Issue 1 - March 2023
Prof. Reinhardt Rüdel (1937-2023)
Reinhardt Rüdel first studied physics in Erlangen, Vienna and Heidelberg, where he received his doctorate “summa cum laude” in 1965. He then became an assistant at the Physiological Institute of the University of Heidelberg and studied medicine up to the Physikum. Postdoctoral fellow with Andrew F. Huxley at University College London from 1968 to 1970, he habilitated in physiology at the University of Heidelberg in 1970. He was several times in the laboratory of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, USA, publishing crucial work on the central role of calcium in muscle contraction. In 1979, he was appointed at the University of Ulm as full professor and director of the Institute of General Physiology. One might ask what does physicist and physiologist Reinhardt have to do with muscle diseases? The answer is twofold, on the one hand basic neuromuscular research on the foundations of cardiac and skeletal muscle contraction and on excitation disorders of the muscle fiber membrane and on the other hand his commitment to the German Society for Muscular Diseases. Myotonias and episodic paralyses were the main field of interest of his research until his retirement. This work has earned Reinhardt Rüdel the highest national and international recognition, such as the Erb-Duchenne Prize, together with F. Lehmann-Horn and K. Riker, and the honorary medal of the University of Ulm in 2008. In addition to his interest in research, it certainly played a role that he himself developed an increasing disability and became wheelchair-bound, in the commitment to the German Society for Muscular Diseases.
He was president of the German Muscular Dystrophy Association (DGM) from 1986 to 1992; he later became an honorary member of the Association and received the golden pin of honor; president of European Alliance Muscular Dystrophy Associations (EAMDA) from 1987 to 1993 and in this position he was one of the founders of ENMC (Fig. 1); vice-president of the Gaetano Conte Academy (Naples) since 1991.
Despite his disability, he participated with the greatest interest in the developments of muscle research and as an invited speaker to numerous National and International Congresses in the world. I got to know Professor Rüdel personally in October 1991, on the occasion of the 1st International Congress on therapy of muscle dystrophies and related disorders, held in Sorrento (Italy) organised by Professor Giovanni Nigro. However, I had long heard of him as co-founder of the ENMC in December 1988 and organizer and president of the VII International Congress on Neuromuscular Diseases, held in Munich in the autumn of 1990, one of the largest such congress ever organized, with over 2,200 participants. Since then, a close collaboration began between our work group led by professor Giovanni Nigro and Professor Rüdel, and he visited Naples so frequently to consider it as a second home; I remember that, when the latter founded the Mediterranean Society of Myology in Ischia (1993), he strongly wanted Germany to be part of the society explaining that through the Danube which flows into the Black Sea Germany still had access to the Mediterranean Sea. He was appointed as vice-president of the Gaetano Conte Academy for the study of striated muscle diseases, founded by Giovanni Nigro in 1989 and he was a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Acta Myologica since 1991. He participated with enthusiasm to all the activities promoted by Giovanni Nigro in Naples, and by Prof. Diana Conte at the University, in Bari. From the first meetings, I was fascinated by his culture (he knew 10 languages) but most of all I have always admired his facing the adversities of life that certainly didn’t spare him. Despite everything, he was grateful to life for what it gave him and was always happy with his condition. His last visit to Naples was in May 2015 on the occasion of the XII Congress of the Mediterranean Society of Myology. I feel honored to have met Professor Rüdel, in my opinion one of the world’s greatest researchers in muscle research of the past generation, and I am grateful to Joachim Sproß, Federal Managing Director of DGM, who kindly provided me with a copy of the written tribute by Prof. em. Reinhard Dengler, Vice President of the DGM, and published in the magazine of the Association on the occasion of his 85th birthday in July 2022.
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