He studied physics at Justus-Liebig-Universität in Giessen and Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck and completed his studies with a Ph.D. at the University of Giessen, Germany, in 1971. In 1976, he moved to the department of nuclear chemistry at GSI in Darmstadt, Germany, which was headed by Peter Armbruster. He played a leading role in the construction of SHIP, the 'Separator of Heavy Ion Reaction Products'. He was the driving force in the discovery of the cold heavy ion fusion and the discovery of the elements bohrium (Z = 107), hassium (Z = 108), meitnerium (Z = 109), darmstadtium (Z = 110), roentgenium (Z = 111), and copernicium (Z = 112). In 1984, he became head of the new GSI project, the fragment separator, a project which opened new research topics, such as interactions of relativistic heavy ions with matter, production and separation of exotic nuclear beams and structure of exotic nuclei. He directed the Nuclear Structure and Nuclear Chemistry department of the GSI and was professor of physics at the University of Mainz until he retired in March 2005.
Gottfried Münzenberg was born into a family of Protestant ministers (father Pastor Heinz and mother Helene Münzenberg). All his life he has been deeply concerned about the philosophical and theological implications of physics.
Among the rewards he received should be mentioned the Röntgen-Prize of the University of Giessen in 1983 and (together with Sigurd Hofmann) the Otto-Hahn-Prize of the city of Frankfurt/Main in 1996.
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