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Ludwig Boltzmann was born in 1844 in Vienna and was the son of a tax official. His extraordinary enthusiasm for learning and his scientific talents were already evident during his school days in Linz. After his “Matura” [A-level equivalents], he studied physics and mathematics at the University of Vienna. After his graduation in 1866, Boltzmann became an assistant to his teacher, Josef Stefan, who was Head of the Physics Institute of Vienna.
By the age of 25, Boltzmann had already achieved his full professorship for mathematical physics in Graz. In 1873 he returned to Vienna for three years and then remained in Graz for 14 years as a professor of experimental physics. During this time, Boltzmann had already become part of the world’s elite physicists.
From 1895 until his death in 1906, he was a Professor at the University of Vienna. Today, Boltzmann is regarded as a forerunner for quantum physics and the theory of evolution. He is also one of the fathers of biophysics and bioenergy. Boltzmann dealt extensively with physics-based research into evolution questions. As a passionate Darwin supporter and progressive thinker, Boltzmann developed ideas which partially anticipated the teaching of evolution as we know it today. He extended the biological evolution to include physical aspects and advocated the theory of existence even before the time of creation of life forms. Boltzmann was a staunch promoter of atomicity. Besides his great scientific persuasive power, Boltzmann fascinated his contemporaries with his unwavering search for true, positive findings in scientific research.
The Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft (LBG) is founded in 1960 as a non-profit-making organisation in Vienna. The purpose of the LBG includes all matters relating to the promotion of research. Having received a grant from federal resources, the LBG is able to deal with individual research projects from the start. In 1965, LBG takes the first step towards achieving the main object of its statutes - to set up and run research institutes - with the founding of the first Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, the LBI for Solid-state Physics.
From 1967 onwards, the LBG does not receive any further state funding for carrying out basic research. The continued existence of the LBG is guaranteed, however, by membership contributions of financial institutions, insurance companies and other companies and also through the funding of Vienna City Council as a constant provider of grants.
In 1968, six new research Institutes are founded, including the first medical Institute, the LBI for Leukaemia Research and Haematology. Due to the limited financial resources of the LBG, this is only now possible through cooperation agreements with partner organisations (particularly hospitals and universities), that is to say through the cost-free provision of premises, shared use of equipment and the voluntary services provided by the Managers of the Institutes. Since then, medical research has been the focus of the LBG.
In 1969, the LBG moves its administrative offices into the first premises of its own on the second floor of the Leopoldinische Trakt in Hofburg in Austria. The Head Office of the LBG remains here until moving to its current premises in Operngasse 6, 1010 Vienna in 1997.
From 1970 onwards, the LBG starts to receive Government funding again. This allows it to set up new Institutes. The number of research establishments grows to reach 131 LBIs and research bodies in 1999, including 83 in the field of human medicine. It is particularly in the 1990s that the significant growth of the LBG and the setting-up of further Institutes becomes possible as a result of increased fund-raising by third parties.
In 2002, the strategic process of re-launching the LBG begins. Using “sounding boards” consisting of well-known scientists and experts in research management, guidelines are formulated as a basis for making objective decisions on the setting-up of Institutes. On this basis the first call for proposals for new LBIs is initiated in 2004 and the non-profit-making LBG GmbH [company with limited liability] is founded as a 100% subsidiary of the LBG and sponsor organisation for the new LBIs. In parallel with this, an evaluation of the existing Ludwig Boltzmann Institutes is carried out. By the end of 2006, the majority of the existing LBIs are closed. The surviving institutes are brought together into themed clusters or continued in accordance with the new guidelines.