Biomedical Engineering (BME) has a long tradition at Ilmenau University of Technology. The founding rector of the former Ilmenau College of Electrical Engineering, Prof. Dr. Hans Stamm, made a very foresight decision to establish this even internationally young scientific discipline at the university that had just been founded.
Stamm invited the physicist Dr. phil. Friedrich Blüthgen – who was already active in this field - to Ilmenau and appointed him as the first Director of the Institute of Electromedical Devices and Radiotechnology.
„the process of integration of medicine and engineering – scientific fields which in the past .... had no or barely noteworthy interconnections – evolves continuously and unstoppably.“ Friedrich Blüthgen
Ilmenau Institute of Electrical Engineering, Altes Technikum, 1950´s
This conviction of the founding director of the first academic BME-institute in Europe possibly most accurately describes the driving force which in the 1950´s/ 1960´s internationally brought forth the development of Biomedical Engineering as an independent scientific field. To have already in an early stage sensed the dynamics of this trend and to have taken the courageous decision of implementing this pioneering field under the difficult starting conditions of the Ilmenau university is a lasting merit of the founding fathers.
The Initial Phase – Educational Offerings
„Of even greater importance however was the education of experts for this specific field whose absence had proved to be a factor badly preventing progress.“ Friedrich Blüthgen, 1962
The first academic Biomedical Engineering on-campus programme in Europe is launched already in the founding year of the Institute. The special course „Electromedical and Radiological Engineering“ as part of the main course of Electrical Engineering was first offered in the summer semester of 1954.
Already the first educational concept is oriented towards the training of capable engineers who are proficient in their field and additionally familiar with the fundamentals of their medical application area and with the specifics of engineering solutions to be applied at a living biological system.
The graduates at first predominantly find their occupational field in medical technology companies but later on increasingly in hospitals and medical research institutions as direct partners of the physician.
It is the core concern of the research activities of the Institute in the initial phase
„....to create fundamentals on which developments of the medical-technical industry can be based.“ - Friedrich Blüthgen, 1962
In accordance with this guiding principle R&D-fields such as medical electronics, blood corpuscle counting, but also radiation application and dosimetry are emerging.
University Reform: Continuity and Change
The university reform of 1968 firstly changes the traditional faculty structures: the (presently) Institute for Biomedical Engineering and Bionics is integrated into the newly-created “Section Technical and Biomedical Cybernetics”. With the educational reform the interdisciplinary basic concept of the Ilmenau BME education can be preserved and developed further; system engineering fundamentals are being emphasized. The implementation of a project-oriented 5-month practical training (in the medical-technical industry or in a hospital) enhances the practical orientation of the course. The employment profile „Clinical Engineer“ is being more explicitly developed.
The university reform and the subsequent development phase are shaped by the work of Prof. Dr. Eberhard Forth as Director of the Institute.
The 1970´s/ 1980´s
The research profile of the Institute is aligned with current problems of interdisciplinary basic and applied research with the following key aspects:
With the hand-over of the new building for the institute in 1978 with essential special labs (i. a. physico-chemical lab, medical measurement technology lab, X-ray lab, radionuclide lab) the working conditions for teachings and research are improving significantly.
After Prof. Forth´s early death in late 1983 Prof. Henning leads the Institute. The educational concept is developed further with focus on the methodical foundation of the BME-training (emphasis on Biomedical Signal Processing and Modelling) and coverage of the essential BME core fields.
Research focuses increasingly on „BME for Ophthalmology“; the cooperation with the Ophthalmic Clinic of Medical Academy Erfurt (Prof. Winfried Müller) is intensified. Joint projects are Objective Perimetry, Processing and Evaluation of Visual Evoked Potentials and Continuous IOP-Measurement.
Other main areas of research of the Institute in the 1980´s are
The 1990´s: On the Move and Integration
With the political turn-around in former GDR and the reunification of Germany also the university structures in the new federal states are rearranged; the faculty structures at Ilmenau University of Technology are reorganized. The Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Informatics (with two professorships) is incorporated into the Faculty for Informatics and Automation.
The integration into the pan-German university environment opens up new chances for university education and research:
The Institute at the Beginning of the New Millennium - Educational Offerings
The Institute offers – very well accepted by the students – interdisciplinary in-depth studies (as branch of study, course specialization or compulsory optional course) in the degree programs Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, Engineering Informatics, Informatics and Industrial Engineering and Management, respectivel.
The study offerings are based on the established interdisciplinary concept; they are characterized by a broad covering of the field, by research orientation and relevancy to practice. With numerous foreign cooperation partners students have the chance to gain their first international experience during a semester of practical training or study.
With the transition of TU Ilmenau to Bachelor-/ Master courses within the framework of the Bologna process the Institute plans a self-contained B. Sc.-/ M. Sc.-course Biomedical Engineering which starts in the winter semester 2005 – with high acceptance by applicants:
The Institute at the Beginning of the New Millennium - Research Profile
The research profile in this phase is shaped by methodical developments for medical diagnostics and therapy – jointly with medical partners – as well as by applied research for medical technology companies. For the creation and development of the Research Association „OphthalmoInnovation Thüringen“ (multiple winner in national research promotion competitions) the Institute makes decisive contributions
The following fields of research set the research profile of the Institute at the beginning of the new millennium:
The Institute at the Beginning of the New Millennium - International Integration
The institute cultivates cooperation links in teaching (guest lectures, student exchange) and research (joint projects and publications) with institutions in Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Poland, Greece, USA, Mexico, China and Vietnam.
Graduate and Ph. D. students from many countries out of Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America are studying at TU Ilmenau and at the Institute.
Prof. Dr. phil. Friedrich Blüthgen
More than 50 years of successful development of the Institute have been formed through vision and hard work of a large number of active partners inside and outside of the Institute – members of staff, professors, students, partners in teaching and research. They deserve our gratitude for their contribution to the successful development of the Institute, even if only a few can be exemplarily acknowledged at this point.
Prof. Dr. sc. techn. Eberhard Forth
Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Günter Henning
Prof. Dr. rer. nat. habil. Gert Grießbach
OMR Prof. Dr. med. habil. Heinz Eger
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. rer. med. Ulrich Hoppe
Doz. Dr. sc. techn. Eberhard Schewitzer
Dr.-Ing. habil. Dr. rer. nat. Klaus Lemke
Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Michael Tischmeyer
Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Ehrlich