Eigen, Manfred

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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 NorrishNorrish, Ronald George Wreyford,
1897–1978, British chemist, Ph.D. Cambridge, 1925. He joined the faculty at Cambridge in 1925 and was a professor there until he retired in 1965.
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 and George PorterPorter, George, Baron Porter of Luddenham,
1920–2002, British chemist, b. Stainforth, England, grad. Leeds Univ., Ph.D. Cambridge, 1949. After serving as a radar officer during World War II, he did postgraduate research with R. G. W. Norrish at Cambridge.
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 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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Eigen, Manfred


Born May 9, 1927, in Bochum. German physical chemist (Federal Republic of Germany).

Eigen graduated from the University of Göttingen in 1951. He joined the staff of the Max Planck Institute of Physical Chemistry in 1953 and became chairman of the institute in 1964.

Eigen’s principal works are devoted to the development of methods for investigating the kinetics of chemical reactions. He proposed a class of methods known collectively as the relaxation method for studying extremely fast chemical reactions. The term is used to describe a method in which the chemical equilibrium of a system is disturbed and the rate at which the system returns to equilibrium is observed; the equilibrium is disturbed by sending a single energy pulse or periodic pulses through the system in order to affect such factors as temperature, pressure, and electric field. Using this method, Eigen and his colleagues studied, for example, the kinetics of reactions of hydrogen and hydroxyl ions in aqueous solutions with acid-base indicators. Another important study involved the kinetics of the association of carboxylic acids.

Together with R. Norrish and G. Porter, Eigen won a Nobel Prize in 1967.


Chibisov, A. K. “M. Eigen, Dzh. Porter, R. Norrish.” Zhurnal Vsesoiuznogo khimicheskogo obshchestva int. D. I. Mendeleeva, 1975, vol. 20, no. 6, pp. 690–92.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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