As a child, I was already interested in the natural sciences. I remember trying to produce crude oil in a test tube using garden debris; drawing views of insects and other animals on a paper microscope; putting together a small chemistry laboratory in a garden toolshed that wasn’t big enough for me to stand in; taking notes on human physiological functions; and the like.
I left my home in Peru for Austria when I was 16 years old, with the firm purpose of studying chemistry. When the father of a friend asked me what I wanted to do, I answered: ‘I came to Austria to study chemistry, but I don’t know what your son Dieter is going to do.’ He studied chemistry, of course.
During my studies, I learned that in his youth my father had wanted to study physics. He could not afford it, as he had lost his own father in the First World War. Given my early inclination, I might deduce that the motivation towards natural sciences lies in the genes!
Luckily, I had very good teachers in the German school that I attended in Lima, so both essential requirements – self-motivation and a good environment – came together and nurtured my incipient dealings with science.