Prof. Dr. Helmuth Möhwald has died

The Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces mourns for the loss of a long-standing founding director.

March 29, 2018

On March, 27th 2018 Helmuth Möhwald died at the age of 72 after a short but serious illness. The funeral took place on April, 3rd only in the closest family circle.

Doubtlessly, Professor Möhwald was one of the most important and influential scientists in the field of interface research worldwide. We owe him fundamental insights into the behavior of organic layers such as lipid monolayers which are intimately related to cell membranes. Möhwald’s research covered the assembly of molecules into monolayers, the fabrication and analysis of functional organic multi-layers, as well as the design of microcapsules and their application in areas of technology, pharmacy and medicine. Recent scientific work included self-repairing coatings, where active agents are released in response to damage. Remote-controlled release of drugs and other active substances from capsules was a central theme in recent years. While Helmuth Möhwald was always primarily striving towards fundamental physico-chemical understanding, a great number of his discoveries found their way into technical applications.

„We are deeply shocked by the death of Helmuth Möhwald!”, says Prof. Markus Antonietti, managing director of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces and speaking for the board of directors and all members of the Institute. „With Helmuth Möhwald we have lost a great scientist and a wonderful person, who played a significant role in the young history of the institute, which was founded 25 years ago “. With his strong personality he shaped, motivated and promoted generations of PhD students and young scientists. His colleagues, friends and former students will remember him as a generous and open-minded person, who always kept a clear view of the bigger picture. This outstanding scientist and teacher was very active in research until his last day and inspired everybody with his passion for science.

Helmuth Möhwald had published more than 1000 peer-reviewed publications and been cited more than 50000 times by other researchers. In addition to his scientific research, Professor Möhwald is an accomplished professor: In fact, more than 50 former students have taken up professorships in Germany and abroad.

Helmuth Möhwald (19.01.1946 - 27.3.2018)

Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Helmuth Möhwald was born on January 19th 1946. He was a physicist and physicochemist; he received his diploma in physics (1971) and his PhD (1974) from the University Göttingen (Germany). He spent nearly five years in industry at IBM San Jose (1974/75) and Dornier-Systems (1975-81), in between completing his habilitation at the University Ulm under the mentorship of Prof. Sackmann (1975-78). He was professor for physics (TU Munich, 1981-1987) and for physical chemistry (University of Mainz 1987-93).

From 1993 until his retirement in 2014,  Möhwald was Director and Scientific Member at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in the Science Park Potsdam-Golm. From 2014 until his death he led an emeritus group at the institute. He held Honorary Professorships at the University Potsdam (since 1995) at Zheijang University in Hangzhou (Since 2001) Fudan University in Shanghai (Since 2004), at the Institute of Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Since 2006) and the Institute of Process Engineering at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Since 2014). Moreover he was head of the German Colloid Society (2003-2007) and president of the European Colloid and Interface Society ECIS (2002-2003).

Professor Möhwald has been acknowledged for his exceptional contributions with numerous awards. These include the Physics award of the German Physical Society (1978), the Liesegang award (1998), the membership in the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Overbeak medal of the European Colloid and Interface Society (2007), the Gay-Lussac-Award from the French Ministry of Science and Technology (2007), a honorary doctorate of the University of Montpellier (2008) and the Wolfgang-Ostwald award of the German Colloid Society (2009), the Langmuir Lectureship Award of the American Chemical Society (2014), the Elyuhar-Goldschmidt Award of the Royal Spanish Chemical Society (2014) and the “Distinguished Scientist” Award from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (2017).

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