Hartmut Michel was born on July 18, 1948, in Ludwigsburg in the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg. Michel studied Biochemistry at the Universities of Tübingen and Munich. He completed his doctoral degree at the University of Würzburg in 1977, working as an Assistant Professor for two years, before he moved back to Munich in 1979. There he habilitated in 1988. One year later, he became Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysics at Frankfurt/Main, where he has remained to this day.
In 1988, Hartmut Michel was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, together with Johannes Deisenhöfer and Robert Huber, for their investigation of the molecular structure of the photosynthesis reaction center in the rhodopseudomonas viridis bacterium.
Since 2004, he has also been a member of the German Science Council.
In order to find out how things work, one has to know their structures. In nature, carbohydrates are produced from carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight. How does this process work? Sunlight provides plants with energy. The conversion of light energy into electric energy occurs inside a highly complex formation of organic compounds. Using chemical and physical methods, Hartmut Michel, Johann Deisenhöfer, and Robert Huber were able to trace the structure and the effects of the photosynthesis center of an alga.
Working and Living in Würzburg
During his Würzburg years, Hartmut Michel lived in Waldbüttelbrunn, a suburb of Würzburg. He was fond of walking in Gramschatzer Wald, a forest region near the city, with friends and colleagues. As opposed to Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, however, who indulged his passion for the hunt in those woods, Michel was an equally avid gatherer of mushrooms and was well-known for his expertise as a mushroom picker. In the company of friends and colleagues, the mushrooms would then provide delicious meals.