Main Content

Brief history of the Physiological-Chemical Institute

The Physiological-Chemical Institute emerged from the Physiological Institute of the Royal Prussian University of Marburg. This institute, Physiology, had a long tradition in Marburg, it was established as an independent subject as early as 1837. In contrast, physiological chemistry only appeared in 1907, initially only as a separate department within physiology. This department was headed by Professor Friedrich Kutscher. It was not until 32 years later, in 1939, that physiological chemistry gained its independence as an independent institute. This late independence of biochemistry can be explained by the strong biochemical orientation of the physiological colleagues, among whom the professors Nasse, Külz, Kutscher and the Nobel Prize winner Albrecht Kossel (1853-1927) can be counted.

The independence of biochemistry was pursued from 1935 by Theodor Bersin, a student of the Marburg chemist Professor Hans Meerwein (1879-1965). With effect from 1.10.1938, Bersin was appointed extraordinary professor of physiological chemistry. However, the appointment of this first independent biochemist in Marburg did not take effect until 1.4.1939, so that this day can be considered the founding day of the Physiological-Chemical Institute in Marburg. The Physiological-Chemical Institute was housed together with the Physiological Institute in the stately building opposite the Elisabeth Church. As Bersin was an active National Socialist, he was replaced in 1945. After several provisional directors (Prof. Weger, Prof. Inhoffen, Prof. Rosemann, lecturer Dr. Rauen), Professor Karl Dimroth took over the chair of the Physiological-Chemical Institute in 1949, but changed to the chair of organic chemistry as successor to Hans Meerwein in 1952.

In 1953, Professor Theodor Bücher, a student of Professor Otto Warburg, took over the management of the Physiological-Chemical Institute for ten years. Prof. Bücher's time coincided with the development of a double beam photometer by Prof. Martin Klingenberg together with the Eppendorf company, an instrument that decisively facilitated enzyme determinations ("Eppendorf photometer") and the invention of the microliter pipette ("Eppendorf pipette") in 1954 by Dr. Heinrich Schnittger. This pipette heralded the miniaturisation of biochemical analyses and is now used worldwide in the life sciences.

It was succeeded in 1963 by Professor Peter Karlson, a student of Professor Adolf Butenandt. Also in 1963, a second chair was created at the Physiological-Chemical Institute and filled by Professor Fritz Zilliken, a student of Professor Richard Kuhn, which he held until 1969. Since then there were two institutes, Physiological Chemistry I and II. In 1966 the working groups of Karlson and Zilliken were able to move into new laboratories on the Lahnbergen in the "Medical Research Units". They shared this building with physiological and pharmacological working groups. Professor Friedhelm Schneider was appointed as Zilliken's successor in 1969.

In 1971, with the support of the VW Foundation, the so-called "Integrated Practical Training Centre" was built and put into operation in order to teach medical students together and across disciplines in physiology, biochemistry and pharmacology.

At the end of the 1960s, the establishment of a new course of theoretical medicine took shape in the form of a course in human biology. Initially conceived as a postgraduate course of study to attract the next generation of researchers, human biology soon developed into a diploma course of study with a natural scientific character. It was the first course of study in this field in Germany.

In 1988, when Professor Karlson retired, the Physiological-Chemical Institute I merged with the newly founded Institute for Molecular Biology and Tumor Research and moved back from the Lahnbergen to the Emil-von-Mannkopf-Strasse in the city. However, together with the Institute of Physiology (formerly II), it continues to be involved in biochemical teaching. After the retirement of Professor Schneider, the director of the Physiological Chemistry Institute, Prof. Andreij Hasilik was appointed in 1994 and retired in 2007. From 2010 onwards, Prof. Gerhard Schratt headed the Physiological-Chemical Institute, who accepted a call from the University of Zurich in 2017.
From 2017-2019, the Institute was temporarily managed by Prof. Marco Rust. Prof. Oliver Hantschel has headed the Institute since 1 January 2020.

Scientists and university lecturers who have worked at the Physiological-Chemical Institute I and II
(the list is unfortunately incomplete)

  • Beato, Miguel                  
  • Bersin, Theodor
  • Bode, Christian
  • Bücher, Theodor

  • Chance, Britten

  • Dimroth, Karl
  • Doenecke, Detlef

  • Egge, Heinz

  • Gallwitz, Dieter

  • Hasilik, Andreij
  • Heldt, H. Walter
  • Hohorst, Jürgen

  • Inhoffen

  • Jaenicke, Lothar

  • Kadenbach, Bernhard
  • Karlson, Peter 
  • Klingenberg
  • Koolman, Jan
  • Kröger, Achim

  • Letnansky
  • Liebecq, Claude
  • Löffler, Monika

  • Pette, Dirk

  • Rauen
  • Röhm, Klaus-Heinrich
  • Schachtschabel, Dietrich
  • Schimassek, Hans
  • Schneider, Friedhelm
  • Schnittger, Heinrich
  • Schratt, Gerhard
  • Seifart, Klaus
  • Sekeris, Konstantin
  • Slenczka, Werner
  • Sturm, Gerhard
  • Tampé, Robert
  • Temme

  • Weger
  • Wesemann, Wolfgang
  • Wiegandt, Herbert
  • Witzel, H.

  • Zebe, E.
  • Zilliken, Fritz