A Brief History of the Lindau Meetings
Part II: From the 1960s to the 1990s
The 1960s: The East-West conflict and the debates about reforming the university system
"East German scientists the last time in Lindau prior to reunification"
The hardening of the political confrontation between East and West also had an effect on East German scientists’ participation in the Nobel Laureate Meetings. The construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 thus meant that no more East German scientists would be taking part in the Lindau Meetings until German reunification.
"The 'Green Charter of Mainau' gets the topic of sustainability on the agenda"
With the „Green Charter of Mainau,“ Count Lennart Bernadotte made both a clear declaration and at the same time a loud demand for active protection of nature and the landscape. Upon his initiative, it was passed by representatives from politics, business and the cultural sphere on 20 April 1961. „The Charter is meant to point out to all representatives here in the city and around the country that individual and thus, in the fi nal analysis, political liberty as well can only flourish in a place to live offering a healthy basis for being.“ Count Lennart Bernadotte thus brought the topic of environmental protection and sustainability, as a personal concern of his, very early on into the dialogue of the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings.
(The exhibition „Discoveries 2012 Energy“ on Mainau Island commemorated the commitment of Count Lennart Bernadotte to sustainability and environmental protection.)
The Green Charter of Mainau for download (available only in Geman)
"The Lindau Dialogue inspires young talents in the sciences"
„The distantly enthroned luminaries turned out to be human, wrestling with great diligence and luck, or in battle against repugnant prejudice, for their own self-discovery, as so many of us do. Our Nobel Laureates, however, have been crowned by success, for whom the path to further pioneering research work has been paved by a prize born of magnanimous resolution.“
From the report of a student from Hamburg attending the Meeting in 1963.
Quoted according to Dées de Sterio 1975, 21.
"Lindau Meetings as a role model for redefining the relationship between professor and student"
Nobel Laureates discussed openly and controversially with up-and-coming young scientists, the scientific and personal exchange took place in an informal atmosphere. Concerning this, a social studies lecturer from the Düsseldorf Students‘ Council said:
„For us [students], this was new and very impressive. In the course of this Meeting, it became clear to us that, in Germany too, a change in the relationship between professors and students is currently taking place. “
Quoted according to Dées de Sterio 1975, 26.
Nobel Laureate Forssmann (lower right) appears at the 1967 Meeting for a question and answer session with students in a casual atmosphere.
"Dialogue between religion and science initiates the rehabilitation of Galileo Galilei"
On the occasion of his visit to the 6th Meeting of physicists, Cardinal Franz König (1905-2004), archbishop of Vienna, announced a revision to the trial against Galileo. With the consent of Pope Paul VI, König pleaded in a lecture on „Overcoming the Galileo trauma in the relationship between the Church and secular science,“ for an opening and renewed study of all files touching on the Galileo trial. The philosopher, mathematician, physicist and astronomer was, however, not rehabilitated until 1992 under Pope John Paul II.
The 1970s: Topics for the future, the environment and energy
"The topics of the environment and sustainability come to the fore"
In his opening speech welcoming attendees to the 20th Meeting of Nobel Laureates, Count Lennart Bernadotte harked back to the objectives of the „Green Charter of Mainau“ from 1961 and called for the following: „Today […] the call goes out to scientists all over the world: Join in on rebuilding, maintaining and caring for a healthy and human-nurturing environment!“
"First visit by a Laureate in Economics"
After Rangar A. K. Frisch was awarded, together with Jan Tinbergen, the first „Prize for Economic Sciences of the Swedish National Bank in Memory of Alfred Nobel“ in 1969 „for developing and applying dynamic models to analyse economic processes,“ the Lindau Meeting was thrilled to welcome the Norwegian to the Meeting of Physicists in 1971. In the ensuing years, Laureates in economics took part in the Meetings over and over again, but not until 2004 did they start taking part in their own regular Meetings on Economic Sciences in Lindau.
Frisch's lecture on computer-aided programmes as a basis for economic-political decisions, "Cooperation between Politicians and Econometricians on the Formalization of Political Preferences“, gave an idea of rapid developments to come in the economics world.
"Cooperation between Politicians and Econometricians on the Fomalization of Political Preferences" - Lecture held by Rangar A.K. Frisch (Economics, 1969) during the 21st Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in 1971.
"Appeal for global environmental protection from German Chancellor Brandt"
German Chancellor and Nobel Peace Laureate (1971) Willy Brandt (1913-1992) gave a highly respected speech in Lindau on the topic of „The environment as an international mission“.
„There is still time to turn things around. Our efforts towards a peaceful human future must not end with the prevention of armed conflict alone. We would have achieved little if people in future were no longer threatened by war but still endangered in their very existence by environmental calamities on an unforeseeable scale. Environmental policy thus also serves to secure peace; it is – if you will – an extension of peace policy.“
Brandt, Willy: Environmental Protection as an International Mission, speech held at the opening of the 22nd Nobel Laureate Meeting on 26 June 1972.
Listen to Willy Brandt's speech (available only in German)
"A rethinking required – growth leads to bottlenecks in energy supplies"
Even before the first oil crisis in the autumn of 1973, Nobel Laureates in Lindau were warning about a shortage of energy resources at the 23rd Meeting.
Dennis Gabor, Nobel Laureate in Physics 1971 and founding member of the Club of Rome (1968), blamed the immoderate consumption of energy in the industrialised nations for the shortage in resources and called the looming bottlenecks a „shortage born of immoderation.“ He pointed out that progress and the quality of life had always been coupled in industrial societies to growth in the gross national product, which was where the Nobel Laureate called for a rethink. Education, science, culture and social peace had to be recognised and demanded as the true values of a society, he said. In his Meetings lecture „The Predicament of Mankind,“ Dennis Gabor confronted the public with disturbing results from computer models on the urgent problems facing civilisation: Overpopulation, depletion of natural resources, environmental contamination:
„We must realise we are living on an earth which is now becoming too small for us. Applied scientists and technologists must radically reverse their priorities. The first priority is to get our civilisation going and not to continue with this irresponsible wasting of energy and material resources.“
„The Predicament of Mankind“ - Lecture held by Dennis Gabor (Physics, 1971) during the 23rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in 1973.
The 1980s: Controversial debates, exciting topics and a new President
"Nobel Laureates play Mozart"
During the 30th Meeting, Manfred Eigen (Nobel Prize 1967) and William N. Lipscomb (1976) surprised attendees with virtuoso concert sessions on piano and clarinet.
William N. Lipscomb and Manfred Eigen during the concert in Lindau‘s civic theatre 1980.
"Controversially discussed: Economist von Hayek questions the benefit of development aid"
Friedrich August von Hayek (Prize for Economics 1974) criticised the political activism of some Nobel Laureates in connection with the topic of the North-South conflict. In advance of the 31st Meeting, the media picked up on an appeal by 50 Nobel Laureates directed to politicians and the public, according to which targeted steps were called for to fight poverty and hunger in the world. Von Hayek found fault with the signatories of this call, that they did not have the necessary scientific expertise to speak out in this form, for instance about the topic of development aid: „What appears to me objectionable is that this is done as an organized effort of Nobel Laureates in subjects which are unrelated to the scientific problem and is bound to give the public the impression that they are speaking on the basis of their scientific knowledge.“ Von Hayek himself dared as an economist to make a judgement here and questioned the benefit of aid payments to developing countries: „I personally believe that we often do more harm than good to these people.“
Hayek, Friedrich August von: To the participants of the 31st Meeting of Nobel Laureates, written declaration to all participants of the 31st Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Lindau, 1981.
"Countess Sonja Bernadotte takes over the official duties of her husband and becomes new President of the Council"
Official handover: Count Lennart handed over to Countess Sonja a stethoscope with which she was supposed to hear „how young people‘s hearts beat“ (Lindau 1987).
The 1990s: Times of change – the Meetings in change
"The first Nobel Laureates Meeting after the fall of the Berlin Wall"
In the wake of German reunification, East German scientists took part in the Lindau Meetings for the first time since 1961.
Dance in the „Inselhalle“ at the 40th Lindau Meeting 1990.
"Science and humanism – a debate about the values and duties of scientists"
Rita Levi-Montalcini (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1986) placed science in the service of humanism and called for a “Magna Charta of Duties.” Researchers had a duty, she said, to use their work to make a contribution towards a better world. „The world we live in is driven not solely by mindless physical forces but, more crucially, by subjective human values. Human values become the underlying key to world change.” Recalling these words spoken by Medicine Nobel Laureate Roger Sperry (1981), Levi-Montalcini cautioned her Lindau audience: „Young people here should be well aware of the importance of science and the necessity of science to go on.“ Her commitment to value-based science resulted in "The Carta of Human Duties“ in 1994.
International Council of Human Duties: "The Carta of Human Duties"
"First visit by a German President"
Prof. Dr. Roman Herzog was the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany to take part in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, thereby expressing his esteem for the contribution the Meetings had made to the international dialogue in science. Since 2000, President Herzog has also been Honorary President of the Foundation Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, the establishment of which he had emphatically supported.
German President Roman Herzog (right) in talks with Lindau‘s Lord Mayor Jürgen Müller (1995).
Continue to Part III: From 2000 to 2012
Return to Part I: The Beginnings in the 1950s