First female rector and radiation physicist
Lieselott Herforth went down in history as the first woman to be appointed rector of a German university when she took charge of Dresden University of Technology in 1965. As a scientist, too, Lieselott Herforth was extremely successful, and her publications on radia
tion physics are still praised by researchers to this day. Lieselott Herforth was born in 1916 into a musical and literary family. Deciding to study mathematics at Berlin College of Technology in Charlottenburg, after her intermediate diploma, she turned her attention to technical physics and graduated with a physics degree in 1940. But despite her rapid academic career, Lieselott Herforth was devastated by the death of her fiancé. She never married or had children, placing her life at the service of science instead. In 1948, Lieselott Herforth completed her doctorate under Hartmut Kallmann at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry in Berlin-Dahlem. She went on to play a leading role in radiation physics research in East Germany. In 1953, she completed her habilitation at Leipzig University and began teaching radiation physics. In 1960, she commenced research into radioactivity as a professor at Dresden College of Technology. Working hard to support the next generation of scientists, Lieselott Herforth received many awards in East Germany. As a member of both the People’s Chamber and the State Council, Lieselott Herforth had an outstanding network of political contacts and in 1965 was appointed rector of Dresden University of Technology, making her the very first female rector in the history of German higher education. During her term of office, she was responsible for enacting the controversial Third Higher Education Reform which, despite containing forward-looking elements, also tightened the party’s political influence over higher education. In 1968, Lieselott Herforth resigned as rector. Emeritus status was conferred on her in 1977 after a long, successful career. In late 2010, Lieselott Herforth died at the ripe old age of 94 in Dresden.
Fotonachweis: Technische Universität Dresden, Universitätsarchiv (1, 2, 3, 4)
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