Gudrun Erzgräber in front of her portrait

Exhibition dedicated to Berlin’s female researchers

Outstanding female researchers, pioneers in their fields, have shaped and continue to shape Berlin. An exhibition in Berlin City Hall (Rotes Rathaus), the seat of the Berlin Mayor, is now dedicated to these women and their achievements. Among them are two female scientists who worked in Berlin-Buch.

Berlin Mayor Michael Müller opened the exhibition "Berlin – Hauptstadt der Wissenschaftlerinnen” (Berlin - Capital of Female Scientists) at the Rotes Rathaus on Tuesday, 19 October 2021. The exhibition presents a total of 22 extraordinary female researchers who have shaped Berlin as a city and science location and continue to do so today. They are pioneers in their fields and trailblazers for future generations of women scientists: from Agnes Harnack, who in 1908 was allowed to officially enroll as the city's first female student, to Marlis Dürkop-Leptihn, who after 118 male predecessors was elected the first female president of Berlin's Humboldt University in 1992, to Emmanuelle Charpentier, the 2020 Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry.

“The world of sience is yours”

The Mayor of Berlin and Senator for Science, Michael Müller, explains: "Over the decades, many great female scientists have made Berlin the leading metropolis of innovation that it is today. With this exhibition, we want to honor their pioineering work. Just as the portraits show a journey through the history of our city, the exhibition itself will later travel through the city and be on display at various locations. But we don't just want to inform, we especially want to inspire the next generations and call out to every schoolgirl and young woman: The world of science is yours!"

The basis for the exhibition is an initiative of the Berlin Mayor and Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH) within the framework of “Wissensstadt Berlin 2021” (Science City Berlin 2021). In order to give female scientists more visibility in the public perception, BIH experts, together with committed citizens, have created new Wikipedia entries for female university lecturers, professors and researchers in Berlin or revised existing entries in so-called edit-a-thons.

Michael Müller: "At 33 percent, our city has the highest proportion of female professors in Germany, and Berlin also has more women scientists in leadership positions than anywhere else in the country. We have achieved a lot and are on the right path, but we are still a long way from reaching our goal. A lot remains to be done before we can speak of equal participation of women at all levels in research and teaching. The exhibition is intended to make a contribution to this."

Dr. Cecilie Vogt and Dr. Gudrun Erzgräber

Two academics who worked at the Berlin-Buch campus are honored on the exhibition's panels: Dr. Cecile Vogt and Dr. Gudrun Erzgräber.

Cécile Vogt (1875-1962) was a neurologist with a doctorate and, together with her husband Oskar Vogt, is considered one of the founders of modern neuroscience. She did outstanding research at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research, which received a modern research building in Buch in 1929. According to the Nobel Foundation, Cécile Vogt was the first woman to be nominated for a Nobel Prize in Medicine. She was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology a total of 13 times between 1922 and 1953. She received the highest scientific award from an institution in Germany in 1932, when she was admitted to the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina together with Oskar Vogt.

Gudrun Erzgräber (*1939) is a nuclear physicist. She did her doctorate at the Central Institute for Molecular Biology of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR in Berlin-Buch, lived and worked for several years in the Soviet Union, where she set up a radiation biology laboratory at the Nuclear Research Institute in Dubna. In the mid-1980s, she returned to Berlin-Buch and began a career as a science manager. In 1992, she took over the management of the Berlin-Buch Campus and was instrumental in developing the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC). During her time as campus manager, she raised 66 million Euros in funding from the federal government, Berlin, and the EU for the development of Buch as a science and technology location. With great commitment, she built the Biotechnology Park in Buch, an innovation and start-up centre. It is thanks to Erzgräber that the campus is now the centrepiece of Berlin-Buch, a place of the future. Under her leadership, the Life Science Learning Lab was also built, where up to 14,000 schoolchildren per year experiment on topics such as molecular biology, neurobiology or chemistry, and where specialists receive further training. Gudrun Erzgräber was honored for her outstanding achievements by the Berlin authorities and the Federal Republic of Germany with an Order of Merit. She welcomes the exhibition: "I think that if you take part in this exhibition, you also a small contribution towards women going into science, into leadership positions, into executive boards, into supervisory boards."

Gudrun Erzgräber in front of her portrait in the exhibition "Berlin - Capital of Female Scientists"

The exhibition

The exhibition "Berlin - Capital of Female Scientists" is open daily from 20 October to 20 December 2021 at Rotes Rathaus, Rathausstraße 15, 10178 Berlin, from 9:00 to 18:00. Admission free.

Text: Christine Minkewitz