Obituary for Hans-Rainer Duncker
July 1, 1933 - November 29, 2023
Peter Langer, Robert Snipes, Wieland Stöckmann, Klaus-Peter Valerius
We mourn the loss of Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans-Rainer Duncker. He was born in Hamburg in 1933. After studying biology and human medicine in Hamburg, Tübingen, Kiel and Vienna, he received his doctorate in both subjects. He was particularly influenced by Prof. Wolfgang Bargmann and Prof. Adolf Remane during his studies. Hans-Rainer Duncker worked on the pigmentation of reptiles and on the anatomy of bird lungs, which he was the first to describe and thus define their terminology. In 1969 he habilitated in the subject of anatomy. He was then appointed full professor at the Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology in Giessen in 1971. There he was instrumental in the planning of the current institute building. His work continued to focus on the comparative anatomy of vertebrates, especially bird lungs, as well as the comparison of the development of nest-roosting and nest-fleeing birds and later also of mammalian lungs. Professor Duncker had close ties to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, and spent several extended research stays there.
He was one of the first to recognize the importance of image processing for his field of work and set up a department at the institute specifically for this purpose.
In later years, his interest focused on human evolution and the biological and cultural processes involved. In doing so, he made particular use of his comprehensive ability to grasp and depict the larger, overarching relationships. His scientific work resulted in many impressively illustrated publications, which he produced in collaboration with his graphic designer. The most beautiful and informative of these illustrations, which were published in numerous specialist journals, were also used in detailed articles on the science page of the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" and in the popular American science magazine "Scientific American".
His teaching activities included the extensive courses at the Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology as well as teaching at the Department of Biology at the Justus Liebig University Giessen, where he organized with great dedication a vertebrate morphological part of the large-scale practical course in zoology. He was the sole author of the chapter on the respiratory system in "Benninghoff", the standard work on human anatomy for students of human medicine.
Prof. Duncker received two appointments to chairs of anatomy and zoology, both of which he declined. He was President of the German Zoological Society. He became emeritus in 2001. On November 29, 2023, Prof. Duncker passed away in Hamburg at the age of 90.
It is with deep gratitude and respect that we remember the deceased, who was a reliable, inspiring, fair and Hanseatically disciplined teacher and boss for many years at the Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology in the Department of Human Medicine at Justus Liebig University Giessen.
Prof. Dr. Peter Langer, Prof. Dr. Robert Snipes, Dr. Wieland Stöckmann and Dr. Dr. Klaus-Peter Valerius