Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Über die Universität | Geschichte | Rektoren und Präsidenten | Christoph Markschies | Reden des Präsidenten | President’s Greeting at the Symposium 10 Jahre ITB – “Where is Theoretical Biology Heading”

President’s Greeting at the Symposium 10 Jahre ITB – “Where is Theoretical Biology Heading”

On the 12th October 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Speakers,
Dear Guests,

It is a great pleasure to address you today on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Institute for Theoretical Biology, which is one of Humboldt University’s most outstanding institutions.

As Professor for Early Church History, my scientific knowledge about Theoretical Biology is, as you can imagine, limited – but nevertheless, the field has proven to be of relevance to my research. Let me explain. When I left school 26 years ago and started reading Theology and Classics at Marburg University, I assumed that I would never study Biology again. As it turned out, I was wrong. Later on in my research career, I began to develop an interest in analysing the genesis of Christianity under the paradigm of the theory of evolution. In doing so, I realised that the evolutionary theory still has a high relevance today. It is no longer singularly of interest to natural scientists, but has begun to play a prominent role in the social and economic sciences, and is even of relevance to the theologian. There are other areas of research in Theoretical Biology that, like the theory of evolution, have an impact beyond the specific disciplinary focus of the field.

What I wanted to demonstrate to you by briefly drawing on the example of the theory of evolution is that the whole Humboldt University profits from the research that is conducted at the Institute for Theoretical Biology. Nowhere is more evident than in the life sciences. In the coming years, the life sciences will be Humboldt University’s focal point. Across the university, we are in the process of establishing common research foci between separate disciplines that are related to the life sciences. These research foci are pursued in depth in the individual disciplines while at the same time, structures are being developed for the dynamic exchange and debate between the disciplines and the different departments.

I consider the Institute for Theoretical Biology to be one of the pillars of the life sciences at Humboldt University. In recent years, the institute has already become a place for intense exchange between scientists working in realms of the life sciences in Berlin as a result of its excellent standards and relevant competencies. It hosts renowned scientists like Peter Hammerstein, Andreas Herz, Laurenz Wiskott and Richard Kempter who are currently conducting research into the evolution of living organisms, computational neuroscience, issues of neural computation on a systems level and the neural basis of learning and memory.

At this point in my speech, I would have liked to thank each of those who have contributed to the astonishing success of the Institute for Theoretical Biology, but I am aware that I stand between you and the buffet, and I don’t want to occupy that position for too long. I do, nevertheless, want to express my gratitude to Professor Wehner, the founding father of the institute, and to Professor Ronacher, the institute’s speaker and local mentor. Through their efforts, an institutional structure has been created that has proven to be sustainable on a long-term basis.

I feel deeply honoured to have the privilege to be here today and to celebrate the achievements of this institute on this festive occasion with you all.


Abteilung Kommunikation, Marketing und Veranstaltungsmanagement (VIII)