Erwin Neher Biography, Life, Interesting Facts


Erwin Neher

Birthday :

March 20, 1944

Birth Place :

Landsberg am Lech, Germany

Zodiac Sign :


Chinese Zodiac :


Birth Element :


Erwin Neher is a renowned German biophysicist. He made significant inroads in Medicine and exceptionally performed research in cell physiology. Together with his colleague Bert Sakmann, they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in the year 1990. They were recognized owing to their revolutionary findings of the purpose of ion ways in the body cell. Their work has been fundamental in the medical sector. 

It added to the knowledge of many diseases for example diabetes and cystic fibrosis. Erwin-Bert created a technique that made it possible to receive relevant information into the hyper- and hypo-function of ion channels in the development of diseases.

Childhood And Early Life

Erwin Neher was born on March 20, 1944, in a small town called Landsberg in Bavaria. However, he spent a better part of his childhood in Buchloe a city close to Munich. He was the son of Franz Xaver Neher, who was a manager in a dairy company. His mother Elisabeth was a tutor, but after getting married, she decided to stay home and do house chores. When he was ten years old, Erwin joined 'Maristenkolleg' at a close by town Mindelheim. Throughout his stay in school, he showed a specific interest in physics and mathematics. Curiously, Neher discovered more about cybernetics and also taught the ‘Hodgkin – Huxley theory’ of nerve excitation. He made up his mind to be a ‘biophysicist ‘on entry to the university.

He joined the 'Technische Hochschule' in Munich to specifically study physics. Evidently, the education he acquired from this institution of higher learning formed the basis of his studies and experiments in the future. In 1966, Erwin received the ‘Fulbright Scholarship,’ and therefore he was able to join a university of his choice. He signed up at ‘Wisconsin University’ at Madison. Moving forward, he began his study in the biophysics laboratory starting with the low angle X-ray dissemination. Erwin Neher successfully cleared his mission on developing molecular beams of macromolecules. Additionally, he smoothly made his research paper with supervision and guidance of Prof W. W. Beeman. After completing his master of science in 1967, he returned home to Munich and advanced his study in biology.



Erwin attended the ‘Max-Planck-Institute für Psychiatrie’ and commenced his Ph.D. assignment on the topic ‘voltage-clamping snail neurons.’ He was administered and guided by H. D. Lux. While he was at the institution, he met his project partner Bert Sakmann for the first time.

Both of them shared similar subject concentrations, and they set objective to calculate one ion path currents. This included improvements and perfection of the patch-clamp method. They used the pipette with a diameter of a thousandth of a millimeter; they then fixed it with an electrode to notice the current of ions from one path in the membranes of the cell.

Erwin then relocated to the ‘University of Washington’ in Seattle. Later, he went to ‘Yale University’ to complete his study work for his post-doctoral research paper. This was after he graduated with his Ph.D. in 1976. Although he did not stay in the same town with his friend Bert, they kept on working together. Eventually, they were able to commune and made public their works which included the only channel documentations together with the patch-clamp system technique. Together they were requested to manage ‘Young Investigator Laboratories.’ This was meant to attract postdoctoral researchers to perfect and expand their style of work in future. They were offered this responsibility after returning to ‘Max Planck Institute.’

In the year1983, Erwin became chosen to be the executive manager at the institution. His colleague Bert, on the other hand, was made the head of the college’s membrane biophysics subdivision. Erwin changed his area of interest from focusing on channels, and his curiosity was drawn to investigate the course of action of the paths. They made changes in the cell which ultimately led to cellular reactions including secretion of hormones together with neurotransmitters. To date, Erwin is the Executive Director at ‘Max Planck Institute’ for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. He is also the ‘Head of the Department of Membrane Biophysics.’ Moreover, he is a lecturer at ‘University of Göttingen’ and co-chairs the ‘Bernstein Centre for Computational Neuroscience Göttingen.’


Major Works

Together with his partner Bert, Erwin came up with a system that allows the recording of tiny electrical currents. This method accounts for a Pico ampere of 10-12A that go through one ion path. Their method is distinctive as it can record how one channel particle changes its shape and can take charge of the current flow in a span of microseconds. They also showed how the path controls the channel of positive and negative ions. It also ascertained the functioning of the ion channels.

They went ahead to show the outcomes when the ion path is open or closed with restrictions of a small diameter matching that of one chloride ion or one sodium ion. The various ion paths are controlled by a receptor confined to a part of the way of the molecule that changes its shape when activated. Erwin and Bert differentiated the roles that had the sensors and those that formed the inner wall of the path. Erwin and Bert changed the view of contemporary biology through their innovative logical ways that they developed. Their work has come in handy in the medical field because their information on cellular mechanisms helps to understand how diseases like diabetes and fibroids develop.


Awards & Achievements

Since 1986, Erwin is a voluntary Professor at University of Gottingen. In 1988, Dr.H.C. Limburg’s Universitair from Centrum in Belgium paid tribute to him. In the year 1994, he was chosen as a member of the royal society as a foreign member. Also, he got an award with the Nernst-Haber-Bodenstein Award by the German Society for Physical Chemistry in 1977. In 1979, together with his partner, they were awarded the Feldberg Award by the Feldberg Foundation in London. This award was founded to enlarge partnerships between German and English scientists. In 1983, Columbia University rewarded him with the Spencer Award. The University of Wurzburg honored him with Adolf Fick-Preis award in 1984.

Also, the Fidia Research Foundation awarded him the Fidia Research Award. Moreover, he was also granted the Louisa Gross-Horwitz award from Columbia University, the Schunk-Preis award from University of Giessen and Leibniz Award from Deutsche Forschungs Gemeinschaft. He received all these awards in the year 1987. Erwin also got honored with the Gerard Prize presented by the American Neuroscience Association in 1991. In the same year, he won the Nobel Prize in 1991. In 2000, he got prized with a voluntary degree from the University of Pavia.


Personal Life & Legacy

Erwin found the love of his life Eva-Maria while running operations at Yale University. She was also a science enthusiast. In the long run, they tied the knot in 1978. The two have five kids named; Richard, Benjamin, Carola, Sigmund, and Margret.

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