I was born during the second world war in Stuttgart, the capital of Swebia, as the first of two children. My father, Bertold Sakmann, was the director of a theatre, the third son of a physician whose family had lived in southern Germany for several generations. My mother, Annemarie Sakmann, was a physiotherapist and was born in Bangkok, the second child of a Prussian physician who served as doctor to the King of Siam and was the founder of the first hospital in Siam.

Prof. Dr. Bert Sakmann

During the first half of my childhood I grew up in Lindau, on Lake Constance, in a completely rural environment. There I went to elementary school, before returning to Stuttgart where I completed my Abitur at the Wagenburg Gymnasium. My only real interests at school were the physics lessons. At home I spent most of my time designing and building model motor and sailing ships as well as remote control aeroplanes. It was generally assumed that I would become an engineer. In the final year of school however I learned about cybernetics and its possible application to biology. Cybernetics fascinated me, because it seemed to me that living organisms could be understood in engineering terms.

Since I could not make up my mind between physics and biology I enrolled at the medical faculty of Tübingen University. The first two years in medicine offered a broad spectrum in biochemistry and physiology and I decided to do my doctoral thesis in electrophysiology which seemed to be closest to engineering. At the time it was common practice to study at several different medical schools and I attended schools in Freiburg, Berlin and Paris. My decision to finish medical studies in Munich was largely dictated by a beautiful young lady whose attention I was desperate to catch in Tübingen, though without initial success. Today Christiane is my wife and we have two sons and a daughter. Christiane is a highly successful ophthalmologist specializing in pediatric ophthalmology. For most of the time since we have been married I have been known in Göttingen and Heidelberg as the "eye doctor's husband".

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