Two Leibniz Awards for Münster

Highest German research award for Thomas Bauer


Prof. Dr. Thomas Bauer

© Julia Holtkötter

Double success in the Humanities and the Natural Sciences: not just one, but two of the prestigious Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Awards are going to Münster University (WWU) for 2013. Thomas Bauer, Professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies, receives the highest German research award, as does Frank Glorius, Professor of Organic Chemistry. The announcement of the awards, worth 2.5 million euros each, was made today by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). The DFG award is a recognition of outstanding achievements on the part of academics. The Leibniz Awards for 2013, eleven in all, will be presented in Berlin on 19 March.

"Not just one, but two Leibniz Awards in one year: we're all delighted and share the two award-winners' pleasure at this tremendous success," declared WWU Rector Prof. Ursula Nelles. "The awards fit in perfectly with Münster University's research profile: Prof. Bauer is one of the outstanding academics in our Excellence Cluster 'Religion and Politics' in the field of the Humanities. And it is not least due to the work of Prof. Glorius that the WWU Department of Chemistry has moved up to 48th position in this year's worldwide table."

In its citation accompanying the award to Thomas Bauer, the DFG explained its decision by saying that Bauer "combines the philological interpretation and the editing of texts in an approach which is as broad as it is innovative, taking in historical considerations relating to culture and mentality." He is, for example, identified with his research on Arabic literature which "brought forth fundamental new insights into the culture and mentality of the pre-modern Arabic/Islamic world." Bauer's studies on the literature of the Mamluk and Ottoman periods are described by the DFG as "pioneering". He is also associated with the (re)discovery of Islam as a "culture of ambiguity".

The DFG ranks the chemist Frank Glorius as one of the "world's leading experts" on organic catalyst research. This applies, says the DFG, especially to the difficult activation of C-H bonds, whereby bonds between hydrocarbon atoms could be specifically created, which is essential for the formation of complex organic molecules. Among Frank Glorius' achievements, the DFG continues, is his pioneering application of C-H activation to the synthesis of heterocyclical compounds. Glorius' research on the use of so-called "N-heterocyclical carbene ligands" in organocatalysis also mark him out as being absolutely exceptional in his field of work. The DFG pointed out that Glorius, while already having made pioneering achievements, has "probably not yet reached the peak of his productivity".

Further information on Prof. Thomas Bauer

Prof. Thomas Bauer is a member of the "Religion and Politics" Excellence Cluster at Münster University and a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg) in Berlin. Just a few months ago he was elected as a member of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Since 2000 he has been Professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at Münster University, where he was Director of the Centre of Religious Studies from 2002 to 2005.

The focus of his research is not only the history of the culture and mentality of the Arabic/Islamic world, but also classical Arabic literature. The results of his research work have also become known to a wider audience. There was widespread coverage in the media last year, for example, of his book, "A Different History of Islam", in which he illuminates more than 1000 years of Arabic/Islamic cultural history. In his book, Bauer concludes that for centuries Islam was much more tolerant of other values and claims to truth than people in western countries generally assumed. Since the Crusades, says Bauer, the image of Islam in the West has never been as bad as it is today.

Thomas Bauer took his PhD in 1989 at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. After a period spent at Heidelberg University he returned to Erlangen-Nuremberg, where he became a professor in 1997.

Further information on Prof. Frank Glorius

This, the Leibniz Award, is not the first occasion that Prof. Frank Glorius has received a particularly prestigious award. In 2010 he was presented with the renowned "ERC Starting Grant" from the European Commission (ERC). He has also been the recipient of, among other things, the highly regarded Alfried Krupp Prize for Young University Teachers (2006). Since 2007 he has been Professor of Organic Chemistry at Münster University.

The focus of Frank Glorius' research is the development and application of new, efficient methods of catalysis and synthesis for the production of organic compounds. Organic molecules are very important for people, for example in pharmaceuticals, crop protection, in the chemical industry, in material sciences, in the field of nutrition and as fragrances and flavourings. This is why methods for the efficient production of such compounds are of major interest, and it explains why experts see catalysis as a key technology which is set to become more and more important in the future. Glorius' research aims to make a contribution to protecting valuable natural resources.

Frank Glorius took his PhD in 2000 at the University of Basel. After periods spent at Harvard University (USA) and the Max Planck Institute in Mülheim an der Ruhr, and as a professor at Marburg University, he moved to WWU Münster.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Award

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is the most important research award in Germany. The Leibniz Programme, established in 1985, aims to improve the working conditions of outstanding scientists and academics, expand their research opportunities, relieve them of administrative tasks, and help them employ particularly qualified young researchers. A maximum of €2.5 million is provided per award. Prizewinners are first chosen from a slate of nominations put forward by third parties; the final selection is made by the Joint Committee on the basis of a recommendation from the Leibniz Nominations Committee.

The Leibniz Award has been presented annually by the DFG since 1986. It is awarded in recognition of research work done by outstanding academics in all fields. As a rule, recipients each receive 2.5 million euros which, says the DFG, they can spend on their academic work over a period of up to seven years, as they wish and without excessive bureaucracy. So far, 324 academics have received the award, which is also seen as one of the most important academic awards worldwide. Six academics went on to win the Nobel Prize after receiving the Leibniz Award.

A total of ten winners of the Leibniz Award are now doing research and teaching at Münster University. They are, besides Prof. Thomas Bauer and Prof. Frank Glorius, Prof. Burkhard Wilking (Mathematics, 2009), Prof. Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger (History, 2005), Prof. Hubert Wolf (Theology, 2003), Prof. Joachim Cuntz (Mathematics, 1999), Prof. Hans-Christian Pape (Medicine, 1999), Prof. Dietmar Vestweber (Cellular Biology, 1998), Prof. Christopher Deninger (Mathematics, 1992) and Prof. Peter Schneider (Mathematics, 1992). (upm)