The story of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics

A virtual dream comes true

In 1943, two young scientists were serving as soldiers near Berlin: Werner Reichardt, a physicist and the biologist Bernhard Hassenstein. They met by chance and discussed scientific problems most intensely. In case they might survive this war they promised each other to create an institute for biology combined with physics. That was their dream and the origin of our institute.

On the way to built this institute, two other scientists were of crucial importance: Max Delbrück and Karl-Friedrich Bonhoeffer. Thanks to their interactions and initiatives, Hassenstein and Reichardt could join the MPI for Biology in Tübingen where they established the “Forschungsgruppe Kybernetik”, which eventually led to the birth of the “Institute for Biological Cybernetics”.

Over the years, along with its increasing importance and Reichardt’s personal contacts, the institute became a home for a number of conferences gathering neuroscientists from all over the world. At that time, some 40 scientists worked at our institute.

Today, there are five times as many. Of course, the financial outlay for equipment multiplied in an enormous magnitude. Reichardt retired in 1992. For his farewell, he had invited his colleagues and friends to a restaurant in the old town. When we joined there, he suddenly felt ill and wanted to be taken home. He was severely hit and did not recover.

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