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About Gottfried Schatz

The biochemist Prof. emeritus Gottfried 'Jeff' Schatz (1936 – 2015) was an outstanding research scientist and one of the founding fathers of the Biozentrum. He was a passionate advocate of interdisciplinary research who through his open-mindedness, visionary ideas, rigor, and humor shaped the research culture of an entire generation. It was not only his research but also his talent as a teacher of science that made him an exceptional scientist. After his retirement, Jeff Schatz remained true to science and as an author continued to share his insights with the world.

Gottfried Schatz, was born on 18th August, 1936, in Strem, Austria. He studied chemistry and biochemistry and received his PhD at the University of Graz in 1961. Afterwards he carried out research at the University of Vienna and the Public Health Research Institute of the City of New York. After six-years at Cornell University in Ithaca, in New York, Gottfried Schatz was appointed as a professor to the Institute of Biochemistry at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, which he also served as the Chairman for two years. From 1984 to 1989 he was Secretary General of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). He was a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and other foreign academies, and was honored with many prestigious awards, including the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, the Marcel Benoist Prize, the Sir Hans Krebs Medal and the Canada Gairdner International Award.

Gottfried Schatz was recognized in the world of science as a distinguished mitochondrial researcher. He played a leading role in elucidating the biogenesis of the mitochondria and was a co-discoverer of mitochondrial DNA. His recognition that this DNA encodes only a small number of mitochondrial proteins was decisive for his further research on the import of proteins into the mitochondria and the degradation of proteins within these organelles. Schatz discovered a complex transport system that recognizes mitochondrial proteins made in the cytoplasm and transfers them into the mitochondria. This system comprises two protein complexes, in which mutations can disrupt the import of proteins and may cause neurodegenerative disease such as Mohr-Tranebjaerg syndrome which leads to deafness.

After reaching emeritus status in 2000, Gottfried Schatz served as President of the Swiss Science and Technology Council (SSTC) for four years. He is the author of more than 200 scientific publications, three volumes of essays, an autobiography and a novel. Gottfried Schatz lived with his wife in Reinach, close to Basel. In his last reading at the Biozentrum, he emphasized once more how important it was for him "to teach about science and to show what it means for our lives and how it shapes our thinking."