Tony Keller, 1937 – 2023

The Magnetic Resonance community mourns the passing of Dr. h.c. Tony W. Keller on October 27, 2023, at the age of 86.

Tony Keller was an industrial pioneer at Bruker where he held key leadership positions for more than 50 years before retiring in 2010. He was a true innovator and introduced over many decades cutting-edge NMR technology comprising the first multinuclear Fourier-transform NMR spectrometers, superconducting NMR magnets, cryogenically cooled probes, and ultimately within the last decade also the 1.2 GHz ultra-high field NMR systems. An account of some of these pioneering developments was given by him in a 2019 JMR article.

Many of us knew Tony Keller as a sincere partner at Bruker who was devoted to technological advance and high quality of instrumentation.

Among many distinctions,  Dr. Keller received multiple honorary doctoral degrees, was a honorary professor at the East China Normal University in Shanghai, and awarded the Otto Stern Prize by the German Chemical Society (GDCh). He was a honorary member of the GDCh Division of Magnetic Resonance and Fellow of ISMAR.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

The following tribute was written by Dr. Frank Laukien, President & CEO, Bruker Corporations

Dear ISMAR Colleagues,

We are saddened that our former colleague and friend, Dr. h.c. Tony W. Keller, an acclaimed pioneer in the field of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), has passed away on October 27, 2023, at the age of 86.
Bruker intends to honor the memory of Dr. Keller at our NMR Users Meetings in November, and at several NMR conferences next year. We also envision a future NMR symposium to honor Tony scientifically for his enormous contributions to the field, and as a 'Celebration of the Life of Tony Keller'.

Tony enabled many innovations in the development of modern NMR technology and spectrometers. All of Tony’s colleagues at Bruker owe him enormously for his very significant leadership role in building up Bruker NMR, and developing it over decades into the leading technology innovator and committed market leader.

Tony was one of our greatest, most energetic leaders, and also a very admirable, dedicated and humble person. Tony was truly a NMR pioneer, a great man, and a dear mentor and friend to me and many others. We will fondly remember Tony for his numerous enabling contributions to NMR technology, his unwavering commitment to innovation, as well as his focus on our key collaborators and good customers. Tony was a brilliant NMR engineer and scientist, as well as an energetic and visionary entrepreneur, highly respected team leader and an inspiring, very successful senior business executive with highest integrity.

Early on in his career, Tony recognized the enormous potential of NMR to elucidate 3D molecular structures. His initial rf engineering work with early NMR scientists at ETH Zuerich fueled his passion for the magnetic resonance field. Throughout several decades, Tony was instrumental in establishing Bruker as the leading technological innovator in the NMR field. Tony held key leadership positions in Bruker for more than 50 years before retiring in 2010. He continued as an experienced, motivating Senior Advisor to Bruker until recently.

Tony is credited with the pivotal development of the world’s first multinuclear Fourier-transform NMR spectrometer, and he personally was first to record 13C-observe 1H-broadband decoupled spectra in Fourier-transform mode, a breakthrough that enabled modern NMR applications in chemistry.

His collaborative and innovation-driven approach contributed to the development of other groundbreaking and enabling NMR technologies, such as superconducting NMR magnets, digital spectrometers, cryogenically cooled probes, and ultimately even 1.2 GHz ultra-high field NMR systems.

These key innovations today are foundational for NMR in structural biology research, in metabolomics and applied markets, in pharmaceutical research, as well as in advanced materials and renewable energy research.

Not only was Tony an innovator in enabling technologies for the NMR community, but he was also deeply connected to the NMR scientific community worldwide, who had a trusted partner in Tony to integrate their scientific ideas into the Bruker technology developments and its next generation of innovative products.

For his enabling contributions to NMR, Dr. Keller received multiple honorary doctoral degrees, from the University of Florence, the Technical University of Berlin, and the University of Queensland, and was appointed honorary professor at the East China Normal University in Shanghai. Moreover, he was awarded the Otto Stern Prize by the GDCh, was an honorary member of the GDCh Division of Magnetic Resonance, and a Fellow of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance.

Tony’s legacy will continue to inspire future generations of scientists and engineers in the field of NMR technology and applications.

Frank H. Laukien, PhD
President & CEO, Bruker Corporation
Visiting Scholar, Harvard Chemistry & Chemical Biology