A former director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, he is an honorary doctor of the Technical University of Braunschweig. From 1982 to 1993, Eigen was president of the German National Merit Foundation.
In 1967, Eigen was awarded, along with Ronald George Wreyford Norrish and George Porter, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. They were distinguished for their studies of extremely fast chemical reactions induced in response to very short pulses of energy.
In addition, Eigen's name is linked with the theory of the chemical hypercycle, the cyclic linkage of reaction cycles as an explanation for the self organization of prebiotic systems, which he described with Peter Schuster in 1979. Eigen is a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.