Karl-Heinz Schleifer

Prof. Dr. rer. nat.

Former professor of microbiology
TUM School of Life Sciences

born February 10, 1939


Interview with TUM Emeritus of Excellence Karl-Heinz Schleifer

"Microorganisms awakened the researcher in me"

Staphylococcus schleiferi is a small living being, a bacterium. It owes its proud name to TUM alumnus Karl-Heinz Schleifer. But within an inch Staphylococcus schleiferi and some of its small friends may well have been named completely different. [read more]


From the very beginning of Karl-Heinz Schleifer’s academic career, he focused on the identification and classification of bacteria and was the first academic in Germany to develop the foundation of microbial hybridization probe analysis. Because of his work, it is possible today to detect and identify bacteria in waste water, food and other environmental samples without first cultivating them in a laboratory – thereby acquiring a wholly new insight into the microbial world. His ideas and visions have heavily influenced not only the results of numerous German Research Foundation (DFG) Collaborative Research Centers (SFB) and EU research projects, but also the work of his students. Karl-Heinz Schleifer made a significant contribution to the Technische Universität München’s position at the forefront of the field of biology with his exceptional research in microbiology, molecular biology and microbial ecology. He received the Körber European Science Award in 1995 for his scientific achievements. In 2001, he was designated a “highly cited researcher” by the renowned Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). From 2005 to 2008, he was president of the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS), which functions as an umbrella organization and international representative body for more than 100,000 microbiologists worldwide.


Short biography

1959 – 1964 Studies in biology, chemistry and geography, TH Munich
1967 1967 Doctorate in biology, TH Munich
1966 – 1969 1966-1969 Research associate, Institut für angewandte Botanik, TH Munich
1971 – 1974 1971-1974 Academic councillor and professor, LMU Munich
1972 1972 Superintendent director of the Department of Microbiology, LMU Munich
1979 – 1989 1979-1989 Appointments to departments at Technical University of Berlin and Hohenheim, Vienna
1974 – 2007 1974-2007 Professor of microbiology, TUM


Memberships an honors

Member of Bergey’s Manual Trust (Taxonomy of Prokaryotes) (since 1980)

Corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Veterinary Sciences, Madrid, Spain (since 1984)

Corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Göttingen (since 1987)

President of the German Society for Hygiene and Microbiology (DGHM) (1989-1992)

Secretary general of the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (1986-1994)

Member of the American Academy of Microbiology (since 1995)

Designated “highly cited researcher” of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) (2001)

Member of the academic advisory council of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen (1998-2004)

Member at large of the International Coordinating Committees of the American Society for Microbiology (1998-2004)

President of the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS) (2005-2008)

Honorary member of the Association for General and Applied Microbiology (VAAM) (2013)

Life Member of the International Committee for Systematic of Prokaryotes (2020)


Scientific projects

Contribution to the DFG´s Collaborative Research Center (SFB) on biotechnology (1980-1994)

Contribution to the EU project on lactobacteria (1988-1994)

Contribution to the DFG’s Collaborative Research Center (SFB) on waste water biotechnology (1995-2001)

Contribution to the EU project on pseudomonads (1994-2000)

Contribution to the EU project on protozoa (2000-2006)



  • Körber European Science Prize (1995)
  • Award fro, the Society for Hygiene and Environmental Medicine (1997)
  • Ferdinand Cohn Medal (2001)
  • Officer’s Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany (2006)
  • Bergey Medal from the Bergey Manual Trust (2009)
  • Lwoff Award from the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (2009)

You can download "Explanations of honors and awards" here [PDF 215 KB]