25 January 2019, No. 03/2019

The Humboldt Foundation mourns Wolfgang Frühwald

The former president of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Professor Dr Wolfgang Frühwald, died on 18 January 2019 at the age of 83. The internationally renowned German studies specialist was the president of the Humboldt Foundation from 1999 until 2007.

Wolfgang Frühwald with a bust of Alexander von Humboldt

Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Eric Lichtenscheidt

“We will all remember Wolfgang Frühwald as a far-sighted thought leader and active organiser. He guided the Foundation’s course, even in difficult times, with enormous personal dedication, intellectual incisiveness and an unerring instinct for important developments in the science landscape,” said Hans-Christian Pape who has been president of the Humboldt Foundation since 2018.

“With his quiet, sound advice, Wolfgang Frühwald opened many doors not only for my predecessor Helmut Schwarz, but for me as well. Without Wolfgang Frühwald, the Humboldt Foundation would not be where it is today. We are very grateful to him for this and will remember him with great respect”, Pape stressed.

Frühwald’s tenure as president of the Foundation saw the establishment of important and pioneering new programmes such as the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award that offers young talents from abroad unparalleled research conditions, places great trust in them and gives them the opportunity to take on responsibility. The Foundation generated highly regarded and effective political impetus with initiatives such as an Award for the Friendliest Immigration Office, an idea from Wolfgang Frühwald. Changes that were important for the Foundation such as the elimination of rigid age limits for fellowship programmes were also implemented during his time as president.

Wolfgang Frühwald remained a respected and sought-after expert on German and international research policy, both within the Humboldt network and beyond it. He gained his Ph.D. in 1961 and qualified as a post-doctoral lecturer in 1969 at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (LMU). He was a full professor at the University of Trier-Kaiserslautern starting in 1970 and subsequently returned to LMU in 1974 as a Professor for History of German Literature. He retired in 2003. In addition to his academic work as a German studies scholar, Frühwald was also active as a successful science manager, such as a member of the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat) and, from 1992 to 1997, as president of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time conducting research in Germany. The Foundation maintains a network of well over 29,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 140 countries worldwide – including 55 Nobel Laureates.


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