Published 1 July 2012 by Beatrice Lugger

A History with Future – The Lindau Meetings

Does anyone, who joins the Lindau Meeting know, why 20 to 30 Nobel Laureates meet at this beautiful spot with young researchers every year since 1951? Did Alfred Nobel live in Lindau? Not at all. 

In 1951 two physicians in Lindau, six years after the end of World War II, thought of how to overcome the scientific isolation – Germany had been excluded from most of the worldwide scientific exchange. Franz Karl Hein and his colleague Gustav Parade had the idea of a congress to encourage international scientific exchanges with Nobel Laureates and they found an open–minded and enthusiastic advocate and patron in Count Lennart Bernadotte af Wisborg (†). Count Lennart Bernadotte was a member of the Swedish royal family, who lived at the other end of Lake Constance on the island of Mainau – as his family still does today. After all, his great-grandfather, the Swedish King Oscar II, had awarded the very first Nobel prizes.

Hein Bernadotte Parade
Franz Karl Hein, Count Lennart Bernadotte, Gustav Parade during the first meeting in 1951

On June 11th 1951 the first ‘European Meeting of Nobel Laureates in medicine’ was openend by Count Bernadotte. Seven Laureates and 400 physicians had come to Lindau from Germany and neighbouring countries. In 1952 the number of attending Nobel Laureates rose up to ten. And in 1953 for the first time the meeting was dedicated to physics and students have been an integral part the meeting. With their presence the event got a new ambition and meaning. From there on the number of attending Nobel Laureates grew with every year (first meeting dedicated to chemistry in 1954), aswell as the number of students*.

In the first decade of the meeting the main part of the young researchers naturally came from Germany and its close neighbours at Lake Constance Austria and Switzerland. But also students from France or the Netherlands soon started to join the meeting (in the beginning it was open to everybody who made it to Lindau). It is a brilliant and timeless concept and not at least the atmosphere in Lindau at lake Constance makes it someway like talking with friends on holidays. A perfect relaxed and informal atmosphere for an intensive dialogue!

Today the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting has a global network of  around 300 partner institutions. It comprises academies of sciences, national ministries, university faculties and departments, research organizations, foundations, companies, international associations of organizations. They together with Nobel Laureates are involved in the nomination process of the young researchers from all over the world.

Participants in 2012

This year 592 young talents travel to Lindau. They come fro 69 countries. The biggest group are students and PhDs from Germany (167), followed by the USA (90), China (32), India (31), Italy (21), Japan (16) and Spain (16)…  And it will be Countess Bettina Bernadotte, the daughter of Count Lennart Bernadotte, who will welcome them all in the opening ceremony this Sunday afternoon, July 1st.


More about the history of the meetings in the Mediatheque. 

* Since 1970, Laureates in economic sciences have sporadically attended. The first Meeting of Winners of the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel was held in 2004 and is organized every three years since 2008.

Beatrice Lugger

Beatrice Lugger is a science journalist and science social media specialist with a background as a chemist. She is Scientific Director of the National Institute for Science Communication, NaWik – @BLugger is her twitter handle, Quantensprung her own blog.