Prof. Dr. rer. nat Günther Laukien

Prof. Dr. Günther Laukien was born on May 23, 1924, in Eschringen (Saar).

He was a scientist, engineer, and entrepreneur all in one - but above all, he was a pioneer of his time - visionary, courageous, and determined.

Vision into Reality

Pioneer, Scientist, Entrepreneur

Prof. Dr. Günther Laukien's innovative spirit, foresight, and entrepreneurial self-understanding still shape the company he founded on September 7, 1960, as a teaching professor at the University of Karlsruhe in the backyard of a residential building on Hardtstraße in the Mühlburg district: Bruker.

His contribution to the great task of our time, to continuously improve the world and our lives through research and make them more livable, has not lost its relevance today, almost 30 years after his death.

It was a time of significant scientific discoveries, through which humanity’s understanding of the laws of nature, biology, and other areas of science underwent a true revolution.

In 1953, molecular biologists James Watson and Francis Crick deciphered the double helix structure of DNA.

In 1954, Dr. Joseph Murray in Boston performed the first successful kidney transplant in humans.

On April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly into space. He orbited the Earth and wrote space history.

Laukien, G. (1958). Kernmagnetische Hochfrequenz-Spektroskopie.

During this dynamic period, Günther Laukien’s scientific career quickly gained momentum. 

After successfully obtaining his Physics diploma from the Eberhard-Karls-University in Tübingen, he switched to the Physics Institute of the Technical University of Stuttgart as a scientific assistant in 1952. He focused on the new research field of "Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)", a method for investigating the atomic and molecular structure of matter, discovered in 1945 by Felix Bloch and Edward N. Purcell in the USA. Both were honored with the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1952.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, specifically Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy, became Günther Laukien’s dissertation topic in 1955, and later his passion. In 1958, he presented his vision of the development of experimental systems based on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and their practical use to the scientific community in the renowned Handbook of Physics. This highly regarded technical contribution established his role as an NMR pioneer.

Democratization of Scientific Knowledge

With his understanding of the immense benefits of technology in science and research, combined with his technical expertise and entrepreneurial acumen, he laid the foundation for the consistent realization of his vision: the Democratization of Scientific Knowledge.

He set the starting point for the consistent implementation of this vision by producing affordable scientific instruments on an industrial scale, making them and all of their benefits accessible to all.

Learn More about the Günther-Laukien-Fund for Young Scientists in the Technology Region Karlsruhe

 September 7, 1960 

Foundation of Bruker

In 1960, Günther Laukien accepted a position as a Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Karlsruhe. By this time, the scientist within him had long recognized the performance and benefits of NMR in a wide range of research areas. During his scientific work, he identified a concrete need for a commercially marketable pulse spectrometer for use in physics. 

On September 7, 1960, Günther Laukien founded Bruker Physik AG, along with co-founder Dr. Emil Bruker. Dr. Bruker provided his name for the growing start-up because, during that time, university professors who were teaching were not allowed to commercially market their research. Despite this restriction, Laukien assumed consistent management of the young company. 

The first industrially manufactured Bruker frequency pulse spectrometer for use in physics quickly became a bestseller, making the company profitable. By 1963, Bruker Physik AG already had 30 employees, many of whom were former students of Günther Laukien.

In June 1965, Günther Laukien founded Spectrospin AG in Zurich-Altstetten together with Swiss NMR specialists Werner Tschopp and Tony Keller (formerly Trüb Täuber).

Spectrospin worked intensively with Professors Hans H. Günthardt, Hans Primas, and later Nobel laureate Richard E. Ernst from the University ETH Zurich. 

Tony Keller and Günther Laukien together formed a spririt technology pioneers and entrepreneurs. They made significant contributions to the success of all Bruker NMR activities for over the next decades. In 1967, just two years after its founding, Spectrospin AG introduced the world’s first fully transistorized NMR spectrometer, the HFX-90, to the market.

Spectrospin and Bruker Physik now worked hand in hand: Bruker developed and produced magnets, EPR, and power supply, while Spectrospin focused on high-resolution instruments. 

Expansion and Internationalization

Just one year later, Günther Laukien and Tony Keller succeeded in securing a prestigious deal. In 1968, the first of two Bruker spectrometers was installed at the renowned Yale University in New Haven, USA. This marked the beginning of continuous growth and rapid internationalization, both of which Günther Laukien drove forward. 

Another milestone was soon reached with the presentation of the first Fourier transform NMR spectrometer by Tony Keller at the Pacific Conference in 1969. This revolution paved the way for imaging procedures in medical applications (MRI) and laid the foundation for the widespread use of MRI in medical imaging today. This pioneering work constitutes the origin of Bruker’s preclinical imaging business today.

Günther Laukien's goal was to enable scientists and researchers worldwide to better understand the secrets of life and the world with with the help of Bruker solutions. To meet the rapidly growing American demand, Bruker opened its first US branch in Elmsford, New York, in 1968. 

Günther Laukien quickly recognized the need for additional space due to increasing market demand. As a result, he expanded the company’s headquarters in both Switzerland and Germany. Spectrospin AG relocated to a new building in Fällanden, a structure designed by Günther Laukien himself. The facilities in Rheinstetten are also undergoing expansion and upgrades. He was careful to retain expertise and technology in all his endeavors. Almost no components were sourced externally. Even the specialized computers for Fourier transformation were developed and manufactured ‘in-house’.

Becoming a Company of Life Science

The already established strengths of Bruker in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance also lead to developments in the field of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

In 1976, Günther Laukien founded Bruker Medizintechnik GmbH. It initially offers mobile defibrillators. This is followed by self-developed and self-produced tomography systems for clinical and preclinical use, from which whole-body MRI devices will later emerge.

Over time, the focus shifts to preclinical systems and the company becomes Bruker BioSpin MRI.

In 1980, Günther Laukien took a significant step in expanding the range of scientific instruments beyond magnetic resonance when he founded Bruker-Franzen Analytik GmbH in Bremen, originating from Dr. Franzen Analysentechnik GmbH. Soon after, a new type of mass spectrometer developed by Swiss Spectrospin marked an important milestone in product development as mass spectrometers.

Many other Bruker innovations followed over the next few years under the leadership of Günther Laukien - most of them in close collaboration with partners from the scientific community. Milestones in the 1980s and 1990s include the development and manufacture of superconducting NMR magnets, digital spectrometers, cryogenically cooled probes and finally even ultra-high-field NMR spectrometers.

In 1980, he received the prestigious International Society of Magnetic Resonance (ISMAR) award for “Industrial Development”. Many other awards followed, and companions repeatedly emphasized Günther Laukien's conviction that real innovation ideally results from effective cooperation between researchers and industry. A good example of this is the development of superconducting NMR high-field magnets. They are the result of a successful collaboration between Bruker and the Institute of Technical Physics (ITEP) at KIT, which began in 1984 on Günther Laukien's initiative and is celebrating its 40th anniversary today, in 2024.

"For science, such companies are ideal partners: They are very ambitious, stimulating, and grateful for creative contributions," "Only a few other companies can compete with Bruker"

Nobel laureate Richard E. Ernst in an essay in the international edition of the journal “Angewandte Chemie” from 2010

The Spirit of Democratization Lives On 

Günther Laukien died on April 29, 1997, in Karlsruhe. Although he did not experience the reorganization of the company and the move to the American technology exchange NASDAQ, which his son Frank Laukien successfully completed in 2008, his visions and principles still significantly shape Bruker today.

No other company has such a continuous proximity to science and research and such an intense exchange as Bruker has practiced since the early days. Günther Laukien was a pioneer in the democratization of academic knowledge for the benefit of all. With his deep technical understanding, he understood how to optimally combine industry and academic research, always on an equal footing.

Lived partnerships between science and industry, as well as the pioneering spirit, are a firm part of the Bruker corporate culture and the number one innovation driver. Many Bruker solutions are brought to market maturity hand in hand with science and research. This practice is unique and forms the core of the Bruker mission “Innovation with Integrity”. Innovation must never only be for the sake of innovation! Innovation must be well-founded and resilient and have a clearly defined benefit for society in focus.

This has made Bruker today an important pioneer of groundbreaking discoveries and one of the leading companies in analytics - for the benefit of all, entirely in the sense of Prof. Dr. Günther Laukien.