Prof. Horst HipplerHorst Hippler
1946 – 2024

(Picture Credit:

Professor Horst Hippler, a distinguished member of The Combustion Institute and founding President of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), passed away on the 6th of March 2024 in Göttingen, Germany. Professor Hippler made significant contributions to the field of combustion chemistry and reaction kinetics in general. He has been internationally recognized for his advances in reaction kinetics, for which he was awarded the Polanyi Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Hippler studied Physics and moved into Physical Chemistry at the University of Göttingen. He joined the group of Juergen Troe and, in 1970, moved with him to the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland (EPFL), where he received his PhD in 1974. During the time at the EPFL, he started his studies of elementary chemical processes at high gas pressures, in particular in supercritical fluids. He succeeded to quantitatively characterize the transition from gas to liquid phase. A second field of his interest was the dependence of continuous UV absorption coefficients on the temperature. By calibrating “hot UV absorption spectra” in shock wave experiments, he obtained a spectroscopic “internal energy thermometer” of excited molecules. Using this method, he succeeded to follow the dynamics of highly excited molecules in real time. Producing such molecules by light absorption in the UV followed by internal conversion, he was able to directly monitor unimolecular processes and the stepwise collisional deactivation of vibrationally highly excited polyatomic molecules. The information derived is of considerable importance for the quantitative characterization of unimolecular processes such as of importance in combustion. Following his time at Lausanne, he conducted research at the IBM Research Laboratory in San José, USA. After this, he returned to Troe’s group, now at Göttingen, where he received his post-doctoral lecture qualification (habilitation). Based on this, he moved to Karlsruhe as a professor for Physical Chemistry at the (then still) University of Karlsruhe. In October 2022, he was elected its rector after having been the vice-rector for research for two years. In 2009, he succeeded to merge Karlsruhe University with the Federal Research Center Karlsruhe, forming KIT. He was elected founding president, extending KIT’s collaborations in research, teaching, and innovation, and enhancing KIT’s international visibility.  

Hippler was awarded numerous honors: since 2009, he has been member of the German National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech). He received the honor of Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, France (2007), and the Honorary Doctorates of the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers (ENSAM, 2011) as well as of Strasbourg University (2016). In 2015, Hippler was awarded the Order of Merit of the State of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. He was particularly active to support the German-French cooperation. He did this in the framework of EUCOR, the European Confederation of Upper Rhine Universities (today’s EUCOR – The European Campus), and within the German-French University (DFH).

The Combustion Institute honors Professor Hippler as an esteemed scientist, leader and visionary, who contributed significantly to the combustion community, yet impacting academic fields and research as well as international visibility. He will be greatly missed, both as a person and as a passionate scientist.

Above “In Memoriam” provided by:

Prof. Dr. Ravi Fernandes, PTB, Germany & Prof. Dr. Juergen Troe, University of Goettingen, Germany