Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

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The Nobel Laureate Meetings at Lindau is a scientific conference held yearly in Lindau, Germany, inviting Nobel prize winners to present to and interact with young researchers from all over the world.


In 1951, the two physicians Gustav Parade and Franz Karl Hein from Lindau convinced the Swedish Count Lennart Bernadotte of Wisborg, living near Lindau, to assume patronage of the scientific meeting they were setting up to facilitate German students the exchange with Nobel laureates of medicine. During the turmoil of World War II, Germany had been largely excluded from worldwide scientific exchange. The initiative soon enjoyed considerable success as many laureates accepted the invitation of Count Lennart to meet in Lindau, close to his castle on the isle of Mainau in Lake Constance. Over the years the meetings grew, and laureates from all three scientific Nobel disciplines, physiology or medicine, chemistry and physics were also invited. Each year in turn, the Lindau Meetings were devoted specifically to one of these disciplines. From the 1970s, also winners of the Nobel prize for economics began to join the meetings occasionally.

Since 1954, the meetings are organized by the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. Count Lennart became the Council's first president.

At the age of eighty, in 1989, Count Lennart resigned from chairing the meetings and his much younger wife Countess Sonja Bernadotte became head of the meeting's Council.[1] She demonstrated in doing so how firmly the Bernadotte family was committed to continue the tradition of the Lindau Meetings, considering the fact that the grandfather of Count Lennart, Gustav V., was the first Swedish King to award the Nobel Prize at Stockholm in 1905. Countess Sonja successfully increased the international significance of the events by inviting about 600 university trainees every year from an increasing number of countries world-wide, by introducing a Joint Assembly of Laureates of the three scientific Nobel disciplines together every five years, and by establishing the 'Foundation Lindau Nobel Prizewinners Meeting at Lake Constance', in the year 2000. Thanks to this foundation the Council of the Lindau Meetings finally disposed of a solid financial basis for the organization of the yearly meetings. Count Lennart died in 2004 and his wife Countess Sonja Bernadotte in 2008. Since then their daughter Countess Bettina Bernadotte is head of the Council.

Recently, the Lindau Meetings Council biannually organises in addition to the yearly meetings on natural sciences as well a separate conference for Nobel laureates in economics with students from all over the world.

Aim and structure[edit]

Singaporean president Tony Tan opening the "International Evening" at the 2012 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

The aim of the Lindau Meetings is to foster the interactions between Nobel laureates and young researchers. Typical meetings are attended by around 30 laureates and on the order of 600 young researchers. The predominant types of events are presentations given by the laureates in the framework of plenary sessions, and seminars, closed meetings between laureates and young scientists, throughout the afternoon.[2] Additional formats include panel discussions, scientific breakfast meetings. Social events include a Bavarian evening sponsored by the Free State of Bavaria, concerts, Academic Dinners organized by organizations such as the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the German Research Foundation, and the Max Planck Society, and an International Get-Together with varying sponsorship; for instance, in 2012, the get-together was sponsored by the Republic of Singapore.[3]

Masterclass by George Smoot at the 2012 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

In 2011, the format of "Science Master Classes" was introduced, following a suggestion by Roger Tsien, in which young scientists present their work and discuss it with both their peers and a laureate.[4]

The opening of each meeting is a festive occasion that includes further guests of honour, typically science ministers from Germany or abroad, other government representatives, or representatives of scientific institutions or science-related foundations. For instance, the 2011 meeting included Bill Gates as part of a discussion touching on the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.[5] The last day of the meeting features a joint boat ride from Lindau on the invitation of the State of Baden-Württemberg across Lake Constance to the island of Mainau, the seat of the Bernadotte family, where there is a final panel discussions in the grounds of the castle.

Some of the events, such as the plenary sessions in which the laureates give their presentations, are accessible not only to the young researchers, but also to the media and to selected guests. The group sessions that are meant to provide the most direct interactions are closed to anybody but the laureates and the young researchers.[2]

Plenary talks by the laureates can be about science related to their Nobel prize, about current scientific topics they find interesting, or about related topics such as science communication and the interaction between science and society. Often, a personal perspective - such as a laureate's career, their path to the Nobel prize, and corresponding advice to the young researchers - forms part of the presentation.[6] The laureates are free in their choice of topic, and it has been criticized that some of them use the platform given to them to present questionable ideas outside the mainstream of science.[7]

Panel discussion on the Higgs particle results from CERN at the 2012 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Seated from left to right: David Gross, Martinus Veltman, Carlo Rubbia, and George Smoot.

The meetings rotate between the three Nobel science prizes chemistry, physics, and physiology/medicine. Every five years there are meetings uniting laureates from all three branches.[8] Since 2004, there are additional meetings for economics, which take place every three years.[4]

The selection of the young researchers that attend each Lindau meeting is made in cooperation with the meeting's academic partners. Participants are nominated by more than 100 institutions from more than 30 countries; some are also nominated by specific Nobel laureates. Nominating institutions include scientific academies, such as the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic or the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, foundations such as the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation or the Nobel Foundation, research councils such as the National Science Council or the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, companies such as Microsoft Corporation or Siemens AG, and research institutes and universities such as the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Humboldt University of Berlin or Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.[3]

2012 was the first meeting where selected teachers were admitted as participants. The teachers had been selected as being particularly active in communicating science to their pupils.[9]

The participating young researchers claim that the informal atmosphere and the intensive peer-to-peer contact provides a unique experience, while the organisers consider it crucial to both aims, scientific exchange and inspiration of junior scientists. In addition to these principal aims of scientific exchange and inspiration, the Lindau Meetings offer a unique occasion to follow closely the development of sciences and the advancement of knowledge to the benefit of mankind.[1]

Conferences in Economics[edit]

Conferences in Economics are held every fourth year—last time in 2012.[10]

Economics Meeting 2008:


Around 20 Nobel laureates in sciences have participated usually at every disciplinary meeting in the past. At the Joint Assemblies gathering all three scientific Nobel disciplines and being organized every fifth year since 2000, about double as many laureates have participated i.e. 50-60. Regarding the decade of Nobel Laureate Meetings between 1996–2005, the participating laureates are named under (4) together with brief comments on their lectures.

Physics Meeting 2008:


  1. ^ a b Hebel, Wolfgang: Nobel Laureates meet Students, Lindau 1996-2005 - On the Edge of Knowledge. Copyright 2008, Deutscher Wissenschafts-Verlag, Baden-Baden, ISBN 978-3-935176-84-2
  2. ^ a b G.C. (June 29, 2011), The 2011 Lindau Nobel Meeting: Magic ring, Babbage - Science and Technology, The Economist 
  3. ^ a b Schumacher, Christian, ed. (2013), Challenges. 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Annual Report 2012, Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings & Foundation Lindau Nobelprizewinners Meetings at Lake Constance, ISSN 1869-3741 
  4. ^ a b Scherf, Martina (July 2, 2011), Unter vollen Segeln, Süddeutsche Zeitung: R11 
  5. ^ Timmer, John, Bill Gates puts his money to work in the developing world 
  6. ^ Cf. the description of the talks by Smithies, Timmer, John (2010-07-10), How to win a Nobel Prize: fail, persist, iterate, Ars Technica , by Horvitz, Timmer, John (2010-07-12), Cells have many ways to live, only a couple of ways to die , and by Mather, Timmer, John (2010-06-29), A short history of the history of the Universe 
  7. ^ Timmer, John, Paragon of science or crackpot? Life after winning a Nobel 
  8. ^ G.C. (June 28, 2011), The 2011 Lindau Nobel Meeting: Generation zap, Babbage - Science and Technology, The Economist 
  9. ^ Giesler, Johannes (2012-07-06), Ein Ausflug ohne Schüler 
  10. ^ Dagens Næringsliv. 2011-08-27. p. 38. 


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