The idea of establishing a research institute in Davos goes back to Dr. Carl Turban, who put forward this idea as early as 1905 and submitted a corresponding application to the Davos Medical Association. However, his wish was not realized until 1922, when the Institute for High Mountain Physiology and Tuberculosis Research was established in Davos in the form of a foundation.
In the meantime, Dr. Carl Dorno, the founder of radiation climatology, set up an observatory in 1907, the nucleus of today's Physical-Meteorological Observatory Davos (PMOD), and operated it with his own funds. Dorno set himself the goal of investigating the Davos climate and its healing effects. In 1926, the observatory became part of the Institute for High Mountain Physiology and Tuberculosis Research. The foundation distinguished between two separate departments, the Davos Physical-Meteorological Observatory (PMOD) and the Medical Department, the predecessor of today's Swiss Institute for Allergy and Asthma Research (SIAF).
Dorno's successor, Dr. Walter Mörikofer, headed the PMOD for almost 38 years. Mörikofer's comparative radiation measurements carried out over long periods of time with various instruments helped to standardize measurement methods and introduce the same regulations and units for radiation stations worldwide.
In 1964, the World Meteorological Organization considered establishing a World Radiation Centre. In negotiations with the Swiss Meteorological Institute and the Swiss Confederation, it was suggested that the Davos Observatory should serve as a World Radiation Centre and as Switzerland's contribution to the World Weather Observation Program. After lengthy consultations, the Federal Council decided to support the establishment of the World Radiation Center in Davos and to provide the institute with ongoing operating resources. With the support of the federal government, the old school building in Davos Dorf was thoroughly renovated in 1975 and the institute moved in at the end of 1976.
In order to facilitate and improve the results of their measurements, the physicists at the PMOD removed their measuring instruments from the Earth's haze and brought them closer to the sun. From 1979, experiments were carried out with stratospheric balloons and rockets and experience was gained with space instruments. The first real space experiment to explore the sun was launched by the PMOD in July 1988 with the help of the Russian missions PHOBOS I and II, which were to reach the Martian moon Phobos. The Davos-based institute is also involved in EURECA, the European space platform, which was launched in July 1992. The satellite was put into orbit by the Atlantis space shuttle at the end of July 1992 and launched by Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier.
The Medical Department of the Institute of High Mountain Physiology and Tuberculosis Research also developed rapidly: At the end of the 1950s, it became clear that a new purpose had to be created for the Tuberculosis Research Institute. In December 1960, the Board of Trustees held a memorable meeting at Zurich railroad station. The venue was chosen because the members of the scientific advisory board, which was made up of professors from the universities of Bern and Zurich, had been invited to the meeting. The new topics were literally in the air, but offered new scientific territory. One basic idea was based on the old experience that patients with allergic asthma often became completely symptom-free in the high mountains. This new orientation was actually implemented after lengthy discussions and thanks to promises of research funding from industry and the municipality of Davos. This meant that the "equipment and modern spa development" were taken into account and future research was focused on allergies and asthmatic conditions. This is how the Swiss Institute for Allergy and Asthma Research (SIAF) came into being.
Snow and avalanche research
Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was mainly individuals - often foresters - who devoted themselves to the problem of avalanches. As a result, individual works on avalanches and avalanche control were written. From the 1920s onwards, representatives of ski tourism, transport companies and hydroelectric power stations increasingly demanded scientific methods for avalanche research and supported the founding of the Commission for Snow and Avalanche Research in 1931.
However, the members of the commission soon realized that it was not enough to deal with avalanches in summer, but that they had to observe the snow in winter and understand its structure down to the microscopic level of the snow crystals. To this end, they built the first laboratory building made of snow in Davos in 1935. As not only the experiments but also the building itself was in danger of melting away during heatwaves, the following winter they built a wooden research facility on the Weissfluhjoch, in the middle of the avalanche area, and set up an experimental field. The commission worked there until 1942, when the Federal Council decided to found the Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research. Just one year later, in April 1943, the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF was able to officially inaugurate its new institute building on the Weissfluhjoch.
From experimental surgery to bone healing
In 1958, Dr. Martin Allgöwer, still a private lecturer and head of the surgical department at Chur Cantonal Hospital, was looking for suitable rooms for his research into experimental surgery. As the "Villa Fontana" of the Swiss Research Institute for High Mountain Climate and Medicine in Davos was empty, Dr. Allgöwer was given four rooms where he continued his work with the Association for Osteosynthesis questions (AO for short), which he had set up with other Swiss surgeons. In 1967, the then director, Herbert Fleisch, was appointed full professor of pathophysiology in Bern, where he was followed by many academics who had worked in Davos. In the same year, Stefan M. Perren was put in charge of the Davos Institute, where, together with a small remaining part of the staff, he shifted the focus of the AO Center's research to the biology and biomechanics of bone and bone healing. Under Prof. Dr. Perren, the Laboratory for Experimental Surgery, as it was formerly known, became a well-organized, multidisciplinary research facility with all the facilities for the necessary experiments, examinations, tests and controls.
Christian Virchow, Research institutes in Davos and their current tasks, in: Ernst Halter (ed.), 1997: Davos, Profile of a phenomenon
WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF: http://www.slf.ch/ueber/geschichte/anfaenge_lawinenforschung/index_DE
Dania Achermann, 2009: Snow and avalanche research in Switzerland. Licentiate thesis.