The places where I lived,
the people whom I met, the outstanding events, and a few things of a
highly symbolic value ...........
In my childhood football was as popular as it is today. We
played it on the street, with a milk can in lieu of a real ball, rough
and loud. From that I derive my fighting spirit and my desire for new
challenges. Early on I became active in competitive sports and
endurance events. That taught me, also early on, that there are few
victories and many defeats. Until today I am glad that I learned to
so early in my life.
German U19 championships, 1957
Vorarlberg mountains in midsummer, 1958
Whom do I owe anything ? Of
course many people. The important ones have been named in the section
on my life. Here I want to show those again to whom I owe most: my
and my academic teachers. They let me run about freely and make all my
mistakes, trusting me to find my way.
my parents, 1980
Erika and Heinz Nöth, June and Larry Dahl, 2005
Above all this love and
support I seem to have enjoyed an unusual amount of assistance from a
higher source, quite often asking myself how I derserved it. Out of a
whim I called this source the Goddess Fortuna. My friends and myself
have often praised her for her generosity, both in our private lives
and in our chemistry, and we made sure that she received recognition in
Where am I at home ?
During the first 40 years of my life my address changed
more than ten times, and I almost always felt at home there. I have
built two houses, hoping that each of them would be a real home. The
one on Sylt wasn't, and I finally sold it. But the one in Ebringen is
my peaceful haven, and I am always happy to return to it.
Having moved around in the world so much, I of course have my
favourite places. The time in Marburg was like a holiday between my
student days and the beginning of my career. In Madison, Wisconsin, my
wife and me
spent the happiest years of our lives. Dunedin, New Zealand, where I
spent a total
of six months during three sabbatical leaves, provided the pleasure of
having the longest possible distance from the troubles at home.
Only after I became fascinated by East Asia later in life,
did I find other
places where I feel at home. The climate, the people, the culture and
the bottomless mystery of the East have attracted me more and more in
the second half of my life. I have been tempted to buy an apartment in
Bangkok, but decided not to do that and rather remain a visitor there.
Yet more than any place before Bangkok is my second home now, where I
stay to meet my friends and to enjoy the eastern world.
Angkor Wat - and Rudyard Kipling's "Road to Mandalay"
Bangkok - Wat Phra Kaeo
Bangkok - Menam Chao Phraya
did I go ? Moving
around was an undesired fate in my youthtime, but then it turned into a
habit. I always want to see new places, and my camera is my trusty
companion. My profession involved international contacts, near and far.
Like all my colleagues I have cultivated these contacts on lecture
tours and on international conferences. Of course the East has become
prominent for me in this respect, too, and I got around a lot in India,
China and Taiwan. But all the big scientific meetings in my time took
place in the western world. The group picture shows the participants of
the famous Ettal meeting which brought together all important
organometallic chemists of the time. This is the only photo which shows
all our heroes.
the places in East Asia where I visited the universities
the conference in Ettal, Bavaria, in 1974
My scientific travels have taken me to the universities closest to the
North Pole (Tromsoe in Norway) and closest to the South Pole (Dunedin
in New Zealand). As there are no West and East Poles, I define my
westernmost university as Salta in Argentina and my easternmost as
Hohhot in Inner Mongolia. People of all colours have worked in my
The chemistry buildings:
The short scientific trips
whetted the appetite to see more of the far away countries. So I went
there, together with my wife as long as we were married. The four
photos show me at places where the land meets the water. Being at a
border and hoping to learn what is beyond the mighty river or the sea,
or reaching the limit on top of a mountain, that is the essence of
travelling for me.
North Cape, 71° North
Cape of Good Hope, 34° South
the Yellow River, near Baotou
the Irrawaddy, near Bagan
What did I achieve ?
I am afraid that it is too late for me now to try and
make it into the history books. My compensation for that is all the fun
that I have had.
Discoveries: My coworkers and I
have made many lovely chemical compounds. Here I show my favourite
which I made myself, the trinickel cluster which catapulted me into my
academic career. But my greatest discovery was my "daughter" Lanfen
I found at the far end of the world in 1991, the most talented person I
know, who brought sunshine into my life again.
the odd-electron cluster S2Ni3Cp3
Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, 1991
My highest achievements: I climbed as high as 4100 meters,
mastering the summit of the Breithorn near Zermatt. My highest
performance took place 3000 meters high, when five German chemistry
professors sang "Gaudeamus igitur" on stage in the historical opera
house in Leadville, Colorado. I am really proud of both achievements.
Breithorn, with my wife, 1977
Wilhelm Preetz, Dirk Reinen, Dieter Fenske, myself, and
Erwin Weiss, 1984
Yes, I received a few awards, even one that came along with
375 grams of pure gold. But as it so happens with awards, they come
late, when the thrill of the achievement is already forgotten. So the
rewards which I still like best are those which I received for
secondary contributions to science, my award for my effort for the
public understanding of science and my honourable mention by the United
Sons of Boron.
the Wilhelm-Klemm-Prize, 2005
the Wiss-Ges Award, 1978
the USOB award, 1985
Unfulfilled Dreams: Every
chemist dreams of finding a molecule which is so pretty that it will
decorate the title page of a book. Hardly any one finds it; neither did
I. But my coworkers compensated me for that by designing a beauty for
me for my 70th birthday (©
Another thing which I would haved liked to do also never happened:
wearing the academic robe. The robes were abandoned in Germany after
the 1968 uprise, and they have not been re-introduced until today.
Here, too, compensation had to come from somewhere else, namely the
Netherlands where academic events are still celebrated in style. The
photo shows me in a gown of the University of Amsterdam (with the hat
of its chancellor) during the proceedings for conferring a Dr. degree
to a student.
Did I deserve it
? My mother
said "self-praise stinks", and she is certainly right. I was unusually
lucky, very often stumbling into a favourable situation or standing on
the shoulders of many other people. I was lucky to work in the century
of science in a prosperous country. I had parents and teachers who gave
me all the freedom to develop my talents. I had an environment which
tolerated my adventurous and rebellious character. So I must look back
with gratitude. I received more than I deserved, and there is no longer
the prod of ambition in my heart. I can lean back and realise what a
lucky person I am.
HV70, my birthday present, 2010
with Kees Vrieze, Amsterdam, 1990
Happy Moments: The
happiest moments are those which should not be talked about. But for me
those which become alive when thinking about the past, always have to
do with cheerful companions. The two pictures are meant to express
this. Both show situations after a rewarding activity. The first was
taken after a rich wine harvest, the other after getting my parents to
visit us in America. I did not feel the thrill of happiness when I
became a professor or when I got my highest award, but I could forget
everything in the company of friends, with a relaxed mood and a sharp
tongue and in the spirit of "ergo bibamus".
with Alfred Seger and his family, Wolfenweiler, 1978
with my parents, Wisconsin Dells, 1968
Bel Ami: Which man does not
dream of being the cock on the walk, being surrounded by pretty girls?
I am one! Unfortunately only after having lived 65 years. I don't know
how I achieved that, but visit me in South East Asia, and you will see.
Jiuzhaigou, China, 2010
Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, 2008
have had so much luck and so many pleasures that I don't have the right
to ask for more. I will be ever so happy if there are more, and my
"Every Day is Sunday" mood keeps me inspired day after day. If I were
allowed to ask for future privileges, it would be the following two:
(1) Let me stay healthy and content, so that I can look out at the
beauty of this world:
(2) Let me stay mobile and curious, so that for a few more times I can
set sail and put to sea looking for new shores: