Joachim Sauer (born 19 April 1949) is a German quantum chemist and professor emeritus of physical and theoretical chemistry at the Humboldt University of Berlin. He is the husband of the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. He is one of the seven members of the board of trustees of the Friede Springer Foundation, together with former German president Horst Köhler and others.
Education and early life
Joachim Sauer was born in Hosena, a small town in the marshy Lusatian countryside between Dresden and Cottbus. He grew up with his twin sister and an elder brother. His father, Richard Sauer, had trained as a baker (Konditor), but worked as an insurance representative. Sauer excelled at school and it quickly became clear that he had both the ability and the ambition to achieve more than this in his own life.
Career and research
Sauer studied chemistry from 1967 to 1972 at the Humboldt University of Berlin and was awarded a doctorate in chemistry in 1974. He continued to do research there until 1977, when he joined the Academy of Sciences, Central Institute of Physical Chemistry in Berlin, one of the leading scientific institutes of the former GDR (East Germany).
For a brief time during and after the German reunification (1990–1991) he was the deputy technical director (catalysis and sorption) for BIOSYM Technologies, San Diego/USA (now BIOVIA). He remained an advisor for BIOSYM until 2002.
In 1992, he joined the Max Planck Society as head of the Quantum Chemistry Group in Berlin. In 1993, he became full professor of physical and theoretical chemistry at the Humboldt University of Berlin. He retired from his chair in October 2017 and was succeeded by Martin Schütz, who died the following year. Sauer remains affiliated with the university as a senior research fellow.
He is an active research scientist in quantum chemistry and computational chemistry. His computational studies have allowed for a better understanding of the structures and activities of some catalysts such as zeolites, specifically their acid sites, as well as the interpretation of solid state NMR spectra of nucleus Si-29, and quadrupolar nuclei such as Na-23, Al-27 and O-17.
Awards and honours
- 1991: Chemistry Prize of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities
- 1995: Member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities
- 2006: External scientific member of the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society
- 2007: Member of the Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
- 2009: Member of the Academia Europaea
- 2010: Liebig Medal
- 2013: Honorary Doctor of Science, University College London
- 2018: Foreign Member of the Royal Society
- 2019: Schrödinger Medal
From his previous marriage to a fellow chemist, Sauer has two sons, Daniel and Adrian. On 30 December 1998, he married Angela Merkel (herself a doctor of physics who had once worked in quantum chemistry research), who later became chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union and on 22 November 2005, the first female Chancellor of Germany.
Because of his wife's political career, Sauer has received far more media attention than is usual for a research scientist. On several occasions he has stated that he is not fond of this publicity.
During the 2005 election campaign Joachim Sauer kept a very low profile, declining to give any interviews not related to his scientific work. He attended the Bayreuth Festival, an opera festival and a highly visible social event in Germany, with his wife. Sauer is known as a great lover of Wagner's music.
Even during his wife's election in the Bundestag, her inauguration, and later her taking the oath of office, Sauer was not present but reportedly briefly followed the event on TV from his university chemistry lab.