By perturbing a system at equilibrium, then following its return to equilibrium via a "relaxation" process, Eigen was able to avoid the time required to mix reagents, and thus study the kinetics of very fast reactions. He found, for example, that the reaction H+ + OH- → H2O occurs at every encounter between the solvated ions. Using similar methods, Eigen measured rates of proton transfer in organic acids and bases, and extended the method to complex sequences of biological reactions. He shared the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work.
In 1971 Eigen published a pioneering paper on "self-organization of matter" and the "evolution of biological macromolecules"; in 1992 he received the Paul Ehrlich Prize for this work. His interests extended to the technological utilization of ideas concerning evolution.
Eigen was born in Bochum, Germany, received the Ph.D. in physics and chemistry at the University of Göttingen (1950) and became Professor and Director of the Max-Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry there. Among his many awards and honorary degrees are the ACS Kirkwood Medal (1965), Harrison Howe Award (1966) and Linus Pauling Medal (1967). His books include "Laws of the Game: How the Principles of Nature Govern Chance" (1993), "The Hypercycle: A Principle of Natural Self-Organization" (1979) and "Steps Toward Life: A Perspective on Evolution" (1992).
Location in chemistry building:
Basement Floor; Elevator area East Wall; Sequence 5