The faculty mourns Hans J. Specht

The faculty mourns the death of Prof Dr Hans J. Specht, * 6 June 1936 † 20 May 2024, who passed away at the age of 87. Hans Specht was an internationally recognised scientist, an enthusiastic and inspiring university lecturer and a valued colleague. He began his career in 1956 by studying physics at the University of Munich, where he graduated in 1962 under Heinz Maier-Leibnitz and was awarded his doctorate in 1964. After years as an assistant from 1964 to 1965 and a stay abroad at the Canadian Chalk River AECL laboratory from 1965 to 1968, he returned to the Physics Department at the University of Munich in 1969, initially as a research assistant, and after his habilitation in 1970 he was appointed Scientific Counsellor and Professor there in 1971. In 1973 he was appointed full professor at the Physikalisches Institut, where he remained until his retirement in 2004.

His research began with work on atomic and nuclear physics. A much-noted highlight was the identification of a rotational band in 240Pu in 1972, which proved for the first time the extreme deformation of an isomer shortly before fission. In the course of these investigations, Hans Specht developed a large number of large-scale detectors for the detection of fission fragments and reaction products of collisions between heavy ions and thus became one of the leading experimentalists in the newly constituted field of "heavy-ion physics" with experiments at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg and at the newly founded Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung (GSI) in Darmstadt.

In the early 1980s, influenced by research stays at the European research centre CERN, his research goals were focused on the collisions between relativistic heavy ions available at the SPS accelerator there. As spokesman and leading head of two important experiments (NA45/CERES and NA60), he succeeded in detecting thermally produced dilepton pairs, and thus a first indication for the identification of the quark-gluon plasma as a component of Big Bang matter. With his strong support and foresight, the teams from GSI and the neighbouring universities were put together that were significantly involved in the construction and execution of the flagship experiment ALICE at CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

Independently of his research in nuclear and particle physics, Hans Specht also worked with Hans-Guenter Dosch from Heidelberg on the physics of music perception and musical instruments. In addition to many lectures and presentations at symposia, this work has resulted in two highly regarded scientific publications in Nature Neuroscience.

Hans Specht also provided forward-looking impulses for nuclear and particle physics as Scientific Managing Director of GSI (1992 - 1999) and (1995 - 1999) as a member of the Scientific Policy Committee of CERN. During his time at GSI, the successful tumour therapy programme for the irradiation of (mainly) brain tumours with 12C ions was developed under his leadership, which is now in clinical application at the HIT programme of the Heidelberg Cancer Research Centre DKFZ. He has been a member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities since 2000.

With Hans Specht, we have lost a committed scientist who was at the forefront of research until the very end. We will honour his memory.