Angela Merkel's incredible rise to a quantum chemist and the world's most powerful woman

US president Donald Trump with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the White House, March 17, 2017. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/ Getty Images.

The world’s most powerful woman earned her Ph.D. in quantum physics, presides over the richest economy in Europe, and was the central broker in a massive euro-bailout deal.

In short, when the chips are down, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is the undisputed leader Europeans turn to.

Here’s the story of Merkel’s rise from humble beginnings under an oppressive East German regime to the top spot as Germany’s leader.

Angela Kasner was born in Hamburg, West Germany, on July 17, 1954.

Angela Merkel, age 3, in 1957. Picture: BBC screengrab

Angela Dorothea Kasner was born to Herlind Kasner, an English and Latin teacher, and Horst Kasner, a theologian and Lutheran minister.

A few weeks after she was born, her father moved the family to Templin, in East Germany, about an hour from Berlin.

Merkel's childhood was shaped by the Stasi, or secret police. The Stasi made people paranoid. Merkel

learned early on to keep her cards close to her chest.

Source: The Making of Merkel, BBC

A perfectionist by nature, she excelled in her studies.

Merkel won the Lessing Medal in Silver for outstanding socialist engagement. Picture: BBC screengrab

She excelled in academics, especially maths, science, and languages.

In her teenage years, her parents encouraged her to join the Communist youth organisation, the Freie Deutsche Jugend, or Free German Youth, to develop skills for a career in politics.

After flunking a physics course in high school, she decided to pursue a degree from the University of Leipzig in physics to prove her mastery of the subject.

Source: The Making of Merkel, BBC

She became a physicist.

Merkel with classmates. Picture: BBC screengrab

Popular among her peers, she caught the eye of fellow physics student Ulrich Merkel, whom she met during a Russian exchange trip.

She married him in 1977 and graduated the following year with a degree in physics and physical chemistry.

She continued her academic career and went on to study at the elite German Academy of Sciences, in Berlin, and earned a Ph.D. in quantum chemistry, in 1986.

Source: The Making of Merkel, BBC

She used her promising career in science to hide from the oppressive East German regime.

Angela Merkel and Joachim Sauer. Picture: BBC screengrab

After earning her doctorate, she worked as a chemist at the Academy of Sciences, where she was one of a few female researchers.

She was convinced that a career in science would protect her from the constraints of the East German regime.

Merkel and her husband divorced in 1982. She later married Joachim Sauer, a chemistry professor.

She has always valued routine and consistency.

Merkel drinking with friends. Picture: BBC screengrab

On November 9, 1989, the night the Berlin Wall fell, Merkel went to a sauna and then out for beers as she did every Thursday night.

Her decision to stick to her typical routine is an example of her stark contrast to the way most people in Berlin reacted that night.

Source: The Making of Merkel, BBC

Her first job in politics was unpacking boxes.

Picture: BBC screengrab

In 1989, Merkel made a move toward a career in politics and joined the center-right activists of the Democratic Awakening party.

Her first job was unpacking boxes of new computers and setting them up for the office.

A year later, she became the party's spokeswoman, and renamed the party the Allianz für Deutschland, or Alliance for Germany.

Source: The Making of Merkel, BBC

She was a rarity in the political world.

Picture: BBC screengrab

As a female with a doctorate in quantum chemistry, Merkel immediately stood out in the political realm.

Even in her new, more visible role as a spokeswoman, she kept her cropped haircut, baggy skirts, and sandals -- and was criticised for it.

Her male counterparts were so distracted by her appearance they offered to pay for new and more suitable clothes for her.

Source: The Making of Merkel, BBC

She excelled at her political appointments.

Angela Merkel as minister of the environment. Picture: BBC screengrab

Merkel's rise to the top accelerated when she joined the largest party in West Germany, Christlich Demokratische Union.

She was selected for multiple positions by Helmet Kohl, her mentor and the leader of the Christian Democratic Union, or CDU.

He appointed her as minister for women and, a few years later, as minister of the environment, where she oversaw controversial topics like nuclear safety.

Source: The Making of Merkel, BBC

She brokered a massive bailout for 19 nations.

Picture: Getty Images

Merkel's most defining moments stem from her central role in managing the eurozone financial crisis.

After other European nations began to reveal that they too had unmanageable debt, Merkel analysed all possible options before agreeing to a massive bailout.

She was criticised for her slow-moving approach and rigid viewpoints.

Source: The Making of Merkel, BBC

She is adored by her World Cup winning soccer team.

Picture: Guido Bergmann/Getty Images
Chancellor Angela Merkel and German President Joachim Gauck celebrate with the German national team after its 1-0 victory in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match against Argentina.

Merkel is credited for being the first chancellor to appreciate and support sports in her nation. The team declared her as the official mascot for the squad and calls her Muttivation, a play on her nickname, Mutti, meaning mummy.

'The chancellor's visit to the German team during the World Cup shows that she takes people and their interests seriously,' said market researcher Manfred Güllner of the Forsa Institute.

Source: The Guardian

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