Getting the whole picture

The lights were threatening to go out early on a unique Research Group conducting a legal comparison of over 30 Islamic legal systems governing the family and inheritance. For Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto, however, the importance of this subject was obvious and she acted immediately.

"Basic research offers the unique chance to really get to the bottom of things." This view held by the young scientist Nadjma Yassari harmonizes perfectly with the conviction of her patron Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto: "There is incredible innovative energy in basic research. It represents a cultural duty that we must face up to."

When Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto became aware of a financial bottleneck at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, she followed her words with deeds. Because the research project "God's law in flux" was threatened with closure in spite of its legal and political significance. The Research Group compares family law and inheritance law in Islamic countries and draws conclusions for dealing with different legal cultures. The work of the Research Group is growing in importance by the day, against the background of increased immigration. This was Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto's spontaneous conviction. So, she didn’t think twice about leaping into the breach with a generous donation.

This research unit led by Nadjma Yassari is one of a kind in the world and devotes its time to the cross-disciplinary study and comparison of over 30 legal systems whose family and inheritance laws are based wholly or partially on the religious laws of Islam. This enables the Group to transfer basic legal research both to German jurisprudence and to legal practice. The German courts must know the law of Islamic countries that has to be applied here in exactly the same way as Italian, Turkish or Spanish law. Many authorities are relying with increasing frequency on expert reports by the Group working with Nadjma Yassari.

"I can't tell you how much your support motivates me and spurs me on...!" The scientist's gratitude came from the bottom of her heart. "The Max Planck family offers ideal conditions for intellectual development. [It] ... allows me not only to conduct research and write scientific papers on my work but also to convey my findings to the (...) public and contribute towards enriching and broadening discussions on this subject that is so politically and socially relevant."

With this generous contribution, the widow of Peter Engelhorn also commemorated her husband whose life's work she is continuing by her continuous commitment to science over many years. Peter Engelhorn was a shareholder in the Boehringer Mannheim Group and Chairman of the Supervisory Board for many years. He and his wife Traudl, a publisher and editor from Vienna, shared friendships with the behavioural researcher Konrad Lorenz (Nobel Prize 1973, Max Planck Institute for Behavioural Physiology) and the biochemist Benno Hess (Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology). This led to ever-greater contact with the network of Max Planck scientists, which kindled their enthusiasm still further. From there it was but a short distance to becoming a Member of the Max Planck Society and a regular sponsor using the private wealth of the Engelhorn family.

Since the early death of Peter Engelhorn in 1991, his widow has devoted her energies increasingly to the foundations and associations they set up together. Together with her four daughters, she supports numerous research projects, publications, scientific conferences as well as cultural ventures in the field of music.

Science is her second passion after art: "Science is striving to preserve, shape and advance the quality of life on Earth for the future", Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto concludes. "That is why I regard it as extremely important that research and hard work are imbued with the same spirit. For example, the Peter and Traudl Engelhorn Foundation funds junior scientists in biotechnology and gene technology as well as research projects in the biosciences, biotechnology and gene technology through scholarships for outstanding junior scientists, and it awards a research prize endowed with 10,000 euros on a two-year cycle. Some Max Planck Directors are also represented on the Foundation Board and Foundation Prize Committee.