Prof. Wahlster honored for lifetime achievement – Hall of Fame of German Research

Bild der Pressemitteilung

Hall of Fame of German Research, Simone Salden, Deputy Editor-in-Chief manager magazin (left), Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster, Founding Director German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence – DFKI (2nd from left), Prof. Dr. Claudia Felser, Director Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids (2nd from right), Dr. Michael Kröher, Editor manager magazin (right). Photo: Tamina-Florentine Zuch for manager magazin

Computer scientist, founding director, and long-time CEO of DFKI, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster, was inducted into the Hall of Fame of German Research, initiated by “manager magazin” in 2009, at a festive appointment ceremony at the New Institute in Hamburg on Oct. 12, 2023. Prof. Dr. Claudia Felser, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids, was also honored. In addition, the Curious Minds Research Awards were presented to two young, excellent researchers in the categories “Digitization, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence” and “Mobility, Energy and Sustainable Business.”

The Hall of Fame of German Research has been honoring exceptionally successful personalities from academic and industrial research since 2009. The laudator for Prof. Wahlster was Prof. Dr. Margret Wintermantel, Professor Emeritus of Social Psychology, former President of Saarland University, the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD): “I warmly congratulate Wolfgang Wahlster on this award, which honors a scientist who very early on saw the connection between computer science and the human sciences, especially psychology and linguistics – and also built this bridge stably with his research. His understanding of human-computer interaction has opened new perspectives and shaped our thinking about the many benefits of AI.”

Laureate Prof. Wahlster expressed his gratitude: “The appointment to the Hall of Fame is a great honor, and I thank the initiators, the jury, and the laudator very much for this great recognition of my scientific work over the last 45 years.” And stated, “Especially in today’s world, it is important that in the topic that has fascinated me as a researcher for decades, machine language processing, such an honor highlights the importance of deep understanding capabilities for speech dialog systems. Human-technology interaction should reach a level where humans and machines can work together hand in hand and have dialogues at eye level. AI will increasingly flow into decision-making processes. These decisions must be questioned, and computers must be able to explain them reliably and comprehensibly in dialog. My great thanks go to the Saarland and its university, the DFKI, the German Research Foundation, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the Federal Ministry of Economics for the massive funding my research teams have received over the past 45 years – and I sincerely thank my wife and children for their support and great understanding, even though often my life as a researcher has too often limited my time for the family.”

Prof. Dr. Antonio Krüger, the current CEO of DFKI, is delighted: “I warmly congratulate Prof. Wahlster, my predecessor in the position of DFKI CEO, for this highly deserved tribute to his life’s work and would like to thank him personally and on behalf of all employees for his decades of successful leadership of DFKI. Today, a research personality is being honored who, like hardly any other AI scientist worldwide, has shaped the multifaceted topic of artificial intelligence in individual areas, addressed it in large projects and even larger alliances, and anchored it in German and European politics as an important topic for the future. In doing so, it was and is application-oriented and international in its orientation, partnership-based in its work, and rich in its results. But it is also important to note that of equal importance to his research has been his role as an academic teacher, which, to the amazement of many colleagues, he has always taken seriously.”
The scientific board of trustees, responsible for selection proposals, includes the presidents of the Max Planck Society, the Fraunhofer Society, and the German Academy of Science and Engineering. The jury, which makes the final decision on the selection, comprises top executives from German companies, including board members from Siemens, Daimler, and Trumpf. Prof. Wahlster has already been immortalized on the “Wall of Fame of the Pioneers of the Digital World” at the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum in Paderborn (HNF), the world’s largest computer museum, since 2004. He is recognized there for his work on the Verbmobil interpretation system as the only German for the Artificial Intelligence field on the digital Wall of Honor.

In 2014, he was inducted into Computerwoche’s “Hall of Fame of the Greatest IT Personalities” for life. Prof. Wahlster is now the second IT specialist from Saarland – after Professor Scheer, who was honored as a pioneer in business informatics and also inducted into both Halls of Fame (2014 and 2017). Both have been loyal to Saarland University throughout their professional lives as professors and have not accepted any of the many calls to other universities. Wahlster has been an honorary citizen of his native city of Saarbrücken since 2019. He is also a recipient of the Saarland Order of Merit, a Saarland Ambassador, and was awarded the Cross of Merit by the German President in 2019.


About DFKI

The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) has operated as a non-profit, Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) since 1988. Today, it maintains sites in Kaiserslautern, Saarbrücken, Bremen, Niedersachsen, laboratories in Berlin and Darmstadt, as well as branches in Lübeck and Trier.

DFKI combines scientific excellence and commercially-oriented value creation with social awareness and is recognized as a major “Center of Excellence” by the international scientific community. In the field of artificial intelligence, DFKI has focused on the goal of human-centric AI for more than 30 years. Research is committed to essential, future-oriented areas of application and socially relevant topics. Currently, with a staff of about 1,560 employees from more than 76 countries, DFKI is developing the innovative software technologies of tomorrow. The financial budget was 82.6 million euros in 2022.


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