A Brief History of the Meetings
Part I: The Beginnings in the 1950s
It all began with two physicians from Lindau, Franz Karl Hein and Gustav Parade, who in 1950 approached Count Lennart Bernadotte with a unique idea, one for a medical congress where German scientists from the Lake Constance region could be brought out of the isolation they had been resigned to since the end of World War II. Hein‘s and Parade‘s plans called for an invitation to be sent out to winners of the highest international science awards. The participation of Nobel Laureates was intended to bring an audience of international specialists to Lindau for the congress, and their expertise would then benefit German medical people in those difficult times. Count Bernadotte made use of his good contacts with the Swedish royal family and the Nobel Committee in Stockholm and, 50 years after the first Nobel Prize was handed out by the Count‘s grandfather, Gustav V, later King of Sweden, laid the cornerstone for a series of meetings that would become unique in the world.
The three founders of the Lindau Meetings (from left): Franz Karl Hein, Count Lennart Bernadotte and Gustav Parade during the first meeting, 1951.
„The purpose of this 3-4 day congress is to offer European scientists knowledge of the present state of science from the mouths of its most qualified representatives, to make known to wider circles the events taking place in medical and natural science research for the welfare of humankind and finally to bring the most brilliant minds in science together with researchers, natural scientists and physicians to converse and get into personal contact with one another.“
Franz Karl Hein and Gustav Parade to Count Lennart Bernadotte.
Letter from the estate of F. K. Hein.
„If this congress is a success, the working committee believes it could set up an annual event and this in the form that, for instance, in 1952 the Nobel Laureates in chemistry, in another year those in physics, […] etc. could be invited to attend.“
Franz Karl Hein and Gustav Parade to the City Council and tourist authorities of the City of Lindau.
Letter from the estate of F. K. Hein dated 7th November 1950.
„It is good to see that it has again become possible to hold international conferences of this kind in Germany and I send you warm wishes for its success.“
Hermann Joseph Muller, Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine 1946, to Franz Karl Hein.
Letter from the estate of F. K. Hein dated 23rd February 1951.
„A marketplace of discoveries“
Frederick Soddy, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1921.
Quotation based on Dées de Sterio, Alexander: Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Solothurn 1963.
The 1950s: Establishment and Development
"The first 'European Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Medicine in Lindau' takes place from 11th to 14th June 1951"
With a starting budget of a respectable 12,000 DM (for comparison‘s sake, the sticker price of a VW Beetle at this time was around 4,400 DM), the organisers invited seven Laureates to Lindau on the shores of Lake Constance. The City of Lindau took over travel and accommodation expenses. The sending of the invitation letters to the medical faculties at universities and medical associations turned out to be rather more difficult than first thought because it was hard to find the proper addresses of those responsible. Physicians in the German-speaking world were thus informed of the Meeting in a somewhat unconventional way: A mailing fluttered into their home post boxes, one with a total run of 30,000. At first, however, the response left a lot to be desired, and the entire enterprise came into question right from the outset. But after the first Nobel Laureates promised to come, the organisers decided to keep to their plans. In the end, besides seven Laureates, around 400 physicians from throughout West Germany and neighbouring countries came to Lindau for the first Meeting of Nobel Laureates.
(From left) Adolf Butenandt, Paul Hermann Müller, Count Lennart Bernadotte, Gerhard Domagk, Hans von Euler-Chelpin, Otto Warburg, Franz Karl Hein and Carl Peter Dam at the first Meeting of Nobel Laureates in 1951.
The first Laureates and their lecture titles in Lindau:
- Adolf Butenandt (Germany, Chemistry 1939)
What do we know about the biochemical of effect of hereditary factors
- Carl Peter Henrik Dam (Denmark, Physiology/Medicine 1943)
The use of Vitamin K in medicine and its physiological basis
- Gerhard Domagk (Germany, Physiology/Medicine 1939)
Chemotherapy of acute bacterial infections and tuberculosis
- Paul Müller (Switzerland, Physiology/Medicine 1948)
Problems of pest control
- William Murphy (USA, Physiology/Medicine 1934)
25 years of experience with treating pernicious anaemia
- Hans von Euler-Chelpin (Sweden, Chemistry 1929)
- Otto Warburg (Germany, Physiology/Medicine 1931)
The quantum problem of photosynthesis
"For the first time, students also take part in the first meeting of physicists."
The University of Freiburg was among several institutions of higher learning that announced the participation of their students, 21 from Freiburg. They came to Lindau by bike. The organisers of the meetings had, after the meeting of chemists in 1952, decided to expand the circle of participants to include students, assistants and young lecturers. Lindau should reflect the „international character of science“ (Neue Zeitung from 28th June 1952). Thus the Meetings found their core issue, a scientific dialogue across the generations.
"Establishment of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings with Count Lennart Bernadotte as President"
To secure financial requirements and the contacts to the universities, a council was founded. It was composed of the President Count Lennart Bernadotte, Lindau‘s Lord Mayor Frisch and the deacons of the medical faculties at the universities of Munich, Innsbruck, Freiburg and Tübingen. The aim was to simplify access for students to the Lindau Meetings by expanding relations to neighbouring universities. By also extending the basic concept behind the Meetings, it was possible for the event to find the urgently needed support of wealthy sponsors.
In the years following this, the composition of the Council changed multiple times. Today, the members of the Council include Countess Bettina Bernadotte as President, German and Swedish scientists from the disciplines of chemistry, medicine and physics along with economists, Nobel Laureate Harmut Michel and experts from the fields of foundations, the press and public relations. Today‘s Lindau Lord Mayor is a regular guest to the Council. The purely voluntary Council not only serves as organiser, it also has, together with the Foundation, above all the job of adapting the tried-and-true concept for the meetings to suit changing social conditions and expand it where needed.
Otto Hahn (right, Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1944) took part in a total of 16 Lindau Meetings, Werner Heisenberg (left, Nobel Prize for Physics 1932) participated 15 times . However, the most frequent attendee of the meetings was Ernst Otto Fischer (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1973) - he came to Lindau 30 times.
Within the shortest of times, the Meetings of Nobel Laureates became a popular meeting place.
„I first came as a chemist, then disguised as a physicist and now again to the meeting of Medicine Laureates, because my work also has something to do with medicine […] and should you ever invite those from literature, then you should know that in my youth I applied myself fervently to the art of poetry.“
Otto Hahn 1954.
Quotation according to Dées de Sterio, Alexander: Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Solothurn 1963.
"Mainau demonstration – appeal from Nobel Laureates to renounce the use of atomic weapons"
„Full military deployment of the weapons possible today can so radioactively contaminate the earth that entire peoples would be annihilated. […] All nations must come to the decision that they will voluntarily renounce violence as the last means of policy. If they are not prepared to do so, they shall cease to exist.“
Quote from the Mainau Manifesto, 1955.
The manifesto formulated in Lindau was signed by 18 Nobel Laureates on 15th July 1955 including:
Kurt Alder, Max Born, Adolf Butenandt, Arthur H. Compton, Gerhard Domagk, Hans von Euler-Chelpin, Werner Heisenberg, Georg von Hevesy, Richard Kuhn, Fritz Lipmann, Hermann Joseph Muller, Paul Hermann Müller, Leopold Ružicka, Frederick Soddy, Wendell M. Stanley, Hermann Staudinger, Hideki Yukawa
A further 34 Nobel Laureates joined them by the end of that year. The warning, extremely topical at the time, about the deceptive peace offered by mutual atomic deterrent between the superpowers USA and USSR came about with an eye to the first UN Conference on „Atoms for Peace,“ where the peaceful use of nuclear energy was to be discussed. On 8th August 1955, there was an additional meeting in Geneva of delegations of scientists and researchers from 73 nations, both East and West. The German delegation was led by Otto Hahn (Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944 for discovering nuclear fission), a determined foe of the deployment of nuclear energy for military purposes. The peaceful use of nuclear energy was his greatest goal, and yet he still had to live with the knowledge that he too had played a part in creating the basics for the atomic bomb.
"Preparatory discussions on CERN took place during the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings"
Early on, long before the cornerstone was laid for the CERN Laboratory in Geneva on 10th June 1955, the Nobel Laureates in Lindau had already been discussing the value of international cooperation for getting a particle accelerator up and running: „Discussion were also held in Bad Schachen (a Lindau conference hotel) about the work and the commissioning of the CERN Laboratory; some subsequent resolutions were then prepared in private talks.“ (Heisenberg, Werner: The relations between society and science as reflected in the Lindau Meetings, in: Dées de Sterio 1975, 90.) In the following years, the problems of expensive, large-scale research projects in fundamental nuclear physics research played a role in many lectures at the Meetings. This could be seen, in one
example, in the lecture by Werner Heisenberg (Nobel Prize in Physics 1932): „Plans for a German reactor station“ (Meeting in 1955), and in the lecture by Frédéric Joliot-Curie (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1935): „The new Centre for Nuclear Physical Fundamental Research in Orsay and the Organisation or Researchers“ (Meeting in 1958).
After two UNESCO conferences in Florence and Paris, eleven European governments signed an agreement for a preliminary CERN. In May 1952, the provisional council met for the fi rst time in Paris, and on 29th June 1953, at the 6th conference of the provisional CERN in Paris, the representatives of 12 European countries signed the charter establishing CERN. In October 1953, the location of CERN and its laboratory near Geneva was determined at a conference in Amsterdam. Then, on 24th February 1954, the 1st conference of the CERN council after its founding was held in Geneva, before later in the year, on 29th September 1954, seven of the 12 member states ratified the treaty establishing it.
Continue to Part II: From the 1960s to the 1990s