Reinhard Zimmermann receives Federal Cross of Merit First Class

April 08, 2024
Reinhard Zimmermann, emeritus director at the Institute, has received the Cross of Merit First Class of the Federal Republic of Germany. The award, bestowed by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, recognizes Zimmermann’s outstanding contributions as an innovative thinker and successful leader in multiple fields. The Cross was presented to him on 5 April 2024 during an award ceremony at the Rathaus in Hamburg, with Katharina Fegebank, senator for the sciences and deputy mayor for the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, officiating.

Zimmermann was a director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law from 2002 to 2022. During his tenure as director he also served on the Senate of the Max Planck Society from 2006 to 2023 and chaired its Human Sciences Section from 2006 to 2010. His decades of involvement with the German Academic Scholarship Foundation began with him as a scholarship recipient, before he later served as a special tutor and then, beginning in 2004, as a member and vice-chairman of the Board of Curators; from 2011 to 2023 he was the Foundation’s president. He was also active in many academic and professional societies. He joined the board of the Zivilrechtslehrervereinigung (German Association of Professors of Private Law) in 2001 and was chairman of the Association from 2011 to 2015. From 2014 to 2022, he was chairman of the Gesellschaft für Rechtsvergleichung (Association of Comparative Law). He served on the board of the Association Internationale des Sciences Juridiques from 2006 to 2021. He has been a senator of the European Law Institute since 2011 and speaker of that organization since 2017. He has also worked on various international commissions that have promoted the Europeanization and internationalization of the law of contracts.

The award statement honours the outstanding quality and sheer number of Zimmermann’s contributions in both his professional career and his volunteer work. It also acknowledges his achievement in elevating the status of jurisprudence as an international academic discipline. It lauds his dialogue-seeking communicative style and his ability to craft integrative solutions to advance the mission of the institutions he worked for and the bodies he served on, thus rendering immensely positive contributions in furtherance of the public interest. The award, furthermore, recognizes his record of mentorship and his support of students and early-career researchers through the German Academic Scholarship Foundation and at the Max Planck Society, as well as his years of service as a member and parish elder of the Main Church of St. Nicholai in Hamburg.

Prof Dr Dr hc mult Reinhard Zimmermann completed his legal studies at the University of Hamburg (State Examinations 1976/1979, doctorate conferred 1978). He was appointed as the W.P. Schreiner Professor of Roman and Comparative Law at the University of Cape Town in 1981. He assumed the Chair of Private Law, Roman Law and Comparative Legal History at the University of Regensburg in 1988. He has been a professor at the Bucerius Law School in Hamburg since 2008. He has been a guest professor, i.a., at Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, the University of Chicago, Auckland, and Santiago de Chile.

His work has resonated around the world, a fact attested to by the eleven honorary doctorates conferred on him by renowned universities such as Edinburgh, Lund, Maastricht, McGill, and the University of Chicago. He is also a member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Academia Europaea, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, the British Academy, and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) in 1996, and in 2023 he received the Antonio Feltrinelli Prize, Italy’s most prestigious recognition for work in the cultural and scientific fields. The Federal Cross of Merit is the highest honour conferred by the German state in recognition of accomplishments in the public service.

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