From human nutrition to the metabolism of the cell – this, in a nutshell, summarizes how the scientific focus of the institute has changed during the past more than 100 years. The eventful history of our institute began with the founding of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Occupational Physiology in Berlin in 1913 and has since been characterized by outstanding research achievements and by political, social and economic changes, and thus reflects German history in the 20th century. For almost 60 years the research work of the institute, which moved to Dortmund in 1929, was dedicated to the topics of work, performance and nutrition, before the focus changed and the research turned to human physiology and the molecular biosciences. Today research at the institute is in line with its scientific mission “from molecule to man”, which pursues a holistic approach to the investigation of the dynamic interactions of biomolecules in the interconnected information networks of the cell.


The Institute is founded in 1913 as Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Occupational Physiology in Berlin. 

In 1929 the former  Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut for Occupational Physiology moves from Berlin to Dortmund. 

Following the end of World War II, the German research landscape undergoes a re-organization: In 1948 The Max Planck Society evolves out of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society; the Dortmund institute becomes the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Occupational Physiology. 

In the late 1960s the Department of Nutrition Physiology becomes a separate independent institute. In 1973 the MPI for Occupational Physiology is renamed the MPI for Systems Physiology.

In the course of time, there is a change in the research focus at the institute. The scientists investigate the oxygen supply of the organs and determine the biological value of various proteins and the human requirements for minerals and vitamins. They continue to delve further into the world of cells and molecules.

The Max Planck Society implements this change with the founding of a new institute, a new building and a new name: After the merger of the two institutes for Systems Physiology and Nutritional Physiology in 1993, the institute receives its present name “Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology“. The construction of the new building on the campus of the University of Dortmund begins in 1996 and is completed in 1999.

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