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25 August 2004

History in Words: Heidelberg as a Centre of German Lexicography

Now available: University of Heidelberg research magazine "Ruperto Carola 2/2004" – Other articles: The Heidelberg Encyclopaedia of Scholars – Piggybacking to the target (how molecular biotechnologists prime active substances to go exactly where they're needed) – How black holes got into the universe – National Socialist racial and extermination policy in the artistic memory of Eastern Europe – Squandered opportunities (a dispute on the marketing of inventions at the University of Heidelberg)

The title story of the new issue (2/2004) of Heidelberg University's research magazine "Ruperto Carola" is devoted to Heidelberg as a centre of German lexicography. History expresses itself in words. Frankwalt Möhren of the Department of Romance Studies gives a graphic account of how historical lexicographers work, using examples to illustrate the social significance of lexicographic research findings. Möhren's intriguing annotations on the history of words take the reader through the by no means random convolutions of the lexicographic maze. The derivation of the words Kajal (eye-liner), Kohl (cabbage) and Alkohol (alcohol) from the same root and the fascinating links between Standard (standard) and Standarte (banner) make this a highly enjoyable guided tour.

Other topics: The Heidelberg Encyclopaedia of Scholars – Piggybacking to the target (how molecular biotechnologists prime active substances to go exactly where they're needed) – How black holes got into the universe – National Socialist racial and extermination policy in the artistic memory of Eastern Europe – Squandered opportunities (a dispute on the marketing of inventions at the University of Heidelberg).

Editorial: Vice-Rector Tröger on the way the University of Heidelberg is jockeying for position in the competition for the status of a "top-flight" university

In the Editorial, Prof. Dr. Jochen Tröger, vice-Rector with special responsibility for research and the University's medical institutions, outlines the position of the Rectorate in the competition for the status of a top-flight university. Right from the outset, says Tröger, the Rector's office resolved "to make active use of the discussion on how best to promote scholarly and scientific excellence and to clearly define the position of the University, both internally and externally, regardless of the political decisions made." One early move in this direction was the Rector's request to submit, within a matter of days, outlines of scholarly and scientific projects that are "as integrative as possible and indicate working relations with non-university research institutions."

Tröger: "The response was overwhelming. Eighty outlines, most of them suitable for the purpose, were turned in in an incredibly short space of time." At present intensive exchanges are going on between scholars and scientists on the one side and the Rector's office and the Research Department on the other. The aim of these exchanges is to delineate existing sectors of excellence and strengthen the profile of the University. To the same end there is also a bid to ensure outstanding teaching standards and improve opportunities for young scholars and scientists. "It is difficult to understand why some of our departments, indeed whole Faculties, are so self-effacing in this respect."

At present, far-reaching structural changes are up for discussion "to ensure that potential support can extend beyond the time-scale set down for whatever funding may materialise." Steps have been taken to motivate excellent students, scholars and scientists to come to Heidelberg. "These include child care assistance and help in finding jobs for partners." But on one point the vice-Rector is adamant. Without a great deal more autonomy, student fees, changes in pay scales and a whole lot more, German universities are essentially handicapped in comparison with their counterparts elsewhere. "We are not satisfied with being up among the front runners on the national scale. In the global stakes we are still a long way behind the leaders." Regardless of whether the University of Heidelberg is chosen for additional support or not, "we must change." In concrete terms that means that "in the near future" structures displaying neither outstanding teaching nor top-flight research "are in for some very close scrutiny."

The Heidelberg Encyclopaedia of Scholars

The "Heidelberg Encyclopaedia of Scholars" provides information on all professors who taught at the University between its foundation in 1386 and the 600th anniversary in 1986. The total number of biographies it contains tops the 3,000 mark, ranging from little-known Masters of the late Middle Ages to the Nobel Prize laureates of the 20th century. Dagmar Drüll-Zimmermann is the editor in charge of the volumes, while the academic responsibility lies with Eike Wolgast of the Department of History. The article reports on the research work that has gone into this unique compendium and is dedicated to registrar Romana Gräfin vom Hagen on the occasion of her retirement from office.

Piggybacking to the target

It is not easy to ensure that an active substance will go exactly to the place in the cell where it can fulfil its therapeutic purpose. On the way, it has to negotiate many hurdles in the form of membranes it needs to get past. Nils Metzler-Nolte of the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology gives a graphic account of the way in which "bioorganometallic chemistry" can help prime these substances to overcome such formerly insuperable obstacles as the blood-brain barrier.

How black holes got into the universe

What are black holes, where are they to be found, how and when did they originate? Wolfgang Duschl of the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics gives a graphic and comprehensible account of what makes these fascinating celestial bodies tick. He also indicates an exciting connection with an observation made recently by astrophysicists: the collision of two galaxies in the immediate vicinity of our planet.

"To preserve a sign carried through the dark"

Recently scholars from all over the world met in Heidelberg to discuss how National Socialist race and extermination policy was perceived where it hit hardest of all: in Eastern Europe. How did the people there come to terms with this experience? Frank Grüner of the Department of Eastern European History and Urs Heftrich of the Institute of Slavonic Studies report on a sensitive topic and its reflections in literature, film, art and music.

Squandered opportunities or The end of the big money dream?

A "genetic switch" invented by the Heidelberg molecular biologist Hermann Bujard and his co-worker Manfred Gossen has become a worldwide leader in its technological field, used by 70 licensed companies all over the globe. Why did the University of Heidelberg not put in for a patent itself? Would the errors of the past be avoided today? What management structures would have to be established at a university to take full advantage of the financial opportunities deriving from economically profitable basic research findings and defend them successfully in the no-holds-barred competition with industry? "Ruperto Carola" features a dispute between inventor Hermann Bujard and the head of the University Research Department Jens Hemmelskamp, moderated by press officer Michael Schwarz.

In the "News and Views" section the new head of the German Cancer Research Centre, Prof. Dr. Otmar Wiestler, writes on the necessity for, and the opportunities provided by, a national centre for tumour illnesses in Heidelberg. Under the heading "Brief Reports by Young Researchers", Dr. Gert Hönninger describes emission data as "a gift from heaven". He was the 2003 recipient of the Environment Award of the Viktor and Sigrid Dulger Foundation and is working at present in Toronto. The magazine rounds off with a list of the best-endowed externally funded projects.

"Ruperto Carola" is published by Universitätsverlag C. Winter Heidelberg GmbH. Single copies cost € 5 plus postage. Like the special support subscription (€ 30 for four issues) it can be ordered from: Pressestelle der Universität Heidelberg, Postfach 10 57 60, D-69047 Heidelberg. Gratis copies of earlier issues are available in the entrance area of the Old University (Grabengasse 1).

For more information and the complete articles of earlier issues (in German) go to

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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