Recorded: 23 Jun 2000
I’ve studied physics in Germany and I was doing that in the city of Cologne and Cologne is also the city that is connected wit Max Delbruck because in the early 60s he came from Pasadena to Cologne to recreate german genetics after the second world war and to start the institute for genetics at the University of Cologne.
So Max Delbruck had a good connection to Cologne and as it happened in 1969 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine he was coming through Cologne and giving a talk at the University on his way to Stockholm.
And there I had the first opportunity to see him. I was a student in the audience of more than 1,000 people and he was giving a lecture and actually when I saw him for the first time I didn’t like him at all. Because in 1969, there was a period when the german students were protesting against anything and especially against the conditions at the universities and Delbruck came and looked at that and said, “Why are you protesting against the conditions. Why don’t you do science instead?” And they hated this fellow.
I mean, so there was a guy teaching me what to do. I mean, I wanted to have more space for my lab work, I wanted to have more—better libraries and better opportunities to study and this old goddamn nobelist told me to shut up and be quiet.
Oh, the topic of his lecture was a physicist looks at biology. And he actually didn’t--hardly talked about that. He just gave just some political remarks. I had the feeling he was just paying his duty to Cologne and then leaving for Stockholm. But obviously this fury did not last very long.
Ernst Peter Fischer, Professor of the History of Science at the University of Constance since 1994. He studied mathematics and physics in Cologne and biology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He earned Ph.D. in biology and qualified as a professor in the history of science.
He has published biographies of Max Delbrück, Niels Bohr, Wolfgang Pauli and James D. Watson and received several awards for his scientific publications. Fischer is an author of such books as "Die andere Bildung", "Selling science - The history of Boehringer Mannheim" and "Das Genom" - an introduction into modern genome research.
He has been honoured with the Heinrich-Bechold-Medaille (1980), Preis der wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft Freiburg (1981); Lorenz-Oken-Medaille (2002), Treviranus-Medaille (2003) and Eduard-Rhein-Kulturpreis (2003).