Bruker Honors Legacy of Swiss Nobel Laureate in Chemistry ETH Professor Richard Ernst

It is with great sadness that we have learned that Richard R. Ernst, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering contributions to the advancement of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), has passed away on June 4th at the age of 87. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Bruker would like to honor the memory of Richard Ernst and celebrate his legacy of seminal contributions to the development of the principles of multi-dimensional FT-NMR spectroscopy, as we know it today. Dr. Falko Busse, President of the Bruker BioSpin Group, payed tribute: “Together with my colleagues and the scientific community as a whole, I would like to thank Richard Ernst. We remember him as an incredibly talented scientist and brilliant visionary. Through Ernst’s long-term role as a chair of Bruker’s NMR scientific advisory board and also as chair of the Guenther Laukien Prize Committee at ENC, as well as many technical and scientific collaborations, Richard Ernst has made absolutely crucial contributions to advancing the field of modern magnetic resonance spectroscopy and imaging.”

One critical limiting factor for the first, early NMR spectrometers was their lack of sensitivity. During the 1960s, it was Ernst in collaborations with Wes Anderson and others who recognized that the sensitivity of NMR could be increased more than tenfold by administering a series of short, intense radio frequency pulses to a sample rather than continuously scanning the rf frequency . This technique successfully turned the principle of NMR spectroscopy into the Fourier transform NMR method, which represented a breakthrough for chemical and molecular analysis, and later also paved the way for the discovery and development of magnetic resonance multi-dimensional spectroscopy and MR imaging.

The foundation of Bruker Physik AG in 1960 by Prof. Guenther Laukien was rooted in systems for NMR spectroscopy. Under the leadership of Guenther Laukien and Dr. Tony Keller, Bruker developed the first commercial implementation of the Fourier concept, thanks to the company’s focus on transferring scientific research and visions into technical innovations.

Dr. Tony Keller commented: “Richard Ernst’s vision for new analytical technology benefited the advancement of chemistry and biomedicine. It also inspired a whole generation of scientists to push the boundaries of magnetic resonance science and technology. Our goal at Bruker has always been to drive innovation with integrity – a goal that began more than 60 years ago – and this ambition endures throughout our business today.”


In addition to the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Professor Richard Ernst also received the Wolf Prize for Chemistry (1991), the Horwitz Prize (1991) and the Marcel Benoist Prize (1986), and he held more than a dozen honorary doctorates.

Frank H. Laukien, Ph.D,, the President & CEO of Bruker Corporation, added: “We will miss Richard Ernst as a good friend and mentor, as someone who continuously and positively challenged us to pursue technological innovations that enable novel scientific research, and as truly great person with humor, modesty and highest integrity, who always reminded us of our important responsibilities within the scientific community. Bruker owes him an immeasurable debt of gratitude.”

R. R. Ernst, W. A. Anderson, Rev. Sci. Instrum. Rev. Sci. Instr. 1966, 37, 93 – 102.
R. R. Ernst, Adv. Magn. Reson. 1966, 2, 1.
W. A. Anderson, R. R. Ernst, US 3 475 680, 1969.
Company History Bruker Switzerland, Industriestrasse 26, 8117. Faellanden, 2005.
E. Bartholdi, 2D-J-Resolved Spectroscopy, Bruker Report 2, 1979, 2–4.

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