Prof Helmut Coing
Chairman of the Academic Advisory Council from 1976 until 1991
From 1978 to 1984, Helmut Coing (1912–2000) was Vice President of the Max Planck Society and from 1964 to 1980 Founding Director and Head of the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt/Main. In 1973 he received the German order of merit Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts, of which he was Chancellor from 1984 to 1992.
After studying Law in Kiel, Munich, Göttingen and Lille, Helmut Coing obtained his PhD in 1935 in Göttingen and in 1938 qualified as professor at Goethe University Frankfurt. Drafted into the German armed forces in 1939, he returned from captivity in 1945. From 1948 until his retirement in 1980 he was Professor of Civil Law, Roman Law and History of Law at Goethe University Frankfurt. From 1955 to 1957 he was Rector of the university and from 1956 to 1957 Chairman of the West German Rectors’ Conference and subsequently of the Wissenschaftsrat from 1958 to 1960. As advisor to the founder, he played a crucial role in the establishment of the Gerda Henkel Foundation in 1976.
In 1958 Helmut Coing received the Goetheplakette from the City of Frankfurt/Main and in 1974 Germany’s Grand Federal Cross of Merit with Star. He was an Officer of the French Legion of Honour (1966) and a member of the order Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts (1973). In 1990 he was awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Germany’s Grand Federal Cross of Merit with Star and Sash, and the Hessian Order of Merit. In addition, he received honorary doctorates from the universities of Lyon (1959), Montpellier (1959), Vienna (1965), Aberdeen (1968), Brussels (1975), and Uppsala (1977).
The Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt/Main launched the Helmut Coing Prize in 2008. It is awarded every three years.
Helmut Coing was a member of the Gerda Henkel Foundation’s Academic Advisory Council from the very start and even after leaving the Foundation continued to support it in an advisory capacity. On the 15th anniversary of the Foundation’s establishment Lisa Maskell thanked him with the following words: “Prof. Coing encouraged me to set up the Foundation. It would not have come about without his support. It was upon his advice that our work focusses on promoting the historical humanities. Moreover, the selection of the Academic Advisory Council, which is still active today and has worked successfully and harmoniously for over a decade and a half, is based on his proposals.”