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13 May 2004

Symposium at the University of Heidelberg: "Physics and Biophysics in the Age of Goethe: Concepts of Nature around 1800"

3 July 2004 — Organizers: Prof. H. Günter Dosch (Institute of Theoretical Physics), Prof. Dieter Borchmeyer (Department of German Studies), Dr. Letizia Mancino-Cremer (Goethe Society, Heidelberg), Prof. Christoph Cremer (Kirchhoff Institute of Physics/Biomolecular Machines Network)

The heated debates on genetic engineering and genetic therapy, stem cell research and its applications have indicated just how strongly concrete decisions of major practical significance depend on general concepts of Nature and life. But the intellectual engagement with issues of this kind is anything but new. We need only recall Paracelsus' visions of physical and chemical synthesis in humans and the debates sparked off by the discovery (1828) of urea synthesis by Friedrich Wöhler, which also greatly interested Goethe.

The age of Goethe (1749-1832) witnessed an upheaval in the history of science and the concepts of Nature in general and of life and its relationship with the basic laws of physics and chemistry. Many of the issues that concern us today were addressed at that time already and their consequences (including the ethical ones) were passionately discussed. Though our scientific knowledge has progressed greatly in comparison with Goethe's day, many of these basic concepts of Nature and their bioethical repercussions are still of major relevance.

In its engagement with selected examples, the conference sets out to re-establish an awareness of the origins of these debates over 200 years ago and thus sharpen our responses to present-day discussions about the relationship between physics, chemistry, cell biology and microbiology, on the one hand, and our conception of life on the other. The interdisciplinary symposium will be organized jointly by the Heidelberg Goethe Society, the Heidelberg Academy of Science and the Humanities and scholars and scientists from the University of Heidelberg (Kirchhoff Institute of Physics/Biomolecular Machines network; Department of German Studies). The coordinators are Dr. Letizia Mancino-Cremer, Prof. H. Günter Dosch, Prof. Christoph Cremer and Prof. Dieter Borchmeyer.

Given Goethe's intensive engagement with several of these problems, it makes sense to take him as a starting point. But the symposium is not a "conference on Goethe" in the historical sense of the term. Enlarging on selected examples, it seeks rather to indicate the range of Nature concepts vying with one another in the period between 1750 and 1850, with special reference to the links between "physics/chemistry" and "life".

The programme proceeds from Goethe's relationship to natural science (and physics in particular) and the reception accorded to his work in 19th century science, moving from there to discuss the role of vitalism in the life sciences and finally taking the development of scientific concentration on the cell as an instance of a fundamental paradigmatic shift. In the light of this tradition basic issues of concern to us today will be discussed, such as the intended synthesis of molecular biophysics/physiology and systemic biology and the concepts underlying the 21st century life sciences, including the bioethical consequences of relevance for modern society.

registration/information
Dipl.-Phys. Margund Bach
BMM Offices
Kirchhoff Institute of Physics
Im Neuenheimer Feld 227
D-69120 Heidelberg
phone: 06221/549271
mbach@bmm.uni-heidelberg.de

please address any other inquiries to
Prof. Dr. Christoph Cremer
University of Heidelberg
Kirchhoff Institute of Physics
phone: 06221/549252 or 549271, fax: 549112
cremer@bmm.uni-heidelberg.de
cremer@kip.uni-heidelberg.de

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317
michael.schwarz@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/presse

Date: Saturday, 3 July 2004
Location: Heidelberg Academy of Science and the Humanities, Karlsplatz 4, D-69117 Heidelberg
Attendance fee: EUR 20 (students EUR 10)

9.30: Words of welcome
Heidelberg Academy of Science and the Humanities
Goethe Society Heidelberg, Letizia Mancino-Cremer: "Goethe's Legacy"

Chair: Christoph Cremer

9.40: Goethe's Reception in 19th Century Science
Peter Huber

10.20: Discussion

10.30: Was Goethe Blessed with Physics?
Manfred Osten

11.45: Was Physics Afflicted by Goethe?
H. Günter Dosch

12.15: Discussion on the talks by M. Osten and H. G. Dosch

Chair: Friedrich Vogel

2.30: "Nature Fills All Space with its Infinite Productivity" The Role of Vitalism in the Life Sciences
Brigitte Lohff

3.15: From generatio spontanea to Virchow's omnis cellula e cellula
Thomas Cremer

4.00: Discussion on the talks by B. Lohff and T. Cremer

4.45: Physiology at the End of the 20th Century. From the System to the Molecule — or vice versa?
Horst Seller

5.30: Discussion

6.00: Round table: "Incessant Life, Development and Movement" (Nature 1,B) — Concepts of the Life Sciences in the 21st Century
C. Cremer, A. D. Ho, G. v. Kaick, H. Mohr

9.00: Musical and literary envoi

J. S. Bach: 2 movements from Sonata in G major — Manfred Osten (viola), Bernhard Maier (piano)

Anja Höfer and Dieter Borchmeyer read from Goethe's poems on natural history: "No being can dissolve into nothing!" — Research on Nature in poetic form

Prof. Dr. Dieter Borchmeyer, Department of German Studies, University of Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. Christoph Cremer, Kirchhoff Institute of Physics, Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. Thomas Cremer, Department of Anthropology and Human Genetics, University of Munich
Prof. Dr. H. Günter Dosch, Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. Anthony D. Ho, University Hospital for Internal Medicine, Heidelberg
Dr. Anja Höfer, Südwestfunk Radio and Television, Baden-Baden
Dr. Peter Huber, Department of German Studies, University of Heidelberg
Prof. Bernhard Maier, Conservatory of Music and the Performing Arts, Mannheim
Prof. Dr. Gerhard van Kaick, German Cancer Research Centre, Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. Brigitte Lohff, Institute of the History of Medicine, Medical University, Hanover
Dr. Letizia Mancino-Cremer, President of the Goethe Society, Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans Mohr, Institute of Biology, University of Freiburg
Dr. Manfred Osten, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Bonn
Prof. Dr. Horst Seller, Institute of Physiology, University of Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Friedrich Vogel, Institute of Human Genetics, University of Heidelberg


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