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Founder of Berlin-based laboratory equipment manufacturer KNAUER passes away
With his passion for chemistry and many ideas for high-tech laboratory measuring instruments, he enriched the global laboratory industry and created the successful company that bears his name. Dr.-Ing. Herbert Knauer has now died at the age of 92.
As the KNAUER company announced, its founder passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family on Thursday, January 18, 2024.
"For me, Dr. Knauer is not only our founder and an important thinker for the company who has passed away, but also an exceptionally open personality. He was a mentor and advisor to me, someone with whom you could discuss ideas and gain new perspectives. Dr. Knauer was always willing to pass on his enormous wealth of knowledge and experience," said Carsten Losch, Managing Director of KNAUER.
From tinkerer in the kitchen at home to globally active entrepreneur
Born in Berlin Karlshorst in 1931, Herbert Knauer grew up with his brother, who was four years younger, in a family of civil servants. After graduating from high school at the age of 17, he began studying business administration at the Technical University of Berlin. After a few semesters, he managed to switch to his desired subject of chemistry.
In 1958, Herbert Knauer obtained a doctorate in engineering with his thesis on "Ion reactions in absolute diethyl ether as a solvent". He remained at the TU Berlin as a research assistant until 1962. During this time, he spent afternoons and weekends tinkering with new technical solutions in his kitchen at home. With an electronic temperature measuring device that could measure to an accuracy of 1/1000 of a degree Celsius, Knauer took the plunge into self-employment and founded the company KNAUER in Berlin-Schmargendorf with his wife Roswitha on October 1, 1962. The fact that the company was founded with the approval of the Technical University was the only support for the start-up company at the time. There were no financial support pots yet.
Small buns were baked in the beginning, and for several years the company worked in the Knauers' apartment and later in their large family home in Zehlendorf. Through further development into so-called osmometers, the temperature measuring device with additional devices became a market success. KNAUER made a name for itself as the first company in Europe to manufacture osmometers for chemical and medical applications.
At the beginning of the 1970s, KNAUER began developing and producing system modules for the still young technology of high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). This decision marked the beginning of a success story.
Herbert Knauer recognized the potential of HPLC technology and developed innovative solutions that made the company internationally competitive. The introduction of modular HPLC systems in the 1970s set standards for the industry. Due to its flexibility, modular design was soon to become the standard for HPLC systems all over the world and contributed to the worldwide spread of this analytical technology.
KNAUER used its sales success to partially finance the construction of a large new office and production building in the same district. It is still the company headquarters in Berlin-Zehlendorf today. The company moved into the building in Hegauer Weg in 1974.
The continuous innovative strength of Herbert Knauer and his company has been recognized with numerous awards, including gold medals at the Leipzig Trade Fair, the Innovation Prize of the Berlin Senator for Economics and Labor and the Berlin-Brandenburg Innovation Prize.
The transfer of all company shares to his daughter Alexandra Knauer in 2000 did not mean the end of his enthusiasm for science and technology. Herbert Knauer remained active and continued to work in an advisory capacity. He was delighted with his daughter Alexandra's successes. In addition to a focus on sustainability, she succeeded in significantly developing the company. New business areas were also created, such as systems for the production of lipid nanoparticles for mRNA active ingredients. Under her leadership, the workforce grew from 70 to 190 employees. Turnover quadrupled.
On September 10, 2021, two days before his 90th birthday, German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel paid a visit to the company and congratulated Herbert and Roswitha Knauer on their life's work. She called the current company a "jewel of the German SME sector".
As Herbert Knauer himself liked to emphasize, measuring instruments for science should above all be useful tools for users, serve progress and be as robust and simple as possible in order to avoid sources of error. An ideal that would also be worth striving for in many other areas.
He was happily married to his wife Roswitha for 61 years and enjoyed his daughters and six grandchildren who lived nearby.
In Herbert Knauer's silent memory, the company is confident that his mark on the world of science and technology will forever remain alive and of lasting significance.
Watch a short video in memory of Herbert Knauer