Brilliant Minds

Brilliant Minds

Science – a major force in Brandenburg for centuries


Berlin-Brandenburg has been one of the regions with the highest research density in Europe for a long time. All major German research associations are located in Potsdam – each with several institutes. In Brandenburg as a whole, there are 19 institutions. With the development of Lusatia into a research region, this number will continue to grow. The world’s only film university is also located in Potsdam.

*Playing Card Sets* – Brilliant Minds

Some of the most famous scientists of the past two centuries lived and researched in Brandenburg. Now they also play their important role as Jack, Queen, King , Ace or Joker in our unique playing card setsKluge Köpfe – Brilliant Minds“: Play cards with Albert Einstein, Alexander von Humboldt, Lise Meitner and other bright minds.


Available at the Wissenschaftsetage in the Bildungsforum, Am Kanal 47, 14467 Potsdam, or order via e-mail:, or Tel: 0331-977 4599


If you order by e-mail, please include your name and full address so that we can send you your order and the invoice. Thank you very much!


Rummy set | 110 playing cards: 14 EUR

Skat set | 32 playing cards: 9 EUR

Incl. VAT, plus shipping costs



Albert Einstein

*1879 † 1955

Albert Einstein was a German physicist with Swiss and US citizenship. He is considered one of the most important theoretical physicists in the history of science and the most famous scientist of modern times worldwide. His research on the structure of matter, space, and time and on the nature of gravitation significantly changed the Newtonian world view that had previously prevailed.


Further information (in German)


Alexander von Humboldt

Geographer | Explorer
∗1769 †1859

Alexander von Humboldt, known for his contributions to biology as well as for establishing geography as an empirical science, explored much of the world on numerous expeditions, gathered important knowledge about flora and fauna, and made a significant contribution to the surveying and mapping of the earth. After his expeditions through America, Humboldt lived in Potsdam and worked on his main work Cosmos – the artistically as well as scientifically ambitious representation of the entire world.


Further information (in German)



Alfred Wegener

Meteorologist ǀ Polar- and Geo-Scientist
*1880 †1930

Alfred Lothar Wegener, born in Berlin, studied physics, meteorology as well as astronomy. In 1905, he worked at the Lindenberg Aeronautical Observatory near Beeskow. From 1906 to 1908, Wegener went on his first Greenland voyage as a participant in the Danish expedition led by Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen. As early as 1910, he pointed out the possibility that the continents were once a single continent – and from then on tried to prove his hypothesis. In 1929, Wegener embarked on his third Greenland expedition as expedition leader to find the most favorable location for the ascent of the main expedition into the Greenland ice sheet planned for the following year. Immediately after his death, Wegener’s scientific achievements tended to be asscoiated with meteorology and polar research. Today, however, his most significant scientific achievement is considered to be the theory of continental drift, which was not recognized until the 1960s and became the basis of the theory of plate tectonics in the following years.


Further information (in German)

Clara Hoffbauer

Founding Donor | Educational Reformer
*1830 †1909

Clara Ottilie Alexandrine Emilie Hoffbauer, née Becker, married the Berlin merchant Herrmann Hoffbauer in 1850 and moved to Potsdam in the mid-1860s, to the Villa Havelhaus on today’s Herrmannswerder Island. The villa became a meeting place with Theodor Fontane and Ernst von Bergmann. In 1884, she bought more land and established the Hoffbauer Foundation, whose goal was to educate and promote the education of parentless girls and young women in a Protestant sense and to care for the sick and elderly.


Further information (in German)

Clara von Simson

Natural Scientist ǀ Politician
*1897 †1983

Clara von Simson, born in Rome, enjoyed a modern, emancipatory education. She studied physics and chemistry at what is now Humboldt University in Berlin. Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Max von Laue and Walter Nernst were her teachers. After World War II, von Simson got a job as a senior assistant at the Technical University of Berlin in physical chemistry. A study visit to the Clarendon Laboratory in Oxford in 1949/50 helped her to make up for knowledge deficits that had arisen as a result of her exclusion from the university by the Nazi regime, and to develop the experimental basis for her habilitation. In 1951 she became the first woman to habilitate in physics at the TU Berlin, and in the following year she became a private lecturer and representative in the university’s Academic Senate. It was important to her to anchor the unity of technical thinking and humanistic education in the curriculum.


Further information (in German)

Ernst von Bergmann

*1836 †1907

Ernst Gustav Benjamin von Bergmann actually wanted to become a classical philologist, but then decided to study medicine. Von Bergmann was one of the greatest German surgeons with extensive experience in war surgery, which he acquired in the Prussian-Austrian War of 1866, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1871 and the Russian-Ottoman War of 1877/1878. His achievements include the further development of surgical operation techniques and wound treatment (father of asepsis). In 1901 von Bergmann took over the chairmanship of the newly founded Central Committee for Medical Education in Prussia. The Ernst von Bergmann Clinic in Potsdam is named after him.


Further information (in German)

Friedrich Robert Helmert

Geodesist ǀ Mathematician
*1843 †1917

Friedrich Robert Helmert is considered the founder of the mathematical and physical theories of modern geodesy as the science of measuring and mapping the earth’s surface. Under his leadership, the Royal Prussian Geodetic Institute, founded in 1870, whose scientific successor is the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences – Department Geodesy, became the leading international geodetic research institution. In total, Helmert spent a quarter of a century of his life working on the Telegrafenberg in Potsdam.


Further information (in German)

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Mathematician, Physicist, Theologian | Philosopher & Universal Scholar
*1646 †1716

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher, mathematician, lawyer, historian and political advisor of the early Enlightenment. He is considered the universal mind of his time, attempting to master all disciplines, and was in contact with nearly all major scholars. Leibniz saw mathematics as the key to understanding the world. He was the first president of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences (now the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences).


Further information (in German)

Hermann von Helmholtz

Physiologist ǀ Polymath
*1821 †1894

Born in Potsdam, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz was a physiologist and physicist and the most versatile natural scientist of his time. As a polymath, he made important contributions to optics, acoustics, electrodynamics, thermodynamics and hydrodynamics. Through his research and developments, von Helmholtz linked theory, experiment and practical application. He conducted research in the fields of medicine, physics, mathematics, psychology, philosophy and music.


Further information (in German)

Jacob Paul von Gundling

*1673 †1731

Jacob Paul Gundling, from 1724 Baron von Gundling, was a German historian, and for many years both court scholar and involuntary court jester in the immediate vicinity of the Prussian “Soldier King” Frederick William I. In 1718 Gundling succeeded Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz as President of the Academy of Sciences. He was Prussian Privy Councillor of War, Superior, Appellate and Chamber Courts. At the same time, however, he was also the king’s reader, chief master of ceremonies and chamberlain – and a member of the “Tobacco College”.


Further information (in German)

Johanna Just

Educational Reformer
*1861 †1929

In 1889, the educational reformer Johanna Bertha Just, together with her sister Margareta and her mother Laura, founded a private school in Hirschgarten near Köpenick, where home economics skills were taught to future wives from middle-class circles. In 1894, Just incorporated vocational training into the school’s concept and opened the Women’s Trade, Household and Cookery School along with a boarding school for daughters in Potsdam (today’s Johanna Just Upper School Center). The school also offered seminars for women to learn a trade in housekeeping, tailoring or laundry or become trade teachers. In 1904, Just enforced the schools’s state recognition as a Prussian trade and industrial school for girls with a teacher training college. Just died in Potsdam in March 1929, a few days before the 25th anniversary of her school.


Further information (in German)

Joseph von Fraunhofer

Optician ǀ Physicist
*1787 †1826

The scholar Joseph von Fraunhofer was equally successful as a scientist, inventor and entrepreneur. He is considered the founder of scientific methodology in the field of optics and precision mechanics, as well as the pioneer of German precision optics. In 1814, without any academic training, he also discovered the absorption lines in the solar spectrum, Fraunhofer’s lines. The development of new production and processing techniques for optical glass, which decisively improved the imaging quality of lenses, can be traced back to him. His work as a self-taught researcher earned him great recognition in science and politics. Joseph von Fraunhofer was the role model and namesake of today’s Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (Fraunhofer Society).


Further information (in German)

Karl Schwarzschild

Astronomer | Physicist
*1873 †1916

Karl Schwarzschild was a German astronomer and physicist and is considered one of the pioneers of modern astrophysics. In 1909- 1916 he became director of the Astrophysical Observatory in Potsdam. Schwarzschild did some fundamental work on classical black holes. Some properties of black holes therefore received his name, namely the Schwarzschild metric, the Schwarzschild-Tangherlini metric, and the Schwarzschild radius. The core of a black hole is called a Schwarzschild singularity.


Further information (in German)

Konrad Wolf

*1925 †1982

Konrad Wolf was a German film director in the German Democratic Republic. He worked as a director at DEFA, where he primarily made challenging and critical contemporary films. From 1965 to 1982, he was president of the Academy of Arts of the GDR.
His last project was as artistic director of a 6-part documentary called “Busch sings”, which was to give a cross-section of the political and artistic development of the first half of the 20th century in Germany, based on the biography of the communist actor and singer Ernst Busch.


Further information (in German)

Lise Meitner

∗1878 †1968

Physicist Lise Meitner discovered the element protactinium together with atomic physicist Otto Hahn. Starting in 1918, she headed the physical-radioactive department of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin-Dahlem. She was the first woman to become a professor in 1926. In 1938 she fled to Sweden, from where she provided Hahn with the physical explanation of his first nuclear fission, for which he was the sole recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944. Meitner was the first female scientist to become a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences.


Further information (in German)

Maria Marghareta Kirch

*1670 †1720

Maria Margaretha Kirch’s interest in astronomy was discovered and developed by Christoph Arnold. At Arnold’s, she also met her husband, the astronomer and calendar maker Gottfried Kirch. Kirch moved to Berlin with her husband, as he was hired as an astronomer by the Electoral Brandenburg Society of Sciences in Berlin. Together – though she only served as an assistant – the couple worked on observations, calculations, weather observations, calendars and ephemerides. On April 21, 1702, Kirch became the first woman to discover comet C/1702H1, but the public credited the discovery to her husband. She later published her observations under her own name, e.g. those of Aurora borealis, a polar light that appeared in 1707. In 1716 she returned to the Academy of Sciences as an assistant to her son Christfried Kirch, but was banned from the Academy grounds the following year.


Further information (in German)

Max Planck

*1858 †1947

The physicist Max Planck is considered the founder of quantum physics. He studied in Munich and Berlin and followed a call to Kiel in 1885. In 1889, he moved to Berlin, where he was appointed to the chair of theoretical physics. He worked on the radiation of black bodies and in 1900 was able to present a formula – Planck’s radiation formula -, which accurately described this radiation for the first time. He thus laid the foundation for modern quantum physics. In the process, he received support from Albert Einstein, in whose house in Caputh he was often a guest.


Further information (in German)

Max Volmer

*1885 †1965

Max Volmer was a German chemist, specializing in physical chemistry (reaction kinetics). Between 1914 and 1918 he served in the war. In this context he conducted research on chemical warfare agents. He was a professor at the Technical University of Berlin-Charlottenburg and at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Together with John Alfred Valentine Butler, he developed the Butler-Volmer equation. From 1955-1959 he was president of the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin.


Further information (in German)



Moses Mendelssohn

*1729 †1786

Moses Mendelssohn is considered the key figure of the Jewish Enlightenment in Europe and thus a pioneer of the Haskalah. His entire life and work stood for enlightenment, reason and tolerance in science, culture and society.The Moses Mendelssohn Center in Potsdam, as a scientific institution of the state of Brandenburg, feels closely connected to this – also and especially in the context of today.


Further information (in German)

Rahel Hirsch

∗1870 †1953

Rahel Hirsch was the first woman in the Kingdom of Prussia to be appointed professor of medicine in 1913. The permeability of the mucosa of the small intestine to large-body particles, and the subsequent excretion with the urine, which she discovered, was named the “Hirsch-Effect” after her. In her honor, the State of Israel included her in its Gallery of Famous Jewish Scientists in Jerusalem.


Further information (in German)

Reinhard Süring

*1866 †1950

Reinhard Joachim Süring studied mathematics and natural sciences in Göttingen, Marburg and Berlin, where he received his doctorate in 1890 with his dissertation on “The Vertical Temperature Decrease in Mountainous Areas in its Dependence on Cloud Cover”. He then worked at the Prussian Meteorological Institute and eventually as director of Potsdam’s Magnetic Meteorological Observatory. A cloud and radiation researcher, Süring, together with Arthur Berson, set the balloon altitude record of 10,800 meters in 1901. More significant for research, however, was their discovery at 8,000 meters: they were able to confirm that the air temperature rises again from about 8,000 meters and that the atmosphere is stratified: they discovered the transition between troposphere and stratosphere.

Further information (in German)

Theodor Fontane

Poet | Writer
∗1819 †1898

Heinrich Theodor Fontane, born in Neuruppin, was an important realist writer, journalist, theater critic, and military historiographer. He published his first poems while still an apprentice pharmacist. In 1849, he gave up the pharmacist’s profession and devoted himself to writing. One of his best-known works is Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg. Fontane’s last novel, Der Stechlin, was first published in 1897.


Further information (in German)