The Volkswagen Foundation
As with many foundations financing scientific research, physicists held key positions at the Volkswagen Foundation. Its funding department was headed by Rudolf Kerscher, a physicist by training and a friend of Leo Szilard. Kerscher visited Szilard in the USA in the summer of 1962, even before he launched the idea of EMBO in December 1962 at CERN, which has become the mythical origin of EMBO.
Kerscher sought advice about where the Volkswagen Foundation should invest its funds to make a difference to European science, and Szilard, who had started a new career in molecular biology, pointed to this field as a promising venture. Just before Szilard died, a meeting between him, Kerscher and Gotthard Gambke, Secretary General of the Volkswagen Foundation in 1964, proved decisive in convincing the foundation to support EMBO.
In 1965, after many rounds of negotiations, the foundation awarded EMBO DM 2,748,000 roughly the equivalent of €4.1 million today. This money funded the first five years of EMBO's fellowship programme and gave EMBO enough time to seek more permanent support.
Source: Bruno Strasser, EMBO reports, vol.4, no.6, 2003, pp.540-543.