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German Nobel Laureates

DW staff (sms)October 10, 2007

Two German scientists received Nobel Prizes this year. They join a large group of German Nobel laureates.

The Nobel Prize medal superimposed on signatures of past winners
Most of Germany's Nobel prizes have come in the fields of science

Gerhard Ertl, Germany's most recent winner of the Nobel Prize, won the award on Wednesday, Oct. 10, in chemistry for his studies of surface chemistry. He will be joined at the official prize ceremony on Dec. 10 by compatriot Peter Grünberg, who was awarded the physics prize on Tuesday for his role in developing technology used to read data on hard disks.

Other German Nobel Prize winners of this decade were: Theodor Hänsch, whose contributions to the development of precision lasers won him the physics award in 2005; Wolfgang Ketterle won the physics prize in 2001 for his experiments with supercooled atoms; and Herbert Krömer was awarded the physics prize in 2000 for semiconductor developments.

Ertl's portrait next to a picture of a Nobel medal
Ertl is just one part of the most recent German Nobel duoImage: AP GraphicsBank

Though Ertl and Grünberg's double win marks a recent watershed for German scientists, but the country has won double honors from the Swedish Royal Academy in the past. The last time a German duo claimed the honor was in 1999 when Günter Grass and Günter Blobel won the prizes for literature and medicine.

Several German doubles

In 1901, the very first Nobel prizes in physics and in medicine went to Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, creator of the X-ray, and Emil von Behring, who developed a serum for the respiratory illness diphtheria.

The following year also saw two of the Swedish awards bound for Germany. Theodor Mommsen won the literature prize for his writing on Roman history, making him one of the few non-fiction literature prize winners. Emil Fischer was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for research in purines and sugars.

1905 was an especially successful year for German sciences as Philipp Lenard, Robert Koch and Adolf von Baeyer won the Nobel awards in physics, medicine and chemistry. There three-time success was repeated in 1910 by Paul Heyse in literature, Albrecht Kossel in medicine and Otto Wallach in chemistry.

Forbidden prizes

Portrait picture of Max Planck
Planck discovered energy quanta; a German research society now bears his nameImage: AP

Max Planck (physics, 1918), Albert Einstein (physics, 1921), Werner Heisenberg (physics, 1932) and Otto Hahn (chemistry, 1944) were other German Nobel Prize winners known outside the ivory towers of academia.

Three German Nobel Laureates, Richard Kuhn (chemistry, 1938), Adolf Butenandt (chemistry 1939) and Gerhard Domagk (medicine, 1939), were forbidden by Adolf Hitler from accepting their Nobel prizes. Later, however, all three of them received the the Nobel Prize Diploma and Medal, but not the prize money.