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“When I cook, I think of my father” – Interview with Christine Raum, daughter of Heinz Maier-Leibnitz
He was not only the father of the atomic egg, a doctoral supervisor a hundred times over, including a Nobel Prize-winning doctoral thesis by Rudolf Mößbauer, but also a family man and amateur cook. Heinz Maier-Leibnitz died exactly 20 years ago today, December 16. On the anniversary of his death, his eldest daughter, Christine Raum (82), talks about the personal side of Heinz Maier-Leibnitz and his years in Munich. Christine Raum studied pharmacy and lives in Munich.
Looking back, Heinz Maier-Leibnitz himself described his years in Munich from 1953 to 1967 as “the happiest time of my life.” What made them so happy?
Christine Raum: In 1952, he was appointed to the Technical University in Munich and took over the Laboratory for Technical Physics, while continuing to run the institute of his postdoctoral advisor Walther Bothe in Heidelberg. In 1953, we followed him as a family to Pienzenauer Strasse in Munich. We actually always had a house full of guests. My father was incredibly popular with the other institute directors and with my mother’s initiative, we always invited colleagues, friends, and companions of my father. It was the nicest thing for him when guests came.
And he always cooked for his guests and family?
Yes, he loved to cook and was a fantastic cook. That relaxed him after work. My mother had everything prepared for him in the evening when he came home: potatoes peeled, onions cut. He cooked almost every night. My two sisters and I were in charge of the dishes.
Heinz Maier-Leibnitz in front of the Atomic Egg © FRM II / TUM
What is your favorite dish from your father?
Poulet célestine: chicken with mushrooms, cream and tomatoes. There is also an anecdote about this: My father had Walther Gerlach, Professor of Physics at the University of Munich, as a guest and served this chicken dish. After the meal, Professor Gerlach thanked him, saying it was excellent, even more excellent than the previous time. But the chicken had already tasted better the last time than the time before last. So, my father had served him the same dish on each of his three visits. This taught him a lesson and from then on, he kept a guest book with the names of the invitees on the left and the dishes he had served them on the right. The guest book also includes, for example, the German President Walter Scheel. By the way, a good friend of my father’s was the star chef Eckart Witzigmann, who even recreated one of my father’s Maultaschen recipes on a television program.
Do you like to cook yourself?
Yes, my two sisters and I all love to cook. I still cook every day myself and often think of him when I do. I can empathize well with what my father must have felt. At the same time, I have great admiration for him that he took the time for cooking, with all the work he did.
Besides cooking, what did your father pass on to you?
Generosity and hospitality: our house was always open to guests. Even my sisters and I could bring our friends; everyone was welcome. We also became more international through my father, as we often had guest lecturers visiting. For all his fame, my father was always very modest. He walked around the institute wearing a sweater. His tone was also casual. He had learned that in the USA, where he had lived for a year after the war.
You even went on skiing vacations with other professors?
Once a year we went skiing at Arosa in Switzerland. That was our only vacation together, and for my father it was the annual vacation. In Arosa, a conference was held at the same time, and in the afternoon, everyone joined us for tea in the vacation home. Then I had to go skiing with several professors.
What is it like to grow up as the daughter of a famous scientist?
The name Maier-Leibnitz opened many doors for me later in life. We were often invited by or met famous people. My husband was also a famous artist, and therefore I was often introduced as the daughter of Heinz Maier-Leibnitz and the wife of Walter Raum. And so I asked myself whether I was more than just a daughter and wife, but I put up with that.
What do you admire about your father?
He was always starting something new, always setting for himself new tasks in his life: In 1957, he was the first person in Germany to buy a research reactor in the U.S., build it up in Garching and manage it. He built up the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France, from 1967 to 1971. There were difficult negotiations with the British. And finally, in 1974, he became president of the German Research Foundation. He did not just want to take over a post, he wanted to fill it, to learn and improve things himself.
Presse- und Öffentlichkeits-
arbeit FRM II