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Fritz von Weizsäcker

With deep sorrow, we report the passing of Fritz von Weizsäcker, who died on 19 November 2019 at the age of 59.

The EMBL community is shocked and saddened by Fritz’s sudden and untimely passing. Our thoughts and sympathy are with his family at this extremely difficult time.

The EMBL community share their tributes

Siegfried Labeit; Professor for Integrative Pathophysiology, Universitätmedizin Mannheim, University of Heidelberg
(EMBL Heidelberg Group Leader, Structural and Computational Biology Unit, 1984–2011)

Fritz started his academic life initially studying medicine in 1980 in Bonn to become a doctor. However, he soon figured out during his pre-clinical training that his passion was a field that would later be called Molecular Medicine. To pursue his desire to work on this new frontier, he moved in 1982 to Heidelberg to EMBL´s predoctoral programme. His thesis work on viral oncogene delivery and cell hematopoietic cell differentiation was supervised by Thomas Graf at EMBL. In 1986, Fritz got his MD PhD from the EMBL/University of Heidelberg and also finished his medical degree. After a postodoctoral research project at Harvard, Fritz joined Freiburg University and worked there as a medical doctor in the hepatology department (continuing research on viruses such as hepatitis B). Finally, Fritz moved to Berlin where he became head of the Schlosspark-Klinik as part of the Charité.

Last year when I met Fritz in Berlin we talked about where our science is moving us. Fritz noted briefly that he had started to serve on committees to work on needed reforms in the health system, because he felt that social issues were on the rise. Fritz also mentioned he had declined to seek a political mandate at this stage in his life in a political party he had joined, because his four children were still close to his household. “Life is too short for me to miss this precious time with them.” We were not aware how short Fritz’s remaining time with his family would be.

At 59 years, Fritz leaves three daughters and one son behind, and many close friends and colleagues at EMBL and all over the world who miss him. The world is a more empty place without him.

Thomas Graf, Senior Scientist, Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG)
(EMBL Heidelberg Head of Unit, Graf Group, 1983-1998)

Fritz worked on his PhD thesis in my lab at EMBL between 1983 and 1986 following his studies in medicine. After getting used to life in a scientific environment, and the EMBL culture in particular, Fritz became fully devoted to his work with acute leukemia viruses in chicken as a disease model. During his investigations he succeeded in making significant advances, publishing two papers and earning a PhD diploma that was graded with ‘Summa cum Laude’. I fondly remember Fritz as a warm-hearted member of my group, always helpful and willing to put his interests behind those of others. He was clearly destined to eventually leave his research with animal models to work more directly with people, in the best tradition of his humanitarian family. Fritz’s untimely and horrible death is a great loss to all who were fortunate enough to know him.

I wish to express my deepest condolences to the family members he left behind.

Michael Hortsch; Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Professor of Learning Health Sciences, University of Michigan Medical School
(EMBL Heidelberg Predoc, Cell Biology and Biophysics Unit, 1983–1987)

Fritz was a great friend when we were graduate students at EMBL. I am very sad that this friend has left us and my heart goes out to his family.

Margit Burmeister; Associate Chair and Professor, Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics, University of Michigan
(EMBL Heidelberg Predoc, Lehrach Group, 1983-1987)

As a classmate of Fritz of the 1983 PhD group I was shocked to read about his untimely and cruel passing. Fritz was an intelligent student whose motivation for medicine was primarily compassion and willingness to help. While never denying the legacy of his famous father, Fritz was far from entitled but rather a genuinely nice and caring classmate. So sad for the loss. May his memory be a blessing.

Claudia Koch-Brandt; Professor of Biochemistry, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.
(EMBL Heidelberg Staff Scientist, Simons Group and Garoff Group, 1980-1985)

„Er war ein ganz besonderer Mensch“


If you would like to add a personal message of condolence, please contact the Alumni Relations team.