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In memoriam Siegfried Bauer

Founder of the Soft Matter Physics Division

(Karlsruhe, Germany 15 May 1961 – Linz, Austria 30 December 2018)

Siegfried Bauer, an internationally renowned, very creative applied physicist, who also was a prolific materials scientist and engineer, died on 30 December 2018 in Linz, Austria, after a one-year battle with cancer. He was full professor of soft-matter physics at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria, and a scientific leader and innovator across the fields, but mainly in the areas of electro-active materials (including electrets) and of stretchable and imperceptible electronics.


Siegfried Bauer was born on 15 May 1961 in the small village of Berghausen (Pfinztal) near Karlsruhe. He was the youngest son of a locksmith and a seamstress. His parents were also part-time farmers who owned a small plot of land including a vineyard. In the rural environment of his home village, he quickly develops a very open mind, curiosity about almost everything around him and a deep love of nature. During a long illness in his youth when he had to stay in a hospital bed for several months, he intensely studies mathematics and physics textbooks and subsequently becomes an excellent student. He was fortunate to find deep inspiration and support in his physics teacher, who further motivates him so that he decides to study physics at the University of Karlsruhe (now Karlsruhe Institute of Technology or KIT) from 1980 until 1986.

At his university, Siegfried quickly discovers some of the strange features of a traditional research and teaching institution and develops a critical attitude and a unique sense of humor about the academic establishment and its rituals. At the same time, however, he meets inspiring teachers and mentors who selflessly support and guide one of their most gifted students. Wolfgang Ruppel, full professor of applied physics, accepts him as Ph.D. student and encourages him to pursue his own research direction and to start working on ferroelectric polymers, which were at that time still quite often seen as an oddity or even considered “dirty physics” by the solid-state physics community. Siegfried Bauer kept very fond memories of Wolfgang Ruppel, recently stating he would still “go through thick and thin any day with his Ph.D. advisor”.

In 1990, Siegfried Bauer successfully defends his Ph.D. thesis on ferroelectric polymers with the rare grade summa cum laude. He continues to work as post-doctoral scientist at his alma mater, but also starts to teach at the Fachhochschule Karlsruhe and takes up research projects at the universities of Karlsruhe, Marburg and Stuttgart in Southern Germany. His expertise in research and teaching grows quickly, and his seminal work leads to several publications. At this time, he also meets his future wife Simona Gogonea who arrives on a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) scholarship from Bucharest, Romania. Siegfried and Simona marry soon (in 1991) and become very close companions in life and science.

In 1992, he joins the Heinrich Hertz Institute for Telecommunications (HHI) in Berlin-Charlottenburg as scientist and project manager. Within his team, he initiates and develops several new experimental techniques and achieves a large range of remarkable results that yield seminal publications mainly in the area of nonlinear optics and photonics with electrooptical polymers. For some of his excellent papers, Siegfried Bauer receives the Prize of the Information Technology Society (ITG) within the German VDE and the Kurt Ueberreiter Award of the Berlin-Brandenburg Society for Polymer Research (BVP), both in 1994. International collaborations take him to the École Polytechnique in Montréal, Québec, Canada (twice), to the University of Arizona in Tucson and to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and lead to several joint publications. When his mentor and life-long friend Reimund Gerhard moves to the University of Potsdam at the end of 1994, Siegfried Bauer becomes his successor as team leader at the HHI. Later Siegfried follows him to the University of Potsdam in order to prepare for his habilitation, and Simona Bauer-Gogonea who in 1995 received her Ph.D. from the Technical University (TU) of Berlin takes over as team leader.

Dr. Bauer’s very productive and successful years in Berlin and Potsdam culminate in his habilitation on “Poled polymers for applications in sensorics and photonics” which he defends in 1996 at the University of Potsdam. In 1997, he receives the prestigious Karl Scheel Award of the Physikalische Gesellschaft zu Berlin (PGzB) within the German Physical Society (DPG). After his appointment as lecturer (Privat-Dozent) at the University of Potsdam, he receives offers from a number of universities and accepts a position as Associate Professor at the Johannes Kepler University (JKU) in Linz, Austria, where he starts in October 1997. In 2002, Siegfried Bauer is appointed full University Professor of Experimental Physics and establishes the division of Soft Matter Physics at his university. He soon becomes one of the most successful, most influential and most recognised scientific researchers and academic teachers at the JKU Linz.

During more than 20 years in Linz, Siegfried Bauer further developed a unique style of research and teaching together with his team. His approach to science starts with open questions and includes unconventional or orthogonal “out-of-the-box” ways of thinking in a playful manner. In Siegfried’s view, occasional failure is not only taken into account, but is seen as a necessary condition for eventual success because we learn mainly from mistakes and failures – just like our children and our best students. The essence of Siegfried Bauer’s research and teaching “philosophy” is probably its focus on the human beings who are the actors of the scientific process, who enjoy to play and to develop like children, who need (and want) to exchange ideas and to work together, who naturally bring a rich diversity of talents and competences to the process, and who always need to overcome inherent restrictions from traditions, conventions, rulebooks, etc.

Siegfried Bauer’s approach overcomes boundaries between disciplines, between theory and application, between different cultures and countries, between arts and sciences, between philosophy and engineering, and – last, but not least – between seriousness and playfulness. Maybe his style is best characterised with the words of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg who wrote around 1795: “The science of electricity is, along the common path, now so well trodden and scoured that nothing is to be gained anymore on the highway – one must march cross-country and leap over ditches. This method which one could well call unmethodical is, by the way, to be recommended very much indeed.”[1] Siegfried Bauer himself occasionally referred to Paul Feyerabend, the Austrian/US-American philosopher of science, and his book “Against Method: Outline of an Anarchist Theory of Knowledge” in 1975.[2] Given his unconventional approach, it was probably unavoidable that Siegfried Bauer sometimes caused anger and resistance among his scientific peers, since he questioned beloved certainties and authoritative conventions in a playful manner and often used Socratic probing in his thinking and teaching. And when he felt that creative, well-founded new approaches were ruled “nonsense”, he stepped in and defended the right to think differently and to err, as there is no absolute truth.

Over the past two decades, the very original and highly creative “Bauer approach” yielded impressive successes and results in research and teaching within the Soft Matter Physics division at the JKU Linz. Only a few particularly noteworthy examples are mentioned in the following:

  • With his foresight and insight, Siegfried Bauer significantly advanced the new field of polymer ferroelectrets that began in Finland and that he named and led to a lasting success story in research and engineering together with his peers all over the world.
  • Siegfried Bauer’s new concepts and research in the area of flexible and stretchable polymer-based electronics led to fundamental advances and to the development of practical devices – sometimes in close collaboration with international partners. His team in Linz successfully demonstrated several essential steps to lead the way from “crazy ideas” to technically feasible applications. Siegfried made important contributions to a new way of thinking about active soft matter and its technical use.
  • Starting from the notion that devices suitable for people should not disturb the user and should ideally not even be perceived by the user, Siegfried Bauer and his team – together with international partners – spearheaded the development of imperceptible and biocompatible electronics including sensors, actuators and displays. In this area, the research of the Linz group is very quickly adopted and successfully advanced by other teams all over the world, and it is sometimes underestimated how much the new field owes to Siegfried Bauer’s visionary and playful creativity.
  • In his last paper just published in the American Journal of Physics, Siegfried and his team used a high-speed camera in the foyer of a high-rise university building to follow the fall of paper cones with high precision. From a critical assessment of the results, it is concluded that the philosophical differences between Aristotle and Galileo about falling objects disappear if the implicitly included conditions of each situation are explicitly taken into account. The underlying experiments and their careful analysis can be employed to teach about multiple possibilities of objects to fall in different situations. In this case, direct experimental evidence helps to develop a more precise physical thinking already in high schools and also later in universities.

The unusual approach and the deep insight of Siegfried Bauer and his research team yielded not only many highly cited and internationally recognised publications, but led also to several awards and honors. Here, we only mention the awarding of a rare and prestigious Advanced Investigator Grant by the European Research Council (ERC) for Siegfried Bauer in 2011 and his appointments as fellow by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for “contributions to the understanding and application of electroactive polymer dielectrics” and by the Society of Photo-Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) for “achievements in plastic electronic devices and soft matter physics” in late 2015 and late 2018, respectively.

As documented in his publications, Siegfried Bauer had many professional and personal friends and scientific collaborators all over the world – from Israel to Ireland, Canada to China, New Zealand to North America. He was an active contributor to several learned societies, to international conferences and to leading scientific and technical journals, e.g. as Associate Editor and Member of the Editorial Board of Applied Physics A (Springer), Applied Physics Review (AIP), Extreme Mechanics Letters (Elsevier), IEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation (IEEE DEIS), and Proceedings of the Royal Society A (The Royal Society); as member or co-chair of conference steering committees for the Conference on Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (SPIE), the International Conference on Electromechanically Active Polymer Transducers and Artificial Muscles (EuroEAP Society), the International Symposium on Electrets (IEEE Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Society), Symposia of the Materials Research Society (MRS), etc. In addition, Siegfried was in high demand as an experienced, polite and careful reviewer for several international journals and high-level funding agencies.

The international scientific community and the Johannes Kepler University Linz have lost an unusual and unusually successful researcher and teacher, a beautiful mind and a very special person – and last, but not least a very good friend. Siegfried Bauer was a man full of curiosity; with a unique view on the wide world and on his environment; always keen to learn from every experience and even from his failures; a person who trusted his friends and colleagues as well as his own abilities, but who also knew his limitations; equipped with a skeptical, questioning attitude towards so-called authorities and established knowledge; with a great sense of humor that was sometimes very special, but never offensive; someone who enjoyed lateral thinking and finding unusual, but convincing solutions to any problem that interested him – and there were many scientific and non-scientific problems that attracted Siegfried’s searching mind.

Siegfried is survived by his wife Simona, his daughter Lara, his son Lukas, his mother, and two of his brothers. His family, his friends and colleagues all over the world, his university, his former and present students, and others who knew him will tremendously miss Siegfried Bauer, but will always remember him as a very special person full of humor and empathy and as an inspiring and supporting companion and guide. His memory, his philosophy and his work will remain alive in and through all who met him.

Reimund Gerhard, University of Potsdam and IEEE DEIS
Martin Kaltenbrunner, Johannes Kepler University Linz


Additional sources for information about Siegfried Bauer:

https://scilog.fwf.ac.at/en/environment-and-technology/5076/only-those-who-fail-can-progress, opens an external URL in a new window
https://www.jku.at/en/institute-of-experimental-physics/soft-matter-physics/about-us/team/siegfried-bauer/, opens an external URL in a new window

[1] From the entry K384 in a scrap book (“Sudelbuch”) for 1793-1796 by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. Original German text: “Die Lehre von der Elektrizität ist jetzt da, wo man gewöhnlich passiert, so abgetreten und abgesucht, dass an der Heerstraße nichts mehr zu gewinnen ist; man muss querfeldein marschieren und über die Gräben setzen. Diese Methode, die man wohl die unmethodische nennen könnte, ist überhaupt nebenher sehr zu empfehlen.”
[2] Published 1975 in London. German title: “Wider den Methodenzwang.” Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1976.

Condolence book

SoMaP Team

Siegfried, your passion for research and your unconventional approach to science and life itself has kindled a fire in us that will allow us to vividly carry on your legacy. Thank you for being an inspiration, mentor, friend and selfless fighter for us during all those years that we could share together. You will always remain in our hearts.

To add your note to the condolence book, please click on the following link.

Prof. Meinhard Lukas, Rector of the JKU

The JKU lost with Prof. Siegfried Bauer one of its most visionary Researcher and most gifted Teacher. His scientific oeuvre was highly influential for the Physics and Engineering communities worldwide.  We bow with utmost respect and gratitude to the life achievements of Prof. Bauer. All our compassion goes to his family and friends.

Xunlin Qiu, TU Chemnitz

Siegfried, I am so sorry to hear about your passing. Your way of doing science, your talents for delivering fascinating lectures and your nice personality are always a wonder for me. Thank you for your kindness, inspiration and encouragement over the years. You will be deeply missed!

Dr. Yosi Bar-Cohen, JPL/Caltech

It is very sad that we lost Professor Bauer. Looking at his smiley face in his photos, it is hard to believe that he is no longer with us. Besides being wonderful person and great scientist with amazing range of interest topics, he had great sense of humor and pleasure to be his friend. Our EAP community is missing him.

Michael Dickey, NC State University

A beautiful tribute to someone who I considered as a hero, mentor, and friend. His innovative and creative approach is something I always valued. Siegried will be sorely missed although his legacy lives on through all the people he inspired.

Guggi Kofod

Dear Siegfried, I am deeply saddened and moved to learn of your passing. I have thoroughly enjoyed working and playing with you, and was happy to receive your encouragement to continue exploring and reporting on "crazy ideas." Your inspiration to explore both old and new ideas will be thoroughly missed.

Anne Ladegaard Skov, Technical University of Denmark

It is with great sadness that I hear about the death of Siegfried Bauer. He has been such a great inspiration, especially with his playful approach to science, and he has paved the way for electroactive polymers to become regarded as cool. Our EAP community will be missing him.

Zhongyang Cheng, Auburn University

Siegfried, beloved friend!
I miss you, we miss you, your students miss you, our community miss you, and this whole world misses you!
I/we miss the opportunity to discuss our research results with you, to exchange ideas with you, to share both joy and difficulty with you, and more importantly to laugh together.
Siegfried, You are still here with us. Yes, you are!
Your legacy is forever.
Your vision is still guiding us!
Your curiosity about nature, your passion for research and teaching, and your love and kindness to your peers/friends and students are still here for us to learn and to follow.
Thank you, beloved friend, for being an inspiration, mentor, supporter and leader for us!

Siegfried, beloved friend:
Soft matter physics is your easygoing personality.
Inspiration is your legacy.
Encouragement is your characteristic.
Greatness is your mark.
Ferroelectrets are your children.
Resistance you’ve conquered.
Insulators are your subjects.
Electrets are your love.
Dielectrics are for you to direct.

SIEGFRIED, beloved friend, YOU will always remain in our hearts!

Zhenan Bao, K.K. Lee Professor of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University

Siegfried is one of the pioneers in stretchable electronics. His kindness, his creativity and his work will always be remembered.

Takao Someya, University of Tokyo

I am sad to learn that Siegfried passed away. What I can do from now is to keep telling his idea and contributions to the community.

Sigurd Wagner, Princeton University

Siegfried was unique – he was the cheerful explorer par excellence. He had a keen sense for where uncharted territory might lie. Siegfried commanded the intellectual and physical tools to travel into the unknown and to recognize valuable finds. These he fully embraced. On the one hand he placed his discoveries into a physical framework. On the other hand he sized up their applicability; he went on to demonstrate it, often to stunning effect. Siegfried’s probing mind, his can-do attitude, and his enthusiasm were infectious. All of us -students, colleagues, the wider community of soft matter physics- will remember Siegfried the inspiring teacher and explorer.

Gursel Alici, University of Wollongong

I am very sorry to hear about the loss of Prof Siegfried Bauer, who I met for the time when I visited Johannes Kepler University in 2010. He was very kind and generous with his time to take me to his laboraory to talk about some exciting research projects he was leading. Last time, I saw him at the MRS 2017 meeting in Boston, where he delivered an invited talk on soft matter which was a brilliant talk. He was looking healthy and perfectly fine. He will be badly missed. My heart-felt condolonces to his family and friends. Rest-in-peace beautiful person!

Pradeep Sharma, University of Houston

I got to know Siegfried much later in his life; just about two years before his unfortunate passing away. In this short time, he delighted me with his kindness, a great sense of humor and such incredible openness to collaboration. I feel privileged that I was able to work on a topic that he enjoyed very much and co-authored a paper with him that was published just a month before he left us. This was an idea the we hatched together when he visited University of Houston to give a highly memorable seminar.

Fabio Cicoira, Polytechnique Montréal

Siegfried has been an example for all of us. A great researcher, an amazing innovator and an incredibly nice man with a wonderful sense of humour.

Barbara Stadlober, Joanneum Research

Siegfried, you will always remain in my heart as an enthusiastic scientist, inspiring mentor and good friend. I am grateful for everything I have learned from you.

Bernhard Jakoby, JKU Linz

Siegfried Bauer's achievements as scientist are well documented. I may add that for me he was one of the few physicists, who virtually always provided comments yielding significant insight whenever I discussed a problem with him - particularly also in those cases, when the subject was beyond soft matter physics. Apart from these qualities, I will miss his generosity, his sense of humor and irony, his refreshing disrespect for megalomania and pretentious pomposity - we shared quite some laughs in this respect. He was also one of the few vacuum electronics/vintage radio enthusiasts I know and our discussions on these topics will also be missed. Thanks for your friendship and many refreshing encounters, Siegfried - your spirit and your works will not be forgotten!

Martin Preuss and Kirsten Severing, Wiley-VCH

With great sadness we have received the news of Siegfried Bauer’s death.
Siegfried Bauer, longtime author and reviewer for the Advanced Materials journal family, Wiley book-author, and advisory board member of Advanced Materials Technology and Advanced Science has lost his fight against cancer.
Shortly after our last meeting at the Materials Research Society in Boston in late 2017, Siegfried informed us of his diagnosis, which came as a shock. We always enjoyed our meetings with him, his critical but constructive advice, and his friendly and warm personality. Those of us who have met Siegfried got to know him as an interesting and entertaining person to talk to, and an excellent scientist who held unconventional views that were sometimes contrary to scientific mainstream beliefs.
Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues—the Advanced editorial team.

Enis Tuncer, Texas Instruments Incorporated

I would like to express my condolences for Prof. Bauer. He was a brilliant mind and a leader in his field. He has challenged and inspired many of us such that the physics of dielectrics and application of such materials advanced with his great contributions. I am deeply saddened by the news. In this tough time, may my friendship, sympathy and heartfelt condolences bring his friends and family comfort.

Jan van Turnhout, TU Delft, Netherlands

We will remember Siegfried not only for his scientific achievements, but also for his pleasant personality. In many respects he has been a role model.
He was profoundly involved in the organization of the International Symposium on Electrets (ISE16) in Leuven (Belgium). He played a key role in making it a successful gathering, for which all participants are posthumously grateful to him.
It was him who give at ISE16 an excellent remembrance speech in honor of the late Prof. Eisenmenger. It is tragic that two years later we are sadly going to remember and honor him at ISE17 in Limerick (Ireland).
One of his many remarkable achievements was, together with Ploss, the derivation of an easy to use close approximation for the internal charge distribution in electrets from LIMM experiments. He and Ploss will be credited for this for many years to come.
We like to pass on our heartfelt condolences to his wife and two children.

Dorina Opriș, EMPA

Am primit cu inima îndurerată vestea trecerii la veşnicie a lui Siegfried. Îmi amintesc, de parcă ar fi fost ieri, conferinţa EuroEAP din Potsdam unde în timpul cinei mi-a povestit de tine şi de copii voştri. Am simţit cât de mult vă iubeşte. Regret pierderea pe care o aveţi. Îmi amintesc ultima conferinţa ISE16 la care ne-am văzut. Îmi amintesc spunîndui “Bye bye”, neştiind că acesta va fi ultimul “Bye bye”. Regret, e trist. Nu sunt cuvinete destule care să aline această pierdere. Am apreciat foarte mult discuţiile ştiinţifice pe care le-am avut, îndumările pe care mi le-a dat şi tovărăşia lui. Îl voi purta veşnic cu un zâmbet pe fată în amintirile mele.
În aceste zile dureroase, vă doresc să aveţi putere să treceţi peste aceste momente grele.
Dumnezeu să-l odihnească în pace!

Dario Floreano, EPFL

Dear Siegfried, thank you so much for your original and rigorous scientific contributions, your honest and unconventional views of the scientific world, and your trustworthy and warm personality. You have left a mark and we will miss you, but we are determined to realise the research program that we started together until you had leave and we hope that you will like the results.

Iain Anderson, Biomimetics Lab, Auckland

We at the Biomimetics Lab are all very upset by the news. Siegfried was
a great ally for our lab. He recognized the work we were doing in EAP 10
years ago, inviting us to publish our first EAP journal paper in his
Applied Physics A Journal. This was just the start of our relationship
with him; his letters of support and evaluation of research theses were
helpful to us along with his wisdom and advice. He broke so much new
ground in our field! We have lost a great friend and ally.

German dinner in honour of Siegfried with genuine "Linzer Torte"

Simonetta Grilli, CNR - ISASI, Italy

I would like to express my condolences for Prof. Bauer. Unfortunately I did not have the chance to meet him personally, but I know that he was a brilliant scientist and I had the honor to have a joint research project together. We all hope to be able to honor his memory with our work and I want to express my closeness to the family in this difficult moment.

Jan Vanfleteren, IMEC, Belgium

I did not meet Siegfried that often, but I very clearly remember the occasions where I did (e.g. an MRS fall symposium in Boston, which he chaired and invited me for a presentation or the Flex/Stretch workshop in Berlin where we invited him and where he actively participated). At these occasions our interaction was very inspiring for me, but at the same time very pleasant and entertaining. I liked a lot his positivism and his strong drive to explore and brainstorm about new scientific horizonts.
I would like to offer my sincere condoleances to all of you who were very close to Siegfried, but especially to his wife and children. The empty space Siegfried leaves in their lives must be enormous and therefore I wish them lots of strength and courage in this difficult period.

Luisa Petti, Free University of Bolzano-Bozen

It is so sad to hear about the death of Prof. Siegfried Bauer. He was such an excellent scientist and a wonderful person. His death is a great loss for the entire scientific community. All my compassion goes to his family and friends

Wei Ren, Xi’an Jiaotong University, China

Dear Siegfried, I lost you as a good friend forever. You were such a brilliant scientist and a good friend.
I still remember that we first met in the winter of 1992. It was my first time travelling to Europe to join Reimund’s group in HHI. After eight-day intercontinental train across China, Russia and East Europe, I finally arrived in Berlin and you were on the platform of Berlin Train Station to meet me. I had a great time in Berlin for the research on NLO polymers. You liked Chinese food, especially, Chinese glass noodles made by my wife. You even asked the recipe of it from my wife and made Chinese glass noodle for your mom. 
After I returned to China, I had invited you to visit China many times. Due to various reasons, you could not make it. You finally came to Xi’an, China for the workshop on dielectrics in Oct. 2017. You gave an excellent talk. During your visit, we talked about the future collaboration. However, you wrote to me in Dec. 2017 about your illness.
Dear Siegfried, I will always remember you!

Giuseppe Cantarella – ETH Zurich/University of Bolzano - Bozen

I had the fortune to attend a talk of Prof. Bauer at the early stage of my scientific career. He was not only an incredible scientist and a representative researcher in the world and in Europe, but he was also a passionate speaker, capable to instill joy and love to a young boy who was new in the field.