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Press Release No. 2 | 25 January 2019
DFG Mourns the Loss of Wolfgang Frühwald

Former President dies at the age of 83

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) mourns the death of its former president Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Wolfgang Frühwald. The literary scholar, who presided over the DFG from 1992 until 1997, died on 18 January 2019 at the age of 83.

“In years of particularly open social and scientific structures, Wolfgang Frühwald shaped the DFG, and with it research in Germany, with his finely honed intellectuality and conceptual creativity, with a particular emphasis on ethics and ethical authority, and with his openness towards others. His conviction that the foundation of all research work is the actual researcher, his urgent appeals for accountability in research and for all those involved in this work, and his constant reminder to carefully differentiate between what can be done and what could or should be done can still be applied as guidelines for responsible research. This is true even today, as research is accessing new areas of knowledge at increasing speed and on an ever greater scale, with all associated opportunities and risks,” said current DFG President Professor Dr. Peter Strohschneider in his tribute to Frühwald. "The DFG remembers Wolfgang Frühwald with deep gratitude and respect and will hold his memory in the highest esteem."

Wolfgang Frühwald was the seventh president of the DFG following its re-establishment in 1951 following the Second World War. Born on 2 August 1935 in Augsburg, he studied German language and literature, history, geography and philosophy at LMU Munich, going on to obtain his doctorate there in 1961, followed by his habilitation in 1969 with a DFG fellowship in the area of modern German literary history. Frühwald then worked as a research assistant and lecturer at LMU and in Bochum, Erlangen-Nuremberg and Münster, before being appointed full professor of modern German literature at the University of Trier-Kaiserslautern in 1970. In 1974, he took up a chair in this area at LMU, which he held until his retirement in 2003.

As a researcher, Frühwald established a reputation extending far beyond German borders, above all with his works on German literature from the Romantic and Biedermeier periods, notably his studies on Clemens Brentano and Adalbert Stifter, and his publications of the two authors’ works and letters. However, Frühwald also displayed great interest in modern German literature, for instance, the left-wing revolutionary writer Ernst Toller and authors of the German-language emigration after 1933.

In addition to his research work, Wolfgang Frühwald was also involved from an early stage in scientific self-administration and policy advice, including as a member of the German Council of Science and Humanities (1982–1987) and as Vice-Rector of the University of Munich (1989–1991).

At the DFG, Frühwald was active in the Senate Commission for German Studies Research from 1972, then later as an elected reviewer (1976–1984) and as chair of the former Committee for Linguistics and Literary Studies (1980–1984). From 1986 to 1991, Frühwald was a member of the Senate and Joint Committee, before being elected to the office of President in July 1991, as successor to zoologist Professor Dr. Hubert Markl. His first term in office was initially characterised by efforts to obtain significantly better financial resources for the DFG, which had experienced a rapid increase in funding proposals following German reunification. The further integration of East German research in the DFG was one of Frühwald's most important concerns, driven by the “innovation centres” created under his aegis and symbolised by the first DFG annual meeting in the new federal states in Halle in 1994, when Frühwald was re-elected for a second term of office.

The DFG also focused on new forms and fields of research funding during Frühwald’s presidency, including the major instrumentation initiatives, first announced in 1994, the humanities centres created in 1995 and the launch of the digitisation of scientific libraries in 1997. As a staunch advocate of international cooperation in science and research, in addition to European research cooperation, Frühwald also initiated trilateral German-Israeli-Palestinian project cooperation as well as intensification of German-Chinese scientific relations.

Under Frühwald’s leadership, the DFG addressed the rapid pace of scientific developments in the 1990s, especially in the life sciences, by setting up a Senate Commission on Genetic Research as well as issuing a series of statements on bioethics issues, for instance against human cloning. Towards the end of his presidency, the biggest case of fraud and falsification to date in German research gave rise to the development of the “Recommendations for Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice”, still a benchmark in the area today. One particular matter for Frühwald, also on a personal level, was the examination he initiated of the DFG's history and role in National Socialism.

When the DFG President stepped down from office at the end of 1997, the former Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl emphasised how Frühwald had “achieved great things at a central interface of research, politics and society in a period of dramatic change”. Frühwald then initially returned to LMU Munich to pursue his studies of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but soon became involved once again in the German research system. In 1999, he was one of the founders of the International University Bremen (now Jacobs University). In the same year, he was elected President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, where he advocated for internationally open and tolerant research until his retirement in 2007.

Awarded numerous national and international honorary doctorates and other distinctions and held in high esteem, Wolfgang Frühwald lived with his wife in Augsburg until his death. He was laid to rest there in the presence of family and friends.

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