Published 30 June 2013 by Beatrice Lugger

Lindau as an outstanding laboratory

Hundreds of young people with backpacks talking in various languages are here in Lindau.  A woman in the bus this morning said: „I don’t know where all these people come from, but it is all about the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, right?“ The small town Lindau in the southwest of Germany is ‚flooded’ these days with more than 600 young researchers from all over the world. For one week they and 34 Nobel Laureates will talk about science – this year mainly about chemistry. It is the 63rd Nobel Laureate Meeting, which opened today.

Opening of the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Attending Laureates together with Countess Bettina Bernadotte.
© Christian Flemming

Since 1951 the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings take place – a long tradition. All started with two physicians from Lindau, who thought it might be time to overcome the scientific isolation after World War II. Naturally Germany had been excluded from most of the worldwide scientific exchange after the end of the war. The two physicians Franz Karl Hein and Gustav Parade 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.

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 Lennart Bernadotte. Seven Laureates and 400 physicians had come to Lindau from Germany and neighbouring countries.

From there on the history of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings began. A meeting which attracts people from all over the world since more than 60 years to discuss and share their ideas about science and scientific outcomes and the future of science. With this year’s meeting more than 25,000 young researchers attended this outstanding meeting since the beginning.

Since October 2008, Countess Bettina Bernadotte is president of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and member of the Board of the Foundation Lindau Nobelprizewinners Meetings at Lake Constance. This afternoon Countess Bernadotte opened the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting at the Inselhalle in Lindau.

“Science and education are catalysts of international understanding,” said Countess Bernadotte. “The language of science is universal and is understood across all national, cultural or religious boundaries.” This is a fact that is also underscored by the attendance of Nobel Peace Laureate and former president of East Timor, José Ramos-Horta this year. In addition to cutting-edge scientific topics, issues that affect society as a whole and matters of global consequence are assuming an ever-greater significance on the agenda of the meetings.

Countess Bernadotte also underlined the importance of the dialogue during the meeting. She described the Lindau meeting as ‘an outstanding laboratory’  – with an absence of hierarchy, leading to a dialogue with no limits.

In addition to the Council on the occasion of the 50th meeting of Nobelprizewinners of the natural sciences in Lindau in the year 2000 there was established a Foundation, which aims to support, encourage, and ensure the future continuance of the meetings, to enable a dialogue and exchange of ideas between scientists – regardless of nationality, political differences, and age – with the goal of better international understanding.’

Part of this Foundation an international Honorary Senate which is composed of representatives of the scientific, business and political communities, and plays a role in advising the Foundation Board of Directors. Persons like William H. Gates, Roman Herzog, Angela Merkel, José Manuel Barroso belong to it.

Today the Foundation used the opening ceremony as an occasion to pay tribute to the social commitment and the dedication to education, science and research of three supporters and companions of the Lindau Meetings: Gunnar Stålsett, bishop emeritus of Oslo and member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the organisation responsible for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize, Markus Storch, who chaired the Nobel Foundation for 17 years, and Klaus Tschira, co-founder of software company SAP and benefactor of one of Europe’s largest charitable foundations, were admitted into the Honorary Senate.[hr]

More about the history of the meetings in the Mediatheque.

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.