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Beck was born in the Pomeranian town of Stolp, Greater German Empire (now Słupsk in Poland) in 1944. From 1966 onwards he studied sociology, philosophy, psychology, and political science at Munich University. In 1972 he left as a Doctor of Philosophy and worked as a sociologist at Munich University. In 1979 he qualified as a university lecturer. He was professor at the universities of Münster (1979-1981) and Bamberg (1981-1992). Since 1992 Beck has been professor for sociology and director of the Institute for Sociology of Munich University. He is also the British Journal of Sociology Professor at the London School of Economics. He has received many international prizes and honors.
From 1995-1997 Beck was a member of the Kommission für Zukunftsfragen der Freistaaten Bayern und Sachsen (Commission for Future Questions of the Free States of Bavaria and Saxony). Since 1999 he has been the speaker of the DFG research programme on Reflexive Modernity.