MedUni Vienna mourns the loss of Hans Tuppy

(c) Maya Mckechneay
(c) Maya Mckechneay

In Hans Tuppy, Austria has lost an internationally recognised biochemist, committed teacher and visionary science politician. Hans Tuppy died in Vienna at the age of 99. In addition to numerous other functions, Tuppy was Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Vienna, now MedUni Vienna, from 1970 to 1972, with which he was closely associated until the end of his life.

Hans Tuppy was born in Vienna on 22 July 1924. Both his father and his brother fell victim to the war and the Nazi regime. After graduating from high school in 1942, Hans Tuppy studied chemistry at the University of Vienna under Ernst Späth and Friedrich Wessely, among others. After graduating in 1948, his career path led him to Cambridge on the recommendation of future Nobel Prize winner Max Perutz, where he worked in the world-famous laboratory of Fred Sanger on the first sequencing of a protein, insulin, for which Fred Sanger was to receive his first Nobel Prize.

Hans Tuppy’s next career step took him to the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen, from where he returned to the University of Vienna in 1951. There he first worked as an assistant at the Second Institute of Chemistry at the University of Vienna and finally, from 1963, as a full professor at the newly created Institute of Biochemistry at the Medical Faculty of the University of Vienna. Hans Tuppy was Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Vienna (now the Medical University of Vienna) from 1970 to 1972 and Rector of the University of Vienna and Chairman of the Austrian Rectors’ Conference from 1983 to 1985. His research activities were always wide-ranging. In addition to his biochemical work on various interesting enzymes and peptides, he also conducted research in the field of hormones, nucleic acids and viruses. Several of his scientific papers dealt with new findings in blood group chemistry.

Hans Tuppy was not only an internationally recognised biochemist, but was also actively involved in science policy, where he successfully campaigned for the further development of Austria as a research location. He was involved in the formulation of the Research Promotion Act, which led to the creation of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). His many years as president of the FWF set international standards in terms of peer review and project funding, thus laying the foundations for the success of Austrian science. As a visionary with international experience, Hans Tuppy also played a key role in the founding of the Vienna BioCentre.

From 1985 to 1987, he was President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. From 1987 to 1989 he was Federal Minister for Science and Research. Tuppy then returned to science and remained active in teaching even after his retirement. Hans Tuppy was a valued member of the Max Perutz Labs at the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna until his old age.

Hans Tuppy received numerous honours for his work: In addition to various honorary doctorates and the Austrian Decoration of Honour for Science and Art as well as the Wilhelm Exner Medal, he was awarded the Ludwig Wittgenstein Prize of the Austrian Research Foundation and was the recipient of the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with the Star for Services to the Republic of Austria. In 2019, he received the Badge of Honour of the Medical University of Vienna.