Biographical Sketch of A. X. Trautwein
Reprinted from the February 2007 edition of the Mössbauer Spectroscopy Newsletter, published as part of Volume 30, Issue 2 of the Mössbauer Effect Reference and Data Journal

On 1 February 2007, Alfred X. Trautwein made the transition to Emeritus Professor at the University of Lübeck. Alfred was born in Neu-Ulm, Bavaria, in 1940, where he spent his youth and where he was educated (elementary school 1946-1952, gymnasium 1952-1961). From 1961 to 1967, he studied at the Technical University in Munich, majoring in physics, and received his Ph.D. in 1969.

The first Mössbauer conference he attended was the small meeting on “Biological Applications of Mössbauer Spectroscopy” that Hans Frauenfelder organized at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1969. During this conference, Uli Gonser offered Ali a position as Research Assistent at Uli’s new Chair in Metal Physics at the Universität des Saarlandes, which Ali decided to take in August 1969. Ali was co-assistant with Werner Keune, and both were responsible for building up the Mössbauer lab in Uli’s institute which was, during the following 25 years, very much in demand by many students, post docs, and foreign senior scientists. For Ali and Werner, Uli’s institute was an extremely pleasant and stimulating place: much freedom for their own research, guidance from a gifted boss, and many interesting people from places all around the world who inspired them with new ideas and views.
In this exciting atmosphere Ali’s Habilitation was duly completed in 1973, both in physics and quantum chemistry. During the 13 years Ali stayed in Saarbrücken, he established and expanded his expertise in biophysical applications of the Mössbauer effect, and published two monographs: “Physik für Mediziner” and “Mössbauer Spectroscopy in Transition Metal Chemistry” (coauthored by Philipp Gütlich and Rainer Link).

Ali (left) together with Uli Gonser in Saarbrücken (1970)


Ali (right) and his wife Hiltrud with Thanassis Simopoulos from NCSR Demokritos in Athens, Greece, during ICAME 1989 in Budapest

In 1983 Ali moved as full professor to Lübeck, the old Hanse-town, located about 60 km east of Hamburg and on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. His main research there has been the electronic and magnetic structure of iron complexes, i.e., enzymes, proteins, soils, sediments, magnetic switches, molecular magnets, and nanocomposites, including exotic applications such as the “in vivo investigation of iron transport in fungi and bacteria” or the “recombination study of photodissociated myoglobin and CO via tunneling at very low temperature.”

In his research in Lübeck, Ali has brought many complementary techniques to add to the information obtained by Mössbauer spectroscopy, including molecular orbital theory, magnetic susceptometry, EPR, EXAFS and, since they are available in Hamburg (DESY) and Grenoble (ESRF), also nuclear forward scattering and nuclear inelastic scattering using synchrotron radiation.

Over the last 25 years spectroscopists, biologists, inorganic chemists, and medical doctors have fruitfully cooperated in studying metal, especially iron proteins. From this cooperation a new research community has emerged – bioinorganic chemistry.

This community provides a competent forum for the study of the mutual influence of structure, function, and molecular dynamics of metal-containing biomolecules. Ali has become very much engaged in this interdisciplinary research. In Lübeck – during the International Conference on Bioinorganic Chemistry (1995), organized by Ali and his crew – the Society of Biological Inorganic Chemistry was founded, which presently has about 1,000 members worldwide and boasts its own publication services via the Journal of Bioinorganic Chemistry. Ali has held the positions of Vice-President, President, and Past-President of this Society during the period 1998-2004.


Group photo of the members of Ali's institute (1993) at Lübeck

Philipp Gütlich (left) and Ali in 1993, when they both separately received the German Max-Planck-Award
Ali is also an active member of the German Biophysical Society (for which he served as Secretary from 1995 to 2002), the German Physical Society (since 1970), the German Chemical Society (since 1994), the Steering Committee of the EU-network Transition Metals in Biology (1989-1997), the Editorial Board of several journals, of the International Board on the Applications of the Mössbauer Effect-IBAME (1995-2005), and of several networks of the European Community. He was coordinator of the Priority Programme of the German Research Foundation on Bioinorganic Chemistry (1990-1996).

In the summer of 1999 he, together with Fritz Parak, organized the International Conference on the Applications of the Mössbauer Effect (ICAME) in Garmisch, Bavaria, in honor of Professor Mössbauer’s 70th birthday and of the 40th anniversary of the Mössbauer effect.

Four members of the Lübeck group belong to the Mössbauer Century Club. Besides Ali Trautwein, they are:

  • Eckard Bill, who was offered a position at the Max-Planck-Institute for Bioinorganic Chemistry in Mülheim, Germany, in 1994
  • Volker Schünemann, who is Professor of Biophysics at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, Germany, since 2004
  • Heiner Winkler, who worked with Ali for 23 years and who retired on 31 December 2006

Ali Trautwein has received numerous academic honors, including the Max-Planck-Award in 1993 and the Guy-Lussac Research Price of the French Ministry of Education, Research, and Technology in 1999. Ali also was deeply involved in the academic administration of his university. During the years 1988-1992 he served as Dean of the Faculty of Science, and from 1996-2002 as Vice-Rector and from 2002-2005 as Rector.

Similar to Uli Gonser’s group in Saarbrücken, Ali’s group in Lübeck was very much in demand for scientists from Germany and from abroad; many of them were Mössbauer spectroscopists, but the majority was from other fields complementing the research performed in Ali’s lab. Most of them valued Hiltrud and Ali’s home, which is always a good place for scientific and cultural exchange.


Ali (center) with Hiltrud and Jochen Litterst during Ali's inauguration ceremony as Rector of his university (2002). Jochen, at that time, was President of the Technical University in Braunschweig.
Ali Trautwein in his office (1998)


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