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The Leopoldina Annual Assembly: Symmetry and Asymmetry in Science and Art


"Symmetry and Asymmetry in Science and Art" - this topic is the focus of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina´s Annual Assembly that opens today in Halle (Saale). Renowned scientists will delve for two days into the phenomenon of symmetry, which has a wide range of application and great significance beyond the boundaries of science. The Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel delivered a keynote speech at the official opening ceremonies.

"This year we are addressing a topic that extends to all aspects of reality and thereby not only connects the sciences to one another but also brings them into close contact with the arts", said Prof. Jörg Hacker, President of the Leopoldina, in his speech at the opening of the Annual Assembly. "I am convinced that anyone paying heed to the lectures at our annual assembly will discover surprising scientific-aesthetic analogies," added Hacker.

A total of 14 specialized lectures will approach the Annual Assembly's topic from all different perspectives. In his keynote lecture on Friday, the philosopher Prof. Dieter Birnbacher (Universität Düsseldorf) will examine "Breaches of symmetry in morality". Further lecture topics will include the influence of symmetries in the search for the Higgs Boson (Prof. Peter Jenni, Geneva), in researching the neural control of movement in animals (Prof. Ansgar Büsches, Cologne), in the emergence of cancer as the result of excessive wound healing, and in many more fields. Prof. Martin Quack (Zurich), who proposed the Annual Assembly's topic and jointly formulated the programme with a team drawn from all the Leopoldina´s sections, will speak on Friday about the reflection symmetry of space and its importance for research in physics, chemistry and molecular biology.

The Friday evening lecture by the astrophysicist Prof. Günther Hasinger (USA) entitled "Is the Sky Symmetrical?", in which he probes the symmetries in the cosmos, will be one of the highlights of the Annual Assembly. In the talk, he as much examines the emergence and development of galaxies, stars and planets as he does the development of black holes and their impact on the galaxies. The physicist Prof. Daniel Shechtman, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2011 for the development of quasicrystals, is also among the lecturers at this year's Annual Assembly.

At the start of the assembly on Friday, outstanding scientists will be honoured for their scientific achievements. The Cothenius Medal, the Carus Medal, the Schleiden Medal, the Mendel Medal, the Leopoldina Prize for Junior Scientists, the Georg Uschmann Award for the History of Science and the Thieme Award of the Leopoldina for Medicine are traditionally awarded every two years at the Annual Assembly.

The Leopoldina and the Society of German Natural Scientists and Doctors (GDNÄ) have invited around 40 gifted schoolchildren from across Germany to attend the Annual Assembly. They have the chance to sit in on the scientific lectures and talk to high-profile researchers, including Israeli immunologist and Leopoldina member Prof. Michael Sela, who will speak to the youngsters about the future of German-Israeli scientific relations.

On Thursday 17 September, the day before the assembly opened, the Leopoldina Senate elected a new Vice President and one new Presidium member. Plant geneticist Prof. Ulla Bonas, Professor at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, is now one of the Leopoldina's four Vice Presidents. She takes the place of microbiologist Prof. Bärbel Friedrich, Scientific Director at the Alfried Krupp Wissenschaftskolleg in Greifswald. Computer scientist Prof. Thomas Lengauer, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, was elected as a new member of the Presidium. He takes over from chemist Prof. Helmut Schwarz, Professor at the Technische Universität Berlin and President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

The Annual Assembly's complete programme and further information can be found at the Leopoldina website under


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