The Foundation

History of the Foundation

Foundation are established for varying reasons. Financial or legal considerations, tax advantages, inheritance laws, or more personal, family related questions can play an important role. All Foundations have one thing in common, however; throughout their existence they remain associated with the name of personality whose ideas the foundation is to promote.

The Eduard Rhein Foundation is an exception in that its founder sought no financial advantages. “Money from my personal fortune, not from funds set aside to avoid their taxation” said the founder when he created the Foundation in Hamburg in 1976 with the initial assets of 2 million German marks.

Origins – Impulses Leading to the Foundation

The idea of establishing a foundation had first to come to Eduard Rhein considerably earlier. During his time as editor in chief of “Hörzu!” he had already initiated a popular science page on which he explained the most interesting current developments in radio an television technology.
After his retirement from Springer Publishing House in 1965 he considered how he might continue to act as a catalyst accelerating developments oft common interest to industry and consumers. He recognized the possibilities a foundation would offer him to promote his idea, but it was not until years later that the time had come to take action.
In 1975 Eduard Rhein was at the Radio and Television Exhibition in Berlin, where he saw a prototype of a 1250-line display, movie-picture quality on a television screen. The experimental model, from Japan, had not been designed with television in mind: it was intended for use in display pictures in the medical field. Since Professor Schröter of Telefunken had already pointed out ten years before that doubling the number of lines on a television screen would generate film quality color pictures, the idea was no even new.
But Eduard Rhein was delighted with its realization and seized upon it for television, immediately combining it with a second one; who can come up with the first flat television set? Remove the back panel of a television cabinet, and it becomes obvious how much air the consumer buys. The depth of the set is determined by the dimensions of the picture tube – the actual receiver only makes up a small percentage of the total volume of the cabinet.

Creation of the Foundation in 1976

The flat television set, ideally one to be hung on the wall like a picture, was Eduard Rhein´s second dream. And the foundation established in 1976 was the instrument through which he hoped to realize both his dreams.

Professor Bruch First Chairman of the Advisory Committee

The final incentive came from a chance meeting between Eduard Rhein and Professor Walter Bruch in New York. At the time, Bruch was head of research and development in the Telefunken basic research laboratory; he was also the father of the German color television standard PAL. Rhein persuaded Bruch to become committee chairman in the foundation he was planning. Further time passed while the members of the Advisory Committee were being selected, experts whose responsibility it would be to aid in choosing future award winners. But finally the Statutes of the Foundation had been drawn up, and the control board for foundations in the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg gave the go-ahead; the experts had been appointed to the Advisory Committee an began their work.

An Idea Takes Shape – Major Goal: Television of Better Quality

The original articles of the Foundation are rather modest, but legal in tone. For example the Statutes read:

“The Eduard Rhein Award will be conferred yearly for outstanding achievements in the area of audio-visual media. The basic purpose of the Eduard Rhein Award is to promote important work leading to improvement in the quality of audio-visual technology or to its expansion for the benefit of the viewer.”

And so that there should be no doubt as to the objectives of the founder. the passage continued:

In particular. this encompasses

theoretical and/or concrete achievements which lead to advances towards high definition television and which are, at th same time, compatible with existing systems,
theoretical or experimental results in research towards the development of a flat television.

Award: 250,000 DM

In the beginning, the amount set aside for the Eduard Rhein Award was DM 250,000 yearly. This sum could either be granted for a single achievement or divided into several awards of varying sizes.

Only Individuals as Award Winners

Since money always attracts charlatans, the Statutes also determined that “nominees for the award can only be suggested by recognized experts or organizations or institutions actively doing research in the areas for which the award is granted.” And so that anonymous institutions could not secure the grants for themselves, a further stipulation read, “The award may only be granted to individuals.”

For that was what Eduard Rhein always wanted to see more of: individualists and inventors like himself.The only problem is that as team work becomes more important in industry and academia, achievements by single individuals become the exception rather than the rule. It is the managers who push through the acceptance of new technology today, seldom the inventors. Ideas are economic assets in a business, and the business success of a product takes precedence over the brilliance of an engineering idea.

The original version of the Statutes contained a few stumbling block which first became evident as the technology of the field evident as the technology of the field developed. The expression “audio-visual” is typical of the ´70s – no one could for see that the link between sound and picture was only the beginning of something much bigger: a comprehensive integration of all types of information and communications technology in the form of multimedia engineering of the late 20th century.

Revision of the Original Statutes Soon Imperative

The stipulation that developments toward higher definition television should compatible with existing systems unexpectedly turned out be a snare. Such a demand is very much like one requiring that the circle be squared, since it would be a technical anachronism to try to integrate the 30-year-old analog television standard into a communications world which has long since become digital. It would be comparable to trying to make a cordless telephone compatible with a 18th-century ear trumpet. And the clause describing the possibility of splitting the award and conferring grants of varying sizes, seemingly so favorable for the nominees, provided to be a boomerang: phrased as it was, it led to a flood of a awards instead of singling out one or two striking achievements. The original Statutes were later revised to corrects their weaknesses: on the one hand, certain clauses were formulated more exactly; on the other, technical options were introduced.

The Ring of the Honor

In 1979 Eduard Rhein added a prize of honor to the Foundation´s awards: the Eduard Rhein ring. The bearers of the rings were to be personalities who had rendered outstanding service in the development of radio an television – thus, scholars and researchers, managers and industrialists “whose imaginativeness and spirit of adventure first made the era of audio-visual techniques possible”. The number of living bearers of this prize of honor is limited to ten. Of those have received it until now, three (all of whom are deceased) perhaps deserve special mention: DR. Vladimir Zworykin, Herbert von Karajan, and Max Grungig.

Early History – Management Headquarters Moved from Hamburg to Mayen

In the beginning, Eduard Rhein himself promoted the goals of his Foundation, as one of the three members of the Executive Board. Early in the 80´s, the Foundation acquired a residence dating from the late 1800s in the exclusive Heimhuder Street in Hamburg, not far from the “Binnenalster”. Later this domicile had to be relinquished, as the zoning laws had been changed and the commercial use of the building in a purely residential area was forbidden. Since the Foundation has had its managing headquarters in Mayen, in the Eifel.

Within the first two years, the young Foundation had already given testimony to its cosmopolitan attitudes. In 1979 and 1980, only four of total of eleven award winners came from Germany. One reason for this international approach was to be found in Walter Bruch´s worldwide personal contacts. He himself was well known and respected as “Mr. PAL” in Japan, and Japanese nominees, especially innovative in audio and video developments, often profited from Foundation´s willingness to name foreign winners.

Broader Goals- Cultural Award Created

The year 1982 brought the next step in the evolution of the Foundation´s objectives. The concern was rapid technical progress might inadvertently force the Foundation´s dissolution, should the original aims be realized..

Thus, in 1982, the Executive Board decided to complement the research award with a cultural award for the most impressive documentary report broadcast in television each year. Th logical connection between the new award and its older companion lay in the fact that improvements in television engineering are really only meaningful as much as they prepare the ground for good television reporting. The Board purposely refrained from establishing thematic guidelines in regard to the quality of the artistic or journalistic realization of the reports was to take precedence over thematic considerations.

A separate Evaluation Committee of distinguished journalists was appointed to asses nominations for the cultural award. Professor Dr. h.c. Joachim Fest, its chairman, was publisher of the widely respected “Frakfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.” Within a year, the award had been granted for the first time, and years later descriminating audiences still continue to recognize the value of the two first award-winning reports.

The Summer of 1986: A Dramatic Announcement – Special 3 Million DM Award

Everything pointed towards a hot August day with a perfectly “normal” presentation ceremony in the Park Hilton in Munich. The award winners had arrived, the demonstration models were set up, the founder approached the microphone – and astounded his audience with the announcement that he was offering a special award of 3 million DM (yes, really; not a printing mistake!) from his private fortune for the person who had the first flat high definition television set in production before 1990. Eduard Rhein also surprised the experts of his Advisory Committee with this publicity generating announcement. The subject had never even been under discussion, and that for a good reason: not a single member of the board would have seen so much a flat set with the pixel resolution called could be produced within four years.

Later, incidently, the Foundation was able to award a prize for a partial realization of the goal: the Sharp Corporation received the Eduard Rhein Award for a flat television set whose picture was at least of standard quality, if not yet comparable to high definition television. But of course Eduard Rhein was never put into the position of having to open his wallet for a winner of the special award offered 1986.

Perhaps the unexpected initiative of the agile founder also had another motivation: since the Eduard Rhein Award had been divided between the fields of cultural achievements and basic research, a flood of awards had resulted, culminating in 16 winners in 1986.

First Steps towards a Reorientation – Walter Bruch Retires

In retrospect, after the first ten years of its activity, the “young” Foundation was obviously still having to contend with the fact that it was not yet very well known. In addition, 1986, a change in generations in the chairmanship of the Advisory Committee was in the offing. Walter Bruch, who had long held this position, now requested that released from his duties, both on the grounds of his advanced years and for health reasons. This decisive occurrence led to anew discussion of the which the Advisory Committee experts presented to the founder for his consideration. The Committee expressed its thoughts to the Executive Board in a memorandum, quoted here in part:

In the course of the last few years, the original goals of the Foundation have progressively been promoted less effectively owing to an increase the number of award winners. One of the reasons for the large number of smaller awards is that important breakthroughs simply do not occur more often than once every few years in certain fields – thus, so many of the achievements considered for the awards are comparable in their significance that it would not be just to single out any one.

The larger number of award secondly reflects the fact that a leap in technology today is seldom connected with an individual name. Usually a team of anywhere from six to forty members works on the solution of a problem, whereby the contribution of the individual can no longer be determined exactly .

Thirdly, and seen from a purely psychological point of view, it takes considerable courage to commit oneself by naming any one award winner: if enough small awards are granted, there is a relatively good chance that at least one of the achievements thus honored will turn out to be of fundamental importance.

The small number of suitable technical advancements for which an award could be granted has, among other things, led to a strong emphasis of the cultural award for television productions. If this is the founder´s intention, it should be respected. The distribution between engineering and cultural awards creates almost insoluble problems, since the two fields have little to do with a each other and it is thus almost impossible to compare the achievements in one with those in the other. And since, as it is well known, there is no accounting for tastes, it is much more difficult to justify choices among television productions objectively than it is in the technical field.

It is not the place of Advisory Committee to search for new goals. Personally, however, we should warns against going beyond the area of information and communications technology: This concept already covers a very broad field and is – compared to the original goals of the Foundation – not particularly precise. On the other hand, its flexibility gives it a timelessness which will prevent it from becoming obsolete in the face of future technical developments.

Thus some of the suggestions for reforms. Many fell on fertile ground, though not all of them were later implemented

Towards New Shores – Reforms in 1989

The year 1989 was particularly important the Eduard Rhein Foundation, because both its aims and the member ship of its Executive Board were up for discussion. Impulses for the resulting changes in the Foundation not only came from the considerations the Advisory Committee had earlier presented, but also arose from differences of opinion within the Executive Board about the interpretation of the Foundation´s statutes and its long.term goals.
The founder, who at this time was still himself a member of the Executive Board, felt that his original goals were being obstructed by an interpretion of the statute articles covering the cultural award which was too broad. The Advisory Committee´s analysis supported the view that if the Foundation were to continue to exist without losing its lasting relevancy, its goals would have to be changed to accommodate developments in technology an society.

New Executive Board Appointed

The new Executive Board reworded the stipulations for the cultural award a follows:
The Foundation expresses its support by granting monetary awards for outstanding artistic and/or journalistic achievements in radio and television programs [which can be received in the German speaking area] or in the form of publications. The award is to be conferred every two years and is not exceed 50% of the total amount allocated for technology awards in the year of the grant.
The Evaluation Committee and Board of Curators (the successor of the former Advisory Committee, a change in name but not in function) were strengthened through the addition of further recognized experts, the Executive Board, as mentioned above, rounded out by new appointments. Simultaneously with these changes, the founder retired from “this” foundation and left its management to the new Executive Board with Dr. Rolf Gartz as its Chairman.

The Early ´90s: A Sharper Focus

The changes which had been made began to show their effects. Starting in 1990, the research award was subdivided into a “basic research award” and “technology award” so that it would no longer be necessary to compare achievements which were actually incomparable and the individual achievements could be more justly honored according to their importance. While the basic research award normally honors an individual´s lifetime work in the fields promoted by the Foundation, the technology award is oriented towards specific technical progress made in the previous twelve months.
In 1990 itself, only a single winner was designated for the basic research award, and also only one new technological development (with its team of three engineers) was honored.

The selection of Professor Dr. Claude E. Shannon as winner of the basic research award of the Eduard Rhein Foundation in 1991 paid hommage to none of the great information theorist of the 20th century. With this choice, the Executive Board and Board of Curators gave the Foundation a broader basis for its future decisions. For the first time it became possible to grant awards for purely theoretical work which provides the basis for technical progress in television.
In the same year the cultural award was granted to a foreign television reporter for the first time – CNN´so star reporter, Bernard Shaw, for his eye-witness reports from Baghdad during the Gulf War. The possibility of receiving television boardcasts via satellite in Germany freed the old stipulations in the Foundation´s Statutes (“…reception in the German-speaking area…”), allowing this award to be granted.

In 1991 the Board of Curators was enlarged by the appointment of new members, in 1993 the Evaluation Committee.

1993: Turning Point for the Foundation – Birth of the Large, Flat Television

In the spring meetings of the 1993, after screening the nominations which had been filed, the Board of Curators came to the decision that they would give the founder what might be termed a “special present”. Among the achievements suggested for awards, there was one which represented a major step towards the fulfillment of the original goal of the foundation: a large, flat, high definition television screen. Since the project concerned at the time uses the screen as apart of a projecting apparatus, functioning on the basis of reflections and thus requiring a darkened room, it does not mark the end of the original search. But the development of an “active”, true high definition flat television set (i.e. comparable to a cathode ray tube, emitting it own rays of light and thus eliminating the need to darken the room) will certainly not be achieved before the turn of the century.

The Board of Curators was confident that the choice would choice meet with the founder´s entire approval. With this decision in favor of a development by the Sharp Corporation, the question of the flat television screen was put aside for the time being. Its newly formulated goals permitted the Foundation to devote itself to new technology challenges of the future, whose distinguishing feature is the uncompromising use of digital processing for all electronic information and communications media. The founding fathers of this technology were living at the same time that Eduard Rhein was publishing his first popular technical books: in the 1930s. Some great ideas simply need more than one realization.

On April 15, 1993, the various committees of the Foundation were caught by surprise when they heard about the death of Eduard Rhein in Cannes. On the evening before he died he had a telephone conversation with the Managing Chairman of the Executive Board, his nephew, Dr. Rolf Gartz, during which he complained about the aftereffects of a case of ´flu. But there was nothing to suggest that he would be the victim of a stroke in the hospital at Cannes later in the night.

Foundation Assets Increased

The news of Eduard Rhein´s death put the Foundation´s committees under a stronger obligation than ever to carry out his intentions. The Executive Board and the Board of Curators now saw the decision to honor the development of a flat television with the 1993 award for technological development as the fulfillment of the technologic dream of this “Man of the Century” (author´s remark: title of Eduard Rhein´s autobiography). The fact he died only a few specially tragic.

After the founder´s death, most of his private fortune was left to the Eduard Rhein Foundation. From Funds provided by the estate, the Foundation´s assets were increased to about 17 DM. This now allows the conferment of yearly awards amounting to almost half a million DM, without reducing the real value of the principal.

This a challenge for the Board of Curators and the Evaluation Committee: there its hardly another foundation working in the area of technology which has such generous funds at its disposal. The Nobel Foundation is only partially comparable, since it awards prizes in the sciences, literature, economics, and politics (Nobel Peace Prize).

The broad definition of the Foundation´s goals gives it the necessary flexibility to do justice to the technical developments of the dawning 21st century. The intermeshing of the various communications media will provide its award for specific technological developments with a new flow of ideas worthy go far beyond the original Foundation goal (which was primarily concentrated upon the flat, high definition television set). Thus the Foundation need not fear to lose its relevancy for a long time to come.

The extent to which the basic research award will be equally justified over longer period of time remains to be seen. The theoretical basis for all of these new technical developments is often to be found in early research carried out in the middle of this century, and those whose ideas are now being realized are not getting any younger.

On the other hand, the further development of the cultural award is also ensured. In this case, wise choices in the selection of award winners have set new standards in the course of the ´90s. These choices give clear evidence for the fact that in the field of documentary television reports there are still creative men of action who are possessed by the desire to realize their conceptions and who produce conscientious and provocative programs far removed from ideological propaganda or “fast-food journalism”.

Youth Awards Created

TThe broadened activities of the Foundation did not exhaust themselves simply in the development of extended goals. In 1996, following a personal interest of Dr. Rolf Gartz, the Eduard Rhein Foundation began working together with the Foundation “Jugend forscht” in Germany, which resulted in the establishment of an award specifically set aside for young people. Together with the judges of “Jugend forscht”, the Eduard Rhein Foundation selects from the qualifying submissions of the young scientists those which are in harmony with the statuatory goals of the Eduard Rhein Foundation.

In 1997 a further prize, the “Eduard Rhein Foundation Konrad Zuse Youth Award for Computer Science” was offered for the first time, also under the auspices of “Jugend forsch”. It is in memory of the great German computer pioneer and inventor who was himself also an Eduard Rhein Foundation award winner.

Presentation Ceremony at the German Museum

OSince 1996, at the invitation of the German Museum in Munich, the Eduard Rhein awards have been presented during a cermony held for invited guests in the Museum’s Hall of Fame.