Borries, Bodo von

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Borries, Bodo von

(b. Herford, Westphalia, Germany, 22 May 1905; d. Cologne, Germany, 17 July 1956)

electron microscopy.

The scion of a long line of distinguished civil servants, and on his mother’s side related to the Kamp & of the Pioneering metallurgical firm of Kamp & Harkort, Borries wavered between the law and engineering. He opted for a career in technology and studied electrical engineering in Karlsruhe. Danzig, and Munich. In 1930 he became an assistant to Adolf Wilhelm Matthias at the High-Voltage Institute of the Technische Hochschule in Berlin, where a group of young engineers led by Max Knoll sought to develop the electronic oscilloscope (picture tube) into a technological tool. In 1931, almost simultaneously, G.R. Rüdenberg, research director at the Siemens laboratories in Berlin, applied for the first patent on an electron microscope; Knoll and his group reported their work on it “it at the Technische Hochschule; and Ernst” Brüche described his efforts on a similar instrument in the laboratories of the AEG firm in Berlin. Borries was thus involved in electron microscopy from its conception and later contributed significantly to it himself.

In 1937, feeling the need for better facilities than were likely to be made available at an engineering college, Borries and his colleague (and later brother-in-law) Ernst Ruska persuaded Siemens to support their project, thereby giving that firm a lead in the field that persists to the present day. Two years later they put the first transmission electron microscope on the market. Borries not only had a leading part in the design of this instrument and became the outstanding expert in the associated photographic techniques, but also extended its use beyond very thin specimens to metallic surfaces by reflection methods. In 1941 he was awarded the silver Leibniz Medal of the Prussian Academy of Sciences.

After World War II, Borries formed (with joint government and private support) an electron-microscopy institute in Düsseldorf and became its first director, helped to found the German Society for Electron Microscopy, and (after 1953) served as professor of electron optics at the Technische Hochschule in Aachen. Throughout his career he Promoted the introduction of electron microscopy into many fields of research, notably in the life sciences. He also took a prominent part in securing Public support for science. In 1949 Bories was appointed honorary Professor at the Düsseldorf Medical Academy, and in the same year he published a text. Die Übermikroskopie. He was the principal organizer of the International Federation of Electron Microscope Societies and served as its president from its foundation in 1954 until his death.


A list of Borries’ publications through 1952 appears in Poggendorff’s Biographisch-literarisches Handwörterbuch, VIIa. An important text is Die Ubermikroskopie (Aulendorf, 1949). Partial autobiographies are in Physikalische Zeitschrift, 45 (1944), 316, and in Frequenz, 2 (1948), 267.

An obituary by Ernst Ruska is in Zeitschrift der wissenschaftlichen Mikroskopie, 63 (1956), 129, and in Electron Microscopy (the proceedings of the 1956 Stockholm conference on the subject), where it is followed by a further appreciation by V. E. Cosslett. For an account of Borries’ place in the development of electron micros-copy, see L. Marton, Early History of the Electron Microscope (San Francisco, 1968).

Charles SÜsskind