Science and technology in Germany has a long and illustrious history, and research and development efforts form an integral part of the country's economy. Germany has been the home of some of the most prominent researchers in various scientific disciplines, notably physics, mathematics, chemistry and engineering.[1] Before World War II, Germany had produced more Nobel laureates in scientific fields than any other nation, and was the preeminent country in the natural sciences.[2][3]

The German language was an important language of science from the late 19th century through the end of World War II. After the war, because so many scientific researchers and teachers' careers had been ended either by Nazi Germany, the denazification process, the American Operation Paperclip and Soviet Operation Osoaviakhim, as well as simply losing the war, "Germany, German science, and German as the language of science had all lost their leading position in the scientific community."[4]

Today, scientific research in the country is supported by industry, the network of German universities and scientific state-institutions such as the Max Planck Society and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. The raw output of scientific research from Germany consistently ranks among the world's highest.[5] Germany was declared the most innovative country in the world in the 2020 Bloomberg Innovation Index and was ranked 10th in the WIPO Global Innovation Index in 2021.[6][7][8][9][10]


See also: List of universities in Germany

European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt near Frankfurt


National science libraries

Research organizations

Prize committees

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is granted to ten scientists and academics every year. With a maximum of €2.5 million per award it is one of highest endowed research prizes in the world.[11]

Scientific fields


See also: List of German physicists

Albert Einstein

The work of Albert Einstein and Max Planck was crucial to the foundation of modern physics, which Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger developed further.[12] They were preceded by such key physicists as Hermann von Helmholtz, Joseph von Fraunhofer, and Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit, among others. Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered X-rays, an accomplishment that made him the first winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901[13] and eventually earned him an element name, roentgenium. Heinrich Rudolf Hertz's work in the domain of electromagnetic radiation were pivotal to the development of modern telecommunication.[14] Mathematical aerodynamics was developed in Germany, especially by Ludwig Prandtl.

Paul Forman in 1971 argued the remarkable scientific achievements in quantum physics were the cross-product of the hostile intellectual atmosphere whereby many scientists rejected Weimar Germany and Jewish scientists, revolts against causality, determinism and materialism, and the creation of the revolutionary new theory of quantum mechanics. The scientists adjusted to the intellectual environment by dropping Newtonian causality from quantum mechanics, thereby opening up an entirely new and highly successful approach to physics. The "Forman Thesis" has generated an intense debate among historians of science.[15][16]


See also: List of German chemists

Otto Hahn

At the start of the 20th century, Germany garnered fourteen of the first thirty-one Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, starting with Hermann Emil Fischer in 1902 and until Carl Bosch and Friedrich Bergius in 1931.[13]

Otto Hahn is considered a pioneer of radioactivity and radiochemistry with the discovery of nuclear fission in 1938, the scientific and technological basis of atomic energy.

The bio-chemist Adolf Butenandt independently worked out the molecular structure of the primary male sex hormone of testosterone and was the first to successfully synthesize it from cholesterol in 1935.


Germany has been the home of many famous inventors and engineers, such as Johannes Gutenberg, who is credited with the invention of movable type printing in Europe; Hans Geiger, the creator of the Geiger counter; and Konrad Zuse, who built the first electronic computer.[17] German inventors, engineers and industrialists such as Zeppelin, Siemens, Daimler, Diesel, Otto, Wankel, Von Braun and Benz helped shape modern automotive and air transportation technology including the beginnings of space travel.[18][19] The engineer Otto Lilienthal laid some of the fundamentals for the science of aviation.[20]

Biological and earth sciences

Emil Behring, Ferdinand Cohn, Paul Ehrlich, Robert Koch, Friedrich Loeffler and Rudolph Virchow, six key figures in microbiology, were from Germany. Alexander von Humboldt's (1769–1859) work as a natural scientist and explorer was foundational to biogeography.[21] Wladimir Köppen (1846–1940) was an eclectic Russian-born botanist and climatologist who synthesized global relationships between climate, vegetation and soil types into a classification system that is used, with some modifications, to this day.[22] Alfred Wegener (1880–1930), a similarly interdisciplinary scientist, was one of the first people to hypothesize the theory of continental drift which was later developed into the overarching geological theory of plate tectonics.


Wilhelm Wundt is credited with the establishment of psychology as an independent empirical science through his construction of the first laboratory at the University of Leipzig in 1879.[23]

In the beginning of the 20th century, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute founded by Oskar and Cécile Vogt was among the world's leading institutions in the field of brain research.[24] They collaborated with Korbinian Brodmann to map areas of the cerebral cortex.

After the National Socialistic laws banning Jewish doctors in 1933, the fields of neurology and psychiatry faced a decline of 65% of its professors and teachers. The research shifted to a 'nazi neurology', with subjects such as eugenics or euthanasia.[24]


Besides natural sciences, German researchers have added much to the development of humanities. Contemporary examples are the philosopher Jürgen Habermas, the egyptologist Jan Assmann, the sociologist Niklas Luhmann, the historian Reinhart Koselleck and the legal historian Michael Stolleis. In order to promote the international visibility of research in these fields a new prize, Geisteswissenschaften International, was established in 2008. It serves the translation of studies in humanities into English.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Back to the Future: Germany - A Country of Research German Academic Exchange Service (2005-02-23). Retrieved 2006-12-08
  2. ^ National Science Nobel Prize shares 1901-2009 by citizenship at the time of the award and by country of birth. From J. Schmidhuber (2010), Evolution of National Nobel Prize Shares in the 20th Century Archived 2014-03-27 at the Wayback Machine at arXiv:1009.2634v1
  3. ^ Swedish academy awards. ScienceNews web edition, Friday, October 1st, 2010:
  4. ^ Hammerstein, Notker (2004). "Epilogue: Universities and War in the Twentieth Century". In Rüegg, Walter (ed.). A History of the University in Europe: Volume Three, Universities in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (1800–1945). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 637–672. ISBN 9781139453028. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  5. ^ Top 20 Country Rankings in All Fields, 2006, Thomson Corporation, retrieved 4 January 2007.
  6. ^ "Global Innovation Index 2021". World Intellectual Property Organization. United Nations. Retrieved 2022-03-05.
  7. ^ "Global Innovation Index 2019". Retrieved 2021-09-02.
  8. ^ "RTD - Item". Retrieved 2021-09-02.
  9. ^ "Global Innovation Index". INSEAD Knowledge. 2013-10-28. Retrieved 2021-09-02.
  10. ^ Jamrisko, Michelle; Lu, Wei (2020-01-18). "Germany Breaks Korea's Six-Year Streak as Most Innovative Nation". Retrieved 2020-02-02.
  11. ^ "Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize". DFG. Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  12. ^ Roberts, J. M. The New Penguin History of the World, Penguin History, 2002. Pg. 1014. ISBN 0-14-100723-0
  13. ^ a b The Alfred B. Nobel Prize Winners, 1901-2003 Archived 2010-02-10 at the Wayback Machine History Channel from The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-02
  14. ^ Historical figures in telecommunications. International Telecommunication Union. Jan. 14, 2004. Retrieved 2007-01-02
  15. ^ Paul Forman, "Weimar Culture, Causality, and Quantum Theory, 1918-1927: Adaptation by German Physicists and Mathematicians to a Hostile Intellectual Environment," Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 3 (1971): 1-116
  16. ^ Helge Kragh, Quantum generations: a history of physics in the twentieth century (2002) ch 10
  17. ^ Horst, Zuse. The Life and Work of Konrad Zuse Everyday Practical Electronics (EPE) Online. Retrieved 2007-01-02
  18. ^ Automobile. Archived 2009-10-29 at the Wayback Machine Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-02
  19. ^ The Zeppelin Archived 2011-05-01 at the Wayback Machine U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission. Retrieved 2007-01-02
  20. ^ Bernd Lukasch. "From Lilienthal to the Wrights". Anklam: Otto-Lilienthal-Museum. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  21. ^ The Natural History Legacy of Alexander von Humboldt (1769 to 1859) Humboldt Field Research Institute and Eagle Hill Foundation. Retrieved 2007-01-02
  22. ^ * Allaby, Michael (2002). Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate. New York: Facts On File, Inc. ISBN 0-8160-4071-0.
  23. ^ Kim, Alan. Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Jun. 16, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-02
  24. ^ a b European neurology [1] German Neurology and the ‘Third Reich’ Michael Martin a Heiner Fangerau a Axel Karenberg b   a Institute of the History, Philosophy and Ethics of Medicine, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf , and b Institute for the History of Medicine and Medical Ethics, Medical Faculty, University of Cologne, Cologne , Germany