The Ignaz L. Lieben Project: Vienna, 8-10 November 2004

by Gerhard W. Pohl

Several institutions cooperated in organizing the Ignaz L. Lieben Project in Vienna, among them, the University of Vienna, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Jewish Museum of Vienna, and the Technical University of Vienna. (see Philipp Steger in bridges Vol. 2)

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} The events started on 8 Novemberin the main reading room of the university, with opening talks by the president of the university, Georg Winckler, and the dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences, Christian Noe. Following these opening remarks, Carl Djerassi, a native of Vienna, well-known as scientist ("father of the pill"), writer and art collector, performed his pedagogical wordplay for two voices "ICSI—Sex in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" together with Maria Hartmann. Djerassi, who read the part of Dr. Felix Frankenthaler, had a stimulating discussion with the audience after his performance. Later he met with a group of those who were personally involved in the Lieben-Project, having dinner in the small festival hall of the university.
The Lieben Prize for 2004 was awarded to the Hungarian neurophysiologist Zoltan Nusser in a special ceremony, which took place in the building of the Austrian Academy of Sciences on the morning of November 9.


image: press conference at the Austrian Academy of Sciences: Dean Skalicky, Technical University of Vienna; Dean Winckler, University of Vienna; Zoltan Nusser, winner of the Lieben Prize 2004; Professor Mang, President of the Academy; Alfred and Isabel Bader

Through the generosity of Alfred Bader and his wife Isabel, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Ignaz L. Lieben Foundation had been reinstituted under its original name. Through this foundation, first established in 1863, the Austrian Academy of Sciences was able to honor Austrian scientists for outstanding work in chemistry, physics and physiology. At the time when the Lieben Foundation was established, the Austro-Hungarian Empire included several countries that later became independent. The Liebens supported the foundation until all members of the family were forced to emigrate by the Nazi regime. Heinrich Lieben, who donated the money for the last prize in 1937, was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. From 1938 until 2003 no Lieben Prize could be awarded.
In 1996 Robert Rosner, doing research on the history of chemistry in Austria, rediscovered the Lieben Foundation. His efforts to re-establish the foundation lasted some years. Finally with the help of Christian Noe, dean of the Life Sciences Faculty of the University of Vienna, Rosner´s efforts were successful. Rosner´s friend Alfred Bader, a native of Vienna, finally provided the money that enabled the academy to reinstitute the foundation under its historical name. To acknowledge their generosity, the Baders were awarded the "Bene merito" medal by the president of the academy, Herbert Mang. In a touching speech, Alfred Bader told the audience why he decided to spend US$18,000 annually to honor outstanding work in chemistry, physics and physiology or molecular biology done by scientists up to 36 years of age. He also explained that the figure 18 stands for chai (life) in Hebrew, and therefore, according to an old Jewish tradition, presents and donations are often given in multiples of 18. Scientists from Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia can apply for the prize. The ceremony was highlighted by a lecture by Eörs Szathmary entitled "The perspectives of scientific research in Eastern and Central Europe."


In the afternoon the Lieben Symposium opened in the great festival hall of the university. Under the title  "Mäzenatentum und naturwissenschaftliche Forschung in Österreich," fifteen scientists from Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and the United States delivered lectures about the Lieben family and the cultural situation in the late years of the Hapsburg monarchy; the historical prize winners; and the influence of anti-Semitism, the National Socialist period and World War II on Austrian science and scientists. (image: during the symposium, festival hall of the University of Vienna)
Following these lectures, a panel discussion entitled "Perspectives of research politics in a new Europe" was moderated by Arnold Schmidt from the Technical University of Vienna. After introductory remarks by Schmidt on Austrian research politics since 1945, Herbert Mang, president of the Austrian Academy of Sciences; Helga Novotny, chairwoman of the European Research Advisory Board; Josef Syka from the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague; Eörs Szathmary from the University of Budapest; and Georg Winckler, president of the University of Vienna, presented their answers to the following questions:
  • What is the most important topic of research politics in your country/your institution?
  • What conceptions and ideas do you have concerning cooperation in "our" region?
  • What is your opinion about the attempts/chances to establish a "European Research Council"?
In the evening the exhibition "The Liebens—150-year history of a Viennese family" opened, which illustrated the destiny of the famous family from the middle of thenineteenth century until today. Many descendants of the Lieben family, who live all over the world, had come to Vienna to meet at the exhibition.

A small traveling exhibition also opened at the Vienna University.  The artist Udo Wid has designed an illuminated convex wall, showing portraits of all 55 Lieben prize-winners of the past; of Zoltan Nusser, the prize-winner of 2004; and of Alfred Bader. These pictures can be seen on the Internet. (image: traveling exhibit by Udo Wid)


The group that was active in the Ignaz L. Lieben Project plans to continue with studies on the history of science through a project involving scientists and historians in connection with future Lieben Prize awards. The proceeds of a concert that took place in connection with the Lieben Prize symposium should help to fund this project.


References and Links
Lieben Symposium:

R. Werner Soukup ed., Die wissenschaftliche Welt von gestern. Böhlau, Wien 2004. ISBN 3-205-77303-9, 363 p., more than 100 sw-photos and many formula pictures.
Evi Fuks, Gabriele Kohlbauer eds., Die Lieben´s. 150 Jahre Geschichte einer Wiener Familie. Böhlau, Wien 2004, ISBN 3-205-77321-7, 244 p., many color and sw-photos.
Robert Rosner, Brigitte Strohmaier eds., Marietta Blau - Sterne der Zertrümmerung. Böhlau, Wien 2003, ISBN 3-205-77088-9, 224 p., 27 sw-photos and many facsimiles.
Karlheinz Rossbacher, Literatur und Bürgertum, Fünf Wiener jüdische Familien. Böhlau, Wien 2003, ISBN 3-205-99497-3, 675 p., 56 color and sw pictures.{/access}