Editorial Chromatographia 2010, 17, February (No. 3/4) 181-182
Rudolf Kaiser celebrates his 80th birthday, a German pioneer in chromatography and the whole of separation science.
Born, raised, advancing, and maturing in a difficult and turbulent period of European and German history, and of history of science in general, he is a prime example for coming generations how to become and remain creative, be content with and convinced of what one is doing, and be able to fulfil a mission. Rudolf Kaiser is one of the most inspiring personalities in separation science who always was and still is able to infect others with his enthusiasm for the beauty of scientific endeavour. Next to a remarkable string of scientific achievements, this has something to do with his upbringing in an atmosphere of cultural diversity and mutual insemination, as it was typical for Northern Bohemia and the city of Teplitz-Schoenau of the time when he was born on 12 February 1930, a few years before narrow-minded, envious, nationalistic extremists destroyed this productive environment.
Here and in these times he must have learned that established rules and convictions always have their antitheses, that nothing is engraved forever that grand structures crumble with time. Thus, he always had the insight and courage not to take anything for granted including his own contributions.
Rudolf Kaiser never had the ambition to build a monument of himself, always remaining open for criticism and new ideas, trying to look behind and beyond established rules. He almost is an incarnation of Erich Kaestners word Es gibt nichts Gutes ausser man tut es (No good exists except you do it). All his creativity and achievements are basically a consequence of this particular personal trait. So it is no surprise that he is remembered by most of us as an ardent lover of dispute and scrutiny for scientific truth but respecting fairness for the better argument although this was not always granted to him by his turf partners.
Rudolf Kaiser continued to be curious, challenging engraved rules, to become a German scientist of truly unifying internationalism, culminating in the word attested to him almost a proverb that separation (science) unites people.
Already as young student he learned to appreciate the ways of others, for instance when right after the Second World War he was involved in the establishment of a chemical production unit in the ravaged and recovering Ukraine. He always hated doctrines and still is intriguingly freedom- minded; he once told me that in his opinion the most expensive luxury good is the freedom to stay with the truth obviously being prepared to pay the price when needed.
So it is no surprise that, after having finished his studies and doctorate at an amazingly young age of 24, he could not stand it to remain longer than six more years in the dogmatic environment of the GDR where the old Prussian regime had survived under a different flag, where human rights were not regarded highly.
Being escaped to the BRD in 1960, as employee of BASF for the next 12 years he not only introduced modern capillary gas chromatography into the industrial practice with new instrumental developments including the production of own gas chromatographs and other technical improvements, but also published in 1961 (written in the late fifties) one of the first comprehensive text books on gas chromatography (Chromatographie in der Gas Phase) and in 1968 founded this Journal, CCHROMATOGRAPHIA, as the first German scientific periodical in this field.
Nevertheless, it was clear that with for the inquisitive mind of Rudolf Kaiser an employment at BASF could not be the end of his aspirations, and so the foundation of the Institute for Chromatography (IfC) in Bad Duerkheim in 1972 was the next logical step. From now on he had the freedom to realize his dreams and convictions, with the assistance of his long-time co-worker Rudi Rieder and with the unconditional loving support of his first wife Annemarie and, after she had passed away, his second wife Olga.
With his typical energetic drive, Rudolf Kaiser created and expanded the IfC to become a foremost international research and teaching institution where more than 7,000 chromatographic practitioners from over 50 countries were inspired: Gas chromatography, liquid chromatography, thin layer chromatography, optimization of resolution, sample preparation and enrichment, quantification under particular emphasis of how to reach ultimate precision and accuracy, and especially the use of computers to facilitate all these goals avoiding the tediousness of routine work, these were his topics. In addition to the work at home, Rudolf Kaiser helped to build bridges between colleagues, schools of thinking, countries, and continents by organizing similar courses abroad.
He did all this with an almost religious belief in his activities and ideas; sometimes his competitors and colleagues found this approach hard to accept, especially when he sometimes in his enthusiastic way was simplifying in order to translate complicated matters in favour of a spontaneous, intuitive transmission.
His scientific contributions are laid down in more than 200 publications and about 20 books. But he continued in an even wider scope to the dissemination of separation science by founding a second scientific periodical, i.e. the Journal of High Resolution Chromatography (today Journal of Separation Science), and by helping with the birth of a third one, the Journal of Planar Chromatography.
Perhaps even more important for the advancement of separation science are his foundations of several series of symposia, especially the Hindelang Symposia, being started in 1975 and the root of todays most successful Symposia on Capillary Chromatography in Riva del Garda, as well as (since 1980) the International Symposium on Planar Chromatography and (since 1994) the International Symposium on Chromatography and Spectroscopy in Environmental Analysis.
With all these initiatives and achievements, it was nothing more than logical that his contributions to the advancement of separation science were recognized by being awarded as the first foreign recipient of the Tswett Medal of the Academy of Science of the USSR in 1978, of the Gold Medal of the Chinese Academy of Science in 1988, the A.J.P. Martin Award of the UK and the Marcel Golay Award of the Riva Symposium Series, both in 1989 and more.
Last but not least, for his international activities and his momentous contributions in using chromatography for the well-being of people, he was honoured in 1996 by the President of the Federal Republic with the First Class Distinguished Medal of Germany.
But even with these achievements, the Rudolf Kaiser with his untiring spirit did not go to rest. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, Rudolf Kaiser immediately accepted his task, having been citizen on both sides, to help healing the deep scar it had left in the world. So it was nothing more than logical that he started in the early nineties, with the help of his wife Olga being a native of Russia, by giving courses and seminars to colleagues in the petrochemical industry until a few years ago, to help to overcome the difficulties of transition in this country.
Nowadays, in our times of globalization, he is active in exploring the possibilities of using the Internet for worldwide dissemination of knowledge and communication between colleagues, eventually to arrive at a cosmopolitan chromatography network in which transcontinental on-line experiments and analyses may become reality in analogy to Rudolf Kaisers beliefthat separation unites perhaps even the whole world ?
In spite of his name, Rudolf Kaiser was never out for building empires, but I suspect that for this reason he lived and lives a happy life. What we can learn from him is that in accord with a word of Albert Schweitzer: Success is not the key to happiness by itself but that with the love to what we are doing we will be successful and happy.
We must be grateful for his lifes example, and we are proud of him.
DOI: 10.1365/s 10337-010-1489x