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Erwin Neher Edit Profile

biophysicist , educator , scientist , author

Erwin Neher is a German biophysicist and research scientist, specializing in the field of cell physiology. He is a recipient, along with Bert Sakmann, of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries concerning the function of single ion channels in cells.


Erwin Neher was born on March 20, 1944, in Landsberg, Bayern, Germany. He is the son of Elisabeth (née Pfeiffer) and Franz Xaver Neher.


Neher studied physics at the Technical University of Munich from 1963 to 1966. In 1966, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study in the US, where he spent a year at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and received his Master of Science degree in 1967.

In 1968, Neher returned to Germany and obtained his doctorate from the Technical University of Munich, specializing in biophysics.

Neher was also awarded an Honorary degree from the University of Pavia in 2000.


Neher started his career as a researcher at Max Plank Institute in Gottingen in 1974. He was also a research associate at Yale University during 1975 and 1976.

Since 1983, he works as a director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen and heads its Department for Membrane Biophysics. He is also a Professor at the University of Göttingen and a co-chair of the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Göttingen.


  • Neher is best known as a biophysicist, who, along with Bert Sakmann, invented the patch clamp technique. The use of this technique enabled Neher and Sakmann to forge new paths in the study of membrane physiology and to understand the structure and functions of ion channels found in the plasma membranes of most body cells. The patch clamp technique has given physiologists a precise understanding of cellular microelectrical activity and has contributed significantly to the research and treatment of cystic fibrosis, diabetes, epilepsy, and other disorders of the cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems.

    In 1994, Neher was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and the same year, he was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society.

    In 2003 Neher was also one of 22 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto.


Neher is a Foreign Member of the Royal Society, member of German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, National Academy of Sciences, European Academy of Sciences and Arts, and North Rhine-Westphalia Academy for Sciences and Arts.


Neher married scientist Eva-Maria Ruhr in 1978 and subsequently the couple had five children – Richard, Benjamin, Carola, Sigmund, and Margret.

Franz Xaver Neher

Elisabeth (Pfeiffer) Neher

Margret Neher

Sigmund Neher

Richard Neher

Carola Neher

Benjamin Neher

Eva-Maria Ruhr - microbiologist