1. August 2023 | Press releases:

Tireless Commitment to Responsible Chemistry Primo Levi Prize for Henning Hopf

As part of the GDCh Science Forum Chemistry 2023 of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh) (German Chemical Society), Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Henning Hopf will be awarded the Primo Levi Prize on 4 September. Prof. Hopf was appointed to the Chair of Organic Chemistry at Technische Universität Braunschweig in 1978. He was managing director of the institute until his retirement in 2006. The prize is awarded in recognition of his dialogue with society, including his work to clarify the involvement of German chemists during the Nazi regime and his commitment to improving international cooperation between chemists. With around 30,000 members, the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh) is one of the largest chemical societies in the world.

The Primo Levi Prize is awarded to chemists or scientists in chemistry-related disciplines who have made a special commitment to the protection of human rights and have thus advanced the dialogue between chemistry and society. This year’s laureate, Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Henning Hopf, receives the prize for his significant contributions both to the chemical community and to society in general. His commitment as a member of various academies and chemical societies is exemplary.

“I am of course very happy about this high award. At this point I would like to make it clear once again that only internationalism helps against anti-Semitism and xenophobia. We humans must finally understand that we indeed only have one common earth,” says Prof. Hopf.

In particular, he has long been committed to exposing the involvement of German chemists and their organisations in the structures of the Nazi state. Among other things, Hopf initiated a scientific investigation of the predecessor organisations of the GDCh, which resulted in the book “Chemiker im ‘Dritten Reich’ – Die Deutsche Chemische Gesellschaft und der Verein Deutscher Chemiker im NS-Herrschaftsapparat” (Chemists in the ‘Third Reich’ – The German Chemical Society and the Association of German Chemists in the Nazi Apparatus of Power), commissioned by the GDCh in 2015. The work was written by the historian of science Professor Dr. Helmut Maier and sheds light in detail on the history of the predecessor organisations of the GDCh with a special focus on the period of National Socialism.

Hopf’s tireless commitment to responsible chemistry is also evident in his work within the International Organization for Chemical Sciences in Development (IOCD), where he is an active member of the Chemists for Sustainability (C4S) group. His essays on topics such as resilience, circular chemistry/economics, ethics, diversity and inclusion have attracted much attention, and Hopf’s initiatives to promote international cooperation and support chemists in less affluent countries also make him a worthy recipient of the Primo Levi Prize.

Short biography

Henning Hopf was born in Wildeshausen, Lower Saxony, in 1940 and studied Chemistry at the University of Göttingen and at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA. After completing his doctorate in the USA, he returned to Germany for his habilitation, first at the University of Marburg, then at the University of Karlsruhe. After a professorship at the University of Würzburg, Hopf was appointed to Technische Universität Braunschweig in 1978. He received numerous high awards, including the Adolf-von-Baeyer-Denkmünze of the GDCh in 1996.

He held several visiting professorships, was active in several editorial boards of journals and conducted highly successful research in the field of organic chemistry. He has been associated with the GDCh for many years – on the board, in the office of president and in committees.

Last year, an article appeared in “Chemical Science”, written by Prof. Hopf and Prof. Stephen Matlin of Imperial College London, pointing out the crucial role that chemistry has to play in addressing many global crises.

About the prize

The Primo Levi Prize commemorates the Italian writer and chemist who was deported to Auschwitz as a Jewish resistance fighter. He survived and is considered an important representative of Holocaust literature. His works are dedicated to the memory of the victims and oppose forgetting. Primo Levi would have been 104 years old on 31 July 2023.