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PTB scientist Prof. Dr. Michael Kühne has been elected the new Director of the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM)

State Secretary Wuermeling: "The appointment emphasizes the leading role of Germany in international metrology"


In future, the international world of metrology will – in a prominent position – be occupied by a German scientist. Prof. Dr. Michael Kühne, a member of the Presidential Board of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) (National Metrology Institute of Germany), is the future Director of the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM), with its seat in Sèvres near Paris. This is the first time in the more than 130-year history of this institution that a German has been assigned this task. "I'm pleased", says Dr. Joachim Wuermeling, State Secretary responsible for technological policy in the Bundeswirtschaftsministerium (BMWi) (Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology), "that with Prof. Kühne an outstanding German metrologist has been found as future director of the BIPM. By this appointment, also the leading role of Germany in international metrology is emphasized." The PTB as national metrology institute belongs to the business area of the BMWi.

"I'm pleased about the confidence placed in me"says Michael Kühne, "and I hope that I am able to fulfil the expectations the metrological community has of me." The preconditions for this are by all means good; after all, Michael Kühne brings with him a scientific career in metrology as well as wide experience in scientific management – the latter he gained both in the PTB and also as Chairperson of the European metrology association EURAMET. These competences were then what led to a unanimous election result at this year's conference of the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM) – a choice which had to be made from 29 submitted applications.

Michael Kühne assumes office when the present BIPM Director, the Briton Prof. Dr. A.J. Wallard, retires, i.e. at the end of the year 2010. Kühne's office, which – with a preliminary run as associate director – will begin presumably in the first half of 2009, will fall in a metrologically exciting period of time, as currently a new definition of numerous physical units, for example the kilogram or the kelvin, is being hotly discussed. Hereby, a definition of the time-and-place-independent natural constants is aimed for.

The BIPM is at the same time the administrative coordinating point of the Meter Convention and also a metrological research institute. The Meter Convention is the supranational organisation in metrology to which currently 51 member states belong. The international system of metrology has major significance for the economy and society – it is the necessary prerequisite for highly precise measurements in research and technology, and it creates confidence in the accuracy of measurement values in everyday life. Two examples from the work of the BIPM are familiar to all citizens. Thus the BIPM accommodates the international prototype of the mass, the original kilogram. Against this metal cylinder made of a platinum/iridium alloy, all the other kilogram prototypes (also the German) must be measured. Another example is the coordinated universal time (UTC) which is calculated at the BIPM from the operation of the atomic clocks distributed worldwide.


From the curriculum vitae of Michael Kühne:

Michael Kühne was born in1949 in Celle, Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony). Following upon the study of physics, which he completed with a diploma in 1973 in Hannover, was a research stay at Harvard University, USA, financed by the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes (German National Merit Foundation). From 1974 to 1977, Michael Kühne worked as a scientific assistant at the Institut für Plasmaphysik (Institute of Plasma Physics) of the University of Hannover. After receiving a doctor's degree in 1977, Michael Kühne went to the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt in Berlin, where he participated in the setting up of the PTB laboratory for vacuum-ultraviolet radiometry at the Berlin electron storage ring BESSY, and then became the head of this laboratory in 1986. In 1991, Michael Kühne moved to "Thermometry" and assumed the position of head of the Department of Temperature and Heat. In 1992, the Habilitation (postdoctoral lecture qualification) in the Department of Physics of the University of Hannover was achieved by him with the appointment as associate professor; in 1996 came the appointment as adjunct professor.

In 2001, Michael Kühne went from Berlin to Braunschweig in order to assume the position of head of the Staff Office of the Presidential Board, and in 2003, to himself become a member of the Presidential Board. In the Presidential Board, Michael Kühne is particularly responsible for the international cooperation.

Michael Kühne is co-editor of the journal "Measurement Science and Technology" and a Fellow at the Institute of Physics in London. Since June 2006, Michael Kühne has been the Chairperson of the EURAMET, the cooperation of the European metrology institutes. The main focus of this cooperation of the national metrology institutes from 32 European states and the IRMM (Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements) of the European Commission is the realisation and further development of the international system of units (SI) as well as the dissemination to the economy, science and society in Europe.

Further information:
Prof. Dr. Michael Kühne
Member of the Presidential Board
Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)
Bundesallee 100, 38116 Braunschweig
Tel.: +49-531-592-3000
E-mail: michael.kuehne(at)ptb.de

PTB Press Office
Dr. Dr. Jens Simon
Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)
Bundesallee 100, 38116 Braunschweig
Tel.: +49-531-592-3005
E-mail: jens.simon(at)ptb.de