Eigen, Manfred

Eigen, Manfred, 1927–2019, German biophysicist, Ph.D. Univ. of Göttingen, 1951. Eigen was on the faculty at the Univ. of Göttingen from 1951 to 1953. He joined the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in 1953; he became director of the department of chemical kinetics in 1964. Managing director of the institute from 1967 to 1970, he initiated the institute's merger in 1971 with the Max Planck Institute for Spectroscopy to form the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, and then headed the department of biochemical kinetics until 1995. Eigen received the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Ronald Norrish and George Porter for their studies of extremely fast chemical reactions induced in response to very short pulses of energy. Eigen used high-frequency sound waves to produce disturbances in a chemical system and thereby measure rates of reactions in the range of a billionth to a thousandth of a second. This so-called relaxation technique has been used to study enzyme-catalyzed reactions and the coding of biological information. He subsequently studied biochemical reactions and the origins and evolution of life, developing a theory of the self-organization of matter and the evolution of biological macromolecules, which led to his practical work in evolutionary biotechnology.

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