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1991 for pioneering single ion channel recording techniques and applications. In 2014, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was given to Stefan Hell for his pioneering work in the field of ultra-high resolution fluorescence microscopy. Numerous other important prizes have been awarded to our researchers, among them 13 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prizes, two Louis Jeantet prizes, three Ernst Jung prizes for medicine and one Kavli Prize in Nanoscience. Three directors have also been honored with the Deutsche Zukunftspreis, Peter Gruss and Herbert Jäckle in 1999, and Stefan Hell in 2006. 

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