Heinz-Günter Wittmann

Heinz -Günter Wittmann ( born January 16, 1927 in United Stürlack, community Ryn, East Prussia, † 31 March 1990 ) was a German biochemist who was primarily known for his work on the elucidation of ribosome structure.


Wittmann was born in Groß-Stürlack/Kreis Sensburg in East Prussia and grew up on the local Good Marienhof his parents. At 16 he was drafted into the Wehrmacht in May 1945 and came into British captivity. After his release in June 1945, he first went in search of his family, trying to get back to East Prussia. It was re-arrested in the Soviet occupation zone, but managed to escape. After the family until the father reunited, but had become completely destitute by the war, he hired himself out of livelihood in Westphalia as agricultural workers on farms. In 1947 he graduated from high school and began in 1949 to study agriculture at the Agricultural University of Stuttgart-Hohenheim, later Technical University of Stuttgart. This he completed in 1951 with the thesis "The problem of plant immunity especially against viral diseases " from. There he studied biology and chemistry at the University of Tübingen, where he was in 1956 a doctorate in genetics at George Melchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biology. The topic of his dissertation was " Studies on the importance of temperature and genetic constitution for the mutability of bacteriophages ".

From 1956 to 1957 Wittmann went with a research fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. After his return to Germany he got a job at the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen, Georg Melchers, from 1962 he was a lecturer in genetics at the University of Tübingen. 1964 Wittmann became director of the newly founded Max - Planck - Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin- Dahlem and from 1968 professor in Berlin. He was a member of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin, and in 1978 received an honorary doctorate at the Faculty of Medicine at the Free University of Berlin. He worked until shortly before his death in 1990 in Berlin.


Wittmann research on the genetic code and the tobacco mosaic virus, but his focus was on the exploration of the ribosomes. He provided significant contributions to the elucidation of the structure and biogenesis of these organelles and examined the effect of antibiotics on protein synthesis. He was the first to the ribosome as the basis of protein biosynthesis in the cell and clarified the structural and functional topography of the same.

Works (selection)

  • Ribosomes and protein synthesis. West German publisher, Opladen 1979.
  • Approaches to the genetic code. In: Science 48, 1961
  • Ribosomal protein 12: Number of proteins in small and large ribosomal subunits of Escherichia coli as deterministic mined by two- dimensional gel electrophoresis -. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 67, 1970.


  • Dr. phil. h c. the University of Salzburg (1978 )
  • Dr. hc. the Free University of Berlin ( 1978)
  • Hans Krebs Medal ( 1975)
  • Robert Koch Prize (1975 )
  • Feldberg Prize ( 1975)
  • Otto Warburg Medal (1976 )
  • Gregor Mendel Medal ( 1977)


Cited evidence