places where I lived, the people whom I met, the
outstanding events, and a few things of a highly
symbolic value ...........
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 lose
so early in my life.
U19 championships, 1957
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 parents and my academic teachers.
They let me run about freely and make all my mistakes,
trusting me to find my way.
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 the literature.
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 at the new
places. Then my life became steady, centered
around Freiburg. I built two houses, hoping that each
of them would be a real home. The one on Sylt wasn't,
and I sold it in 2007. The one in Ebringen was my
peaceful haven, and I was always happy to return to
it. Yet, in 2021 I had to give it up because I
couldn't really take care of it any more. I was lucky
to find a nice apartment in the seniors' residence
Parkstift St. Ulrich in Bad Krozingen, a place to enjoy "living
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.
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
Wat - and Rudyard Kipling's "Road to Mandalay"
- Wat Phra Kaeo
- Menam Chao Phraya
Where did I go ?
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.
places in East Asia where I visited the universities
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 laboratory.
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
Cape, 71° North
of Good Hope, 34° South
Yellow River, near Baotou
Irrawaddy, near Bagan
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.
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 whom 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
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.
with my wife, 1977
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 Wiss-Ges Award, 1978
USOB award, 1985
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 (© E.
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.
my birthday present, 2010
Kees Vrieze, Amsterdam, 1990
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.
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".
Alfred Seger and his family, Wolfenweiler, 1978
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.
University, Bangkok, 2008
I 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