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Wolfgang Engelmann (26.2.1934 -1.7.2023): passionate chronobiologist and artist

Wolfgang Engelmann in 1981 (Foto: Charlotte Helfrich-Förster)
With great sadness, we had to say good-bye to our friend and mentor Wolfgang Engelmann who has left us at the age of 89. Wolfgang remained scientifically active until the last minutes of his life. He fainted on his way to a local scientific meeting and died shortly afterwards, very unexpected for his family and friends. We are with them in our thoughts.

Wolfgang was one of the pioneers of modern chronobiology, inspired by the three "fathers of the biological clock", Erwin Bünning, Colin Pittendrigh and Jürgen Aschoff. He was born in Weimar, studied biology in Hamburg and Tübingen, and received his doctorate in 1960 under Erwin Bünning. He spent two postdocs in the US, at the University of Michigan in 1963 and with Colin Pittendrigh at Princeton from 1966 to 1967. He regularly visited Jürgen Aschoff in Erling-Andechs. In 1979, he became a Professor at the Institute of Biology I at the University of Tübingen. Except for sabbatical leaves to Robert Lewis at the Department of Zoology, Auckland, New Zealand and to Anders Johnsson at the Department of Physics in Trondheim, Norway, Wolfgang remained in Tübingen until his official retirement in 2001.

Wolfgang was an independent spirit, quick thinker, innovative in many ways and always at the forefront of technology. He found ways to record the circadian rhythms of more than 20 organisms, from single-celled organisms to plants and animals even himself, and with a special emphasis on Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, Arabidopsis thaliana, and Drosophila flies. He was the first, who demonstrated circadian leaf movements in young Arabidopsis thaliana plants that has set the stage for later groundbreaking research in this model organism. He was also the first who reported period-lengthening effects of Lithium on the circadian rhythms of many plants and animals and who discovered that the compound eyes are not necessary for the synchronization of circadian rhythms in flies.

Wolfgang was extremely enthusiastic about science and infected many others with his passion for chronobiology. He was very generous to all, an excellent mentor and teacher, educating numerous students from different parts of the world. We have lost a great scientist, a wonderful person, and a marvelous friend, who will be greatly missed. At the same time, we are grateful that we could count on his friendship, wisdom, and enthusiasm for so long.

Charlotte Helfrich-Förster, Bernd Antkowiak, Gottfried Wiedenmann and Hans-Willi Honegger