The Austrian Academy of Sciences

Founded in 1846

The Austrian Academy of Sciences (originally the Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien) was founded in Vienna by the Emperor Ferdinand I in a letter dated 30 May 1846 and he appointed his uncle, the Archduke Johann, to draft the statutes. We shall call the Academy the 'Austrian Academy of Sciences' throughout this article, although it did not adopt that name until 1947. The statutes drawn up by Archduke Johann enforced freedom of speech and of writing by members of the Academy overruling the strict censorship in place in Austria at this time. The Academy was formally constituted on 14 May 1847 when the statutes were approved. This was not the first attempt to found an Academy in Austria, for in fact the idea goes back to 1713 when Gottfried Leibniz suggested establishing an Academy of Sciences in Vienna, quoting the Royal Society in London and the Academy of Sciences in Paris as models to use. Nothing came of Leibniz's proposals, nor did later proposals made J C Gottsched in 1750 meet with any greater success.

The successful proposal for an Austrian Academy of Sciences came in 1837 in a petition submitted by twelve scholars. It still took many years of negotiation before the Academy formally came into being and, as we notes above, the foundation in 1846 was formalised by an Imperial Patent on 14 May 1847. Initially, 40 members were appointed, divided into the two classes, the mathematical-scientific class and the historical-philological class. The first President of the Academy was Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall, an orientalist, and Christian Doppler was an early member of the Academy being elected in 1848. The Academy moved into permanent buildings in 1857. These buildings, in the centre of Vienna, had belonged to the old University of Vienna, and had been built between 1753 and 1755 to the design of the French architect Jean Nicolas Jadot. Research activity in a wide range of sciences soon flourished:-
Especially in the first few decades of its existence, the Academy gained renown with pioneering achievements in many fields. For instance, it was responsible for founding the Central Office for Meteorology and Geomagnetism in 1851, the establishment of the observatories on the peaks of the Sonnblick and the Obir mountains, and in 1909 founded the Institute for Radium Research in Vienna.
In the years 1879-1914 the Academy was expanded several times into a "universal research centre". It also intensified its international cooperation with other research institutions and academies. During this time the Academy made especially important contributions to physics with Ludwig Boltzmann being a prominent member. During World War I, however, the activities of the Academy were curtailed and its leaders were partially interned, some of them being prevented from returning.

The legal basis of the Austrian Academy of Sciences is now the "Federal Law of 14 October 1921, concerning the Academy of Sciences in Vienna", only slightly modified by an Act of 9 May 1947. In it the mission of the Academy is described as follows:-
The Austrian Academy of Sciences is a legal entity under the special protection of the Federal Republic of Austria. ... Its mission is to promote the sciences and humanities in every respect and in every field, particularly in basic research.
The years between World War I and World War II were difficult because of the generally poor economic situation. Scientific research suffered due to high inflation and the onset of the economic crisis, but the strong support of its members helped the Academy continue to produce good work. Among the members of the mathematical-scientific class, for example, the physicist Erwin Schrödinger received the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics for the further development of quantum mechanics.

The "Anschluss" to the German Reich on 12 March 1938 had inevitable effects on the Academy. The statutes of the Academy were replaced in 1938 by a "provisional statute", which led to some changes in the organization. However, this statute remained provisional until 1945 and was never replaced by a completely new statute. In 1945, the 1938 statute was replaced by the original statute of 1921. The 1938 implementation of the required reorganization took over a year. The Academy became a member of the Reich Association of German Academies. The historian Heinrich von Srbik was elected on 1 April 1938 becoming the new president of the Academy. Srbik was internationally respected but, because of his "all-German conception of history", he was also appreciated by National Socialists. At the Academy's meetings he identified with Hitler's war policy; in 1940 he spoke of the "struggle of the German people for self-assertion," and in 1943 he repeated his "firm confidence of victory." He tried to preserve as far as possible the independence of the Vienna Academy from Berlin central offices. He had great respect for the academy members, so that in 1941, after the end of his term of office, he was re-elected as president. Jewish members were, however, removed from the Academy if they had not already resigned. For example, Erwin Schrödinger received a letter saying he was no longer a member on 3 October 1940.

After the war ended in 1945, the 1921 statutes were put back in place, members who had been excluded had mostly left Austria so were given corresponding membership. In 1947 the Academy celebrated its centenary and at this time changed its name to the 'Austrian Academy of Sciences'. In 1954, the Austrian Academy of Sciences was awarded the Karl Renner Prize of the City of Vienna.

In 1973 the Academy established its own publishing house. Between 60 and 80 publications come out every year containing the latest research results. In mathematics it publishes the following journals:
  1. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Mathematisch- Naturwissenschaftliche Klasse. Anzeiger;

  2. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Klasse. Denkschriften;

  3. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Klasse. Sitzungsberichte. Abteilung II. Mathematische, Physikalische und Technische Wissenschaften.
We list some prizes relevant to the topics of the MacTutor archive:

The Erwin Schrödinger Prize.

The Erwin Schrödinger Prize is awarded to scholars who work in Austria and have achieved outstanding scientific achievements in the subjects represented by the mathematical and natural sciences class of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in the broadest sense. The prize is intended to acknowledge the scientific life's work or an outstanding achievement that could have a lasting effect in its special field or beyond. The prize is not be awarded to full members of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The Erwin Schrödinger Prize has been awarded since 1956, at first every second year and then from 1963 it has been an annual award.

For a list of winners of the Erwin Schrödinger Prize, see THIS LINK.

The Edmund and Rosa Hlawka Prize for Mathematics.

The Edmund and Rosa Hlawka Prize for Mathematics is awarded to mathematicians of Austrian citizenship, aged 45 and over, for outstanding scientific achievements in the fields of number theory and geometry, in particular the theory of uniform distribution and the geometry of numbers. Scientists working as professors in the Department of Mathematics at a university or at a non-university research institution in Austria are invited to nominate suitable candidates. The mathematical and scientific class of the Austrian Academy of Sciences decides on the awarding of the prize on the basis of a proposal by an awarding commission according to an international peer review procedure. The Prize was set up in 1991 and is awarded every second year. The first awarded in 1992 was made to Michael Drmota, the second in 1994 to Johannes Schoissengeier, the third in 1996 to Gerhard Larcher, and the fourth in 1998 to Monika Ludwig.

Visit the society website.

References (show)

  1. The Austrian Academy of Sciences (Die Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften).
  2. G Feichtinger, M Winkler-Dworak, I Freund, A Prskawetz and F Riosmena, On the age dynamics of learned societies - taking the example of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna Yearbook of Population Research 5 (2007), 107-131.

Last Updated September 2018