Milestones from the Foundation to the Present

  • 10/15/1958: Foundation of the independent Division for Biophysics at the Physiological Institute of the KMU Leipzig; appointment of the physicist Walter Beier as Professor and Chair of this Division at the Medical Faculty, later transformation into an independent Division for Biophysics which is directly subordinate to the Medical Faculty.
  • 01/01/1961: Foundation of the Institute for Biophysics within the Medical Faculty of the KMU Leipzig as the successor institute of the existing independent Division for Biophysics, with Dr. Walter Beier as Director.
  • 09/01/1969: Appointment of Walter Beier as Professor ordinarius for Biophysics at the Medical Faculty of the KMU Leipzig.
  • 03/01/1983: Retirement of Walter Beier for health reasons.
  • 09/01/1984: Appointment of the biophysicist Klaus Arnold as Professor ordinarius for Biophysics at the Medical Faculty of the KMU Leipzig. As a result, the Institute focussed mainly on “Membrane and Cell Biophysics” and major spectroscopic procedures (ESR, NMR and Fluorescence) were established.
  • 08/06/1993: The Institute for Biophysics was renamed “Institute for Medical Physics and Biophysics”.
  • Since 1993 the Institute for Medical Physics and Biophysics additionally carries out the undergraduate physics courses of the study courses Pharmaceutics, Bioinformatics and Medical Informatics, which were newly established after Germany’s reunification.
  • December 2004: The Institute moves from Liebigstraße to the restaurated Institute Building in Härtelstraße 16-18. This results in a major improvement of the conditions for research and academics.
  • 10/01/2008: Appointment of the physicist Daniel Huster as University Professor for Medical Biophysics and his appointment as Director of the Institute for Medical Physics and Biophysics.

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Medical Physics and Biophysics at the Medical Faculty of Leipzig University

As M. v. Frey stated in his comments on E.H. Weber’s “Wellenlehre” (Wave Science) as early as in 1981, “the middle of the 19th Century was extraordinarily fertile in its attempts at subjecting the performances of animal organisms to physical considerations and experimental tests”. Some of his contemporaries, such as v. Helmholtz and DuBois-Reymond considered themselves as “organic physicists”, a term which, unlike “organic chemistry”, has not survived into the present as such but has found its continuation in the subjects physiology, biochemistry, biophysics and medical physics. Being the root of the above subjects in their present forms, this novel direction of thinking and research became the counterpole of vitalism which postulated outstanding mystical forces as responsible for life procedures, which did not exist in the inorganic world.

With scientists like Ernst Heinrich Weber, Gustav Theodor Fechner, Carl Friedrich Ludwig, Wilhelm Pfeffer and Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt the University of Leipzig exerted a radiating force which extended far beyond the borders of the German Reich from the middle of the 19th century until well into the 20th century. Their work was highly interdisciplinary. They nursed close scientific and amicable contacts with colleagues from other disciplines. For example, anatomist and physiologist Ernst Heinrich Weber worked closely together with his brother, the physicist Wilhelm Weber, the successor of Gustav Theodor Fechner on the chair in physics. For example, after a respective inquiry by the biologist Rhumbler from Göttingen, the physicist Th. des Coudres developed a theory on the inclusion of small foreign bodies in fluid drops as a basis for explaining phagocytosis.

After Wilhelm Wundt and Adolph Fick it was in particular Otto Fischer in Leipzig who made the field of “Medical Physics” known, not only by issuing a textbook, but also by numerous scientific publications on the biomechanics of the human musculoskeletal system and joints. He always conducted his research in close cooperation with his medical partner and sponsor, the Leipzig anatomist Wilhelm Braune, and after Braune’s death with the physiologist Carl Ludwig. With his work, Otto Fischer laid the foundation on which the Leipzig Institute for Biophysics, today’s Institute for Medical Physics and Biophysics was established some 50 years later. Its founder was Walter Beier, who was supported by the renowned physiologist Erich Bauereisen. Therefore, the Leipzig Institute for Medical Physics and Biophysics directly continues the tradition of Ernst Heinrich Weber and the organic physicists.

While at the time the Leipzig Institute for Biophysics was founded the term Biophysics was basically referred to as determining the effect of ionising radiation on live systems, the Institute had explicitly committed itself to developing henceforth neglected fields of biophysics, continuing Otto Fischer’s tradition. These include for example examinations on the electrical properties of cells and tissue, the modelling of neural processes in the brain, work on the biomechanics of the blood stream and the skeletal system as well as on characteristics of ageing processes in the human organism. Walter Beier’s textbook “Biophysics”, which was issued in several editions, had a lasting influence on the development of biophysics, especially in our neighboring countries to the east.

In the tradition of Otto Fischer and his textbook “Medical Physics”, which has to be referred to as a classic, the education of medical students in physics was raised to a new level by replacing a low quality physics program in a minor subject with a focussed, application oriented education in Medical Physics and Biophysics. Unfortunately, this concept is no longer supported by the presently valid Medical Licensure Act for medical students. However, in the draft for the new Medical Licensure Act on the integration of the subjects physics, physiology and pathophysiology into a superordinate medical group of subjects, this concept has been explicitly confirmed once again. A newer outline of the education of medical students in physics was initialised by the textbook “Die Physik und ihre Anwendung in Medizin und Biologie” (Physics and its Application in Medicine and Biology) by W. Beier and E. Dörner, which was highly appreciated among medical students.

Professor Beier’s successor as Institute Director was Dr. Klaus Arnold. Under his leadership the institute extended its research work into new areas. The majority of research then focussed on interactions in biological systems on the molecular and cellular levels, diverse examinations of the properties of biomembranes and the application of modern methods of spectroscopy and various NMR techniques, including MRT and MRS in medicine. The high importance of cell membranes for the functioning of cells had already been recognized by Wilhelm Pfeffer, so that classic Leipzig traditions were carried on in this field, too. By the interdisciplinary examination object of cartilage/connective tissue it was possible to include the research of the Institute for Medical Physics and Biophysics into the clinical tasks of the Medical Department. With research projects in the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research, Leipzig, Jena, the graduate college, and the innovation college the Institute of Medical Physics and Biophysics has contributed considerably to determining the research directions of the Universität Leipzig in natural sciences and medicine. A considerable number of publications in renowned journals and multiple dissertations are proof of the fertility of the underlying research concept.

Since October 2008 Prof. Dr. Daniel Huster has been Director of the Institute for Medical Physics and Biophysics.

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Biography of Ernst Heinrich Weber

* Wittenberg, 24/06/1795,   + Leipzig, 26/01/1878

1815  Dissertaion after medical studies in Wittenberg.

1817 Habilitation in Leipzig.

1818  Extraordinarius for comparative anatomy in Leipzig.

1821 Ordinarius of Anatomy in Leipzig.

1825 Publication of the results of the investigations he had carried out together with his brother, the physicist Wilhelm Weber, in the field of wave mechanics.

1840 Ordinarius or Anatomy and Physiogonomy in Leipzig.

1846 Co-founder of the Königlich Sächsische Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften (Royal Saxonian Society of Sciences Leipzig).

1850 Publication of the fundamental work "Über die Anwendung der Wellenlehre auf die Lehre vom Kreislaufe des Blutes und insbesondere auf die Pulslehre" (On the application of wave mechanics to the circulation of the blood and in particular to the pulse) in the reports on the meetings of the Royal Saxonian Society of Sciences Leipzig.

1860 Start of collaboration with Gustav Theodor Fechner. Both are considered the founders of Physiophysics.

1866 Retreat from the office of Ordinarius of Physiology

1871 Retreat from the Office of the Office of Ordinarius of Anatomy 

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Biography of Wilhelm Eduard Weber

* Wittenberg, 24.10.1804,  + Göttingen, 23.06.1891


1822 Begins to study Physics in Halle.

1825 Still a Student, he publishes "Wellenlehre auf Experimenten begründet" (Wave Theory based on Experiments) together with his brother Ernst Heinrich Weber.

1828 Professor in Halle.

1831 Ordinarius of Physics at the University of Göttingen.

1837 Dismissal for protesting against the annulment of the Constitution by the King in Hannover (The Seven of Göttingen).

1842 Professor of Physics in Leipzig as successor of Gustav Theodor Fechners.

1849 Return to Göttingen.

1867 Publication of his work "Theory of Waves Travelling Through Water or Other Incompressible Liquids in Elastic Tubes" at the instigation of his brother Ernst Heinrich Weber.

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Biography of Gustav Theodor Fechner

* Großsärchen, 19.04.1801,  + Leipzig, 18.11.1887


1817 Begins to study in Leipzig (Medicine, later also Philosophy and Mathematics), after graduating from the renowned Grammar School Kreuzschule in Dresden.

1823 Habilitation in Leipzig.

1834 Ordinarius of Physics in Leipzig.

1841 Retirement for health reasons.

1846 Lectures in Philosophy after reconstitution of his health.

1860 Begins to cooperate with E.H. Weber in the field of Psychophysics, which field of Research was initiated by the them. The method of scientifically analysing psychological proceedings, which had been initiated by E.H. Weber and finally established by W. Wundt by Setting up a laboratory for experimental psychology, was exemplary and contributed largely to the development of Medical Physics and Biophysics.

1887 Publication of the summarizing work "Über die psychischen Maaßprinzipien und das Webersche Gesetz".

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Biography of Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt

* Neckarau, 16.08.1832,  + Großbothen, 31.08.1920


1858 After studying Medicine and Natural Sciences and after Habilitation, Assistant of v. Helmholtz in Heidelberg. During this time, intensive studies of Philosophy and Psychology.

1862 Publication of the Landmark article "Beiträge zu einer Theorie der Sinneswahrnehmung" (Contributions on a Theory of Sensual Perception).

1864 Extraordinarius in Heidelberg for Medical Psychology and Antroposophy.

1874 Vocation to Zurich (Inductive Philosophy).

1875 Professor für Philosophy in Leipzig with the inaugural address "On the Influence of Philosophy on Natural Sciences".

1879 Development of the Institute for Experimental Psychology in Leipzig, which became exemplary for interdisciplinary scientific Research, even beyond the field of psychology. Wundt himself considers E.H. Weber the Father of Experimental Psychology, and G.Th. Fechner the Creator of Psychophysics.

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Biography of Carl Friedrich Ludwig

 * Witzenhausen upon Werra, 29.12.1816,  + Leipzig, 23.04.1895


1834 A Levels in Hanau, Starts Studying Medicine in Marburg.

1836 Relegation for political reasons; continues to study Medicine in Erlangen, later in Bamberg, then Returns to Marburg.

1840 Doctor's degree in Marburg, one year later Deputy Rector at the Marburg Institute of Anatomy.

1842 Habilitation, publication of the Filtration Theory of Urine Preparation.

1843 Starts basic experimental work on blood pressure theory and on the methods of blood pressure measurment.

1846 Invention of the kymograph.

1849 Call to the office of Ordinarius for Anatomy and Physiology in Zurich.

1855 Call to the Military Mecical Academy in Vienna, continues his examinations on diffusion and his research of nervous blood regulation.

1865 Call to the newly founded Department for Physiology in Leipzig; continues his Landmark physiolgical work together with renowned pupils; Promotion of the work of Otto Fischer in the field of Medical Physics.

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Biography of Wilhelm Friedrich Philipp Pfeffer

* Grebenstein, 09.03.1845,  + Leipzig, 31.01.1920


1860 Terminates school.

1863 Final Exam as Pharmaceutical Assistant.

1865 Dissertation in Chemistry.

1868 Pharmaceutical State Exam in Marburg.

1871 Habilitation in Marburg on the subject "Die Wirkung farbigen Lichtes auf die Zersetzung der Kohlensäure in Pflanzen" (The Effect of Coloured Light on the Decomposition of Carbon Dioxide in Plants).

1873 Professor at the University of Bonn.

1877 Professor at the University of Basel.

1878 Professor for Botany at the University of Tübingen.

1887 Professor for Botany at the University of Leipzig; continues Basic examinations on osmosis and on the function of protoplasts, particularly of cell membranes. The significance of cell membranes as a complex functional Systems, which was generally recognized only decades later, had been discovered by him very early.

Biography of Otto Fischer

* Altenburg, 26.04.1861,  + Leipzig, 22.12.1916

 1879 Studies of Mathematics and Physics in Jena, München and Leipzig after graduation from School in Halle.

1885 Dissertation with Felix Klein in Leipzig; through Felix Klein's Mediation, cooperation with the anatomist Wilhelm Braune, which resulted in numerous works on the biomechanics of joints and muscles.

1887 Teacher of Mathematics and Physics at the Public School of Trade in Leipzig.

1892 After the death of Wilhelm Braune, his work in the field of Medical Physics were supported by the physiologist Carl Ludwig.

1893 Habilitation in "Physiological Physics" at the Philosophical Faculty in Leipzig, subsequently elected extraordinary member of the Royal Saxonian Society of Sciences in Leipzig, where a large number of his work is published.

1895 Head Teacher at the Petri Grammar School in Leipzig. For all his life, he know how to productively harmonize his work as a school teacher with his scientific work at the Mecical Faculty of the University of Leipzig .

1896 After only three years of teaching biomechanical and methematical subjects at the the Medical Faculty in Leipzig call as extraordinary Professor of Medicine, despite the fact that he was no Doctore of Medicine himself, which was at that time unique in the history of the Medical Faculty.

1904 In recognition of his merits in the field of Medical Physics, elected ordinary member of the Royal Saxonian Society of Sciences in Leipzig.

1912 Director of the Petri Grammar School in Leipzig.

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last modified: 11.07.2017