Prominent German intellectual dies suddenly

Journalist Frank Schirrmacher sparked and steered public debate

Germany has lost one of its most influential journalists and public intellectuals with the sudden death of Frank Schirrmacher. The 54-year-old, who died yesterday of a heart attack, succeeded critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki as the Frankfurter Allgemeine's literary editor in 1989. In 1994 he was appointed a co-editor responsible for the influential daily's culture pages. For two decades his Feuilleton section earned a reputation as a liberal counterweight to the more conservative leanings of the FAZ news and business sections.

Mr Schirrmacher, like few others in Germany, sparked and steered public debate – most recently commissioning lively essays on the consequences of the Snowden/NSA revelations and the rising power of Google. The consequences of the digital era had preoccupied him for some years and, in his 2009 bestseller Payback, he warned of far- reaching consequences of information overload on society and the human brain.

President Joachim Gauck praised Mr Schirrmacher as a "voice of sense". "[He] was both an alert and eloquent observer and shaper of the cultural and societal life," he said. Social Democratic Party leader Sigmar Gabriel said "Germany has lost a great ... intellectual. And I have lost a friend."