DESY mourns for Ruprecht Haensel

Professor Ruprecht Haensel in 2000, the year of his retirement. Copyright: CAU Kiel, Photo: Horst Brix

Professor Ruprecht Haensel died on 19 October after suffering a serious illness. The X-ray pioneer ran the first fundamental experiments with synchrotron light at the DESY accelerator. He systematically defined the properties of this kind of radiation, thus opening up its large research potential. From 1985 to 1992, as a founding director, he substantially contributed to build and realise the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble.

“With Ruprecht Haensel, we are not only losing a worldwide highly estimated scientist and advisor, but also a good friend who did pioneer work for research with synchrotron radiation,” says Helmut Dosch, chair of the DESY board of directors.

Born 1935 in Wroclaw, Haensel studied at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and at the Free University of Berlin. In February 1962, he came to DESY in Hamburg as a PhD student of Prof. Peter Stähelin to establish the first laboratory for experiments with synchrotron radiation; the first experiments were carried out in 1964. After his graduation in 1966, Haensel became head of the synchrotron radiation laboratory at DESY. He habilitated in 1968.

In 1974, he was appointed professor for experimental physics at Christian Albrechts University of Kiel. As a director of the Laue-Langevin Institute in Grenoble and later as founding director of ESRF, he had a leading role during the build-up of one of the world’s best synchrotron radiation sources, which so far has been the most successful facility of its kind.

After his return to Kiel, he was elected dean of the faculty in 1994 and principal in 1996. Ruprecht Haensel retired in 2000.

Ruprecht Haensel together with other synchrotron pioneers at the ceremony "30 years of synchrotron radiation at DESY" in 1994 (from left to right: Ruprecht Haensel, Peter Stähelin, Jochen R. Schneider, Björn Wiik, Kenneth Holmes, Christof Kunz, Willibald Jentschke, Heinz Berghaus, Gerhard Materlik)