Klaus Tschira, co-founder of German software giant SAP and creator of the foundation that helped to launch the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, died unexpectedly today at the age of 74.
Born in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany in 1940, Tschira earned a physics diploma from University of Karlsruhe, before going to work for IBM. In 1972, Tschira and four colleagues left IBM to form SAP, and spent the next three decades building the firm into Europe’s largest technology company. Tschira was a member of SAP’s management board from 1988 to 1998, then took a seat on its supervisory board; after undergoing heart surgery in 2007, he stepped down from that post in 2008
In 1995, Tschira formed the non-profit Klaus Tschira Stiftung (KTS), a foundation with the primary objective of supporting projects in the natural and computer sciences and mathematics. In 1999, the German National Academic Foundation honored Tschira for his commitment to this objective by awarding him the "Deutscher Stifterpreis" (German Donor Award).
KTS was a supporter for many years of the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings, which give young researchers the opportunity to interact with and learn from Nobel Laureates. Those meetings served as the springboard for the idea to create something similar for the mathematics and computer science disciplines.
The idea was discussed in 2011 with representatives of international research center Mathematisches Forschungszentrum Oberwolfach and the Schloss Dagstuhl–Leibniz Center for Informatics, as well as with individual laureates; a formal proposal then was submitted to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the International Mathematical Union, and ACM (each of which presents awards to leaders in their respective fields). The proposal resulted in a recommendation that these organizations endorse an annual meeting in Heidelberg at which their laureates (holders of the Abel Prize, Fields Medal, and ACM A.M. Turing Award) would have the opportunity to interact with young scientists, to be organized by KTS and the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS).
The relevant stakeholders signed a formal agreement for this in Oslo in 2012, and in 2013 the Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation was formally established as the supporting organization for the annual Heidelberg Laureate Forum.
In the photo above, Klaus Tschira, founder and managing director of the Klaus Tshira Stiftung and the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS), right foreground, and Andreas Reuter, managing director of HITS, left foreground, signing the documents establishing the Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation. Looking on are, from left, Nils Christian Stenseth, president of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters; Fabrizio Gagliardi, chairman of ACM Europe; Ingrid Daubechies, president of the International Mathematical Union); Helge Holden, chairman of the Abel Board; Øivind Andersen, secretary general of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and Detlev Rünger, Germany's ambassador to Norway.
Credit: Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation
Tschira was married, and he and his wife Gerda had two sons. He was an amateur astronomer, and in 2000 an asteroid was named after him (13028 Klaustschira).
This is a huge loss to the computing community and the principles that Klaus Tschira promoted and applied in his own work. The Heidelberg Laureate Forum, a recent innovation founded and supported by Tschira, set a new star in the mathematics and computing firmament. He will be sorely missed in the years ahead but I hope his work will continue on through the foundations he created and the personal enthusiasm and commitment he inspired.
vint cerf, past president of ACM
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