The Göttingen Academy of Sciences

Founded in 1751

The Göttingen Academy of Sciences (Königliche Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften) was founded in 1751 by King George II with Albrecht von Haller as the main driving force in the setting it up. Von Haller was Professor of medicine, anatomy, botany and surgery at the University of Göttingen which had been founded in 1734. He had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1739 and a member of Berlin Academy of Sciences in 1749, and became the first President of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences.

Von Haller had very definite views on what an academy should be. M Kline, reviewing [2], writes:-
Haller stressed that research and teaching are quite different functions. The academies are for research and the universities are for teaching. Though professors at universities might, if they wished to, do some research their obligation was to transmit knowledge. Correspondingly, the academicians were to do original research and selected students might be admitted as auditors only. Quoting Haller, the author (of [2]) says, "For it is readily apparent how far removed a paper read before the Paris Academy is from lectures in a professor's classroom."
The author (of [2]) also cites Haller as saying that for the scientist the expectation of furthering the cause of truth was not in itself a strong enough impulse to labour in the academy. The stronger motivations were self-interest and vanity. These are best advanced in academies. The author gives other ideas Haller advanced as to the nature and functions of an academy, including the use of a universal language in its publications.

The Academy was named the Royal Society of Sciences and Humanities in Göttingen (Königliche Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen) when it was founded and it is only from 1942 that it has been given the name Göttingen Academy of Sciences (Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen). From the date of its foundation the Academy published Commentationes Societati Regiae Scientiarum Goettingensi which, after a number of minor changes in name, became Abhandlungen der Königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen in 1838. In 1894 the journal split into two separate journals covering different areas of science. The journal which contained the mathematical publications was Abhandlungen der Königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Mathematisch-Physikalische Klasse. In 1946 this journal changed its name to Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Mathematisch-Physikalische Klasse. The current important mathematics journal published by the Academy has the name Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen. II. Mathematisch-Physikalische Klasse.

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References (show)

  1. W Schröder, Zur Rolle der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften bei der Entwicklung der Physik in Göttingen (1880-1930), Nachr. Akad. Wiss. Göttingen Math.-Phys. Kl. II (2) (1985).
  2. O Sonntag, Albrecht von Haller on academies and the advancement of science: the case of Göttingen, Ann. of Sci. 32 (4) (1975), 379-391.

Last Updated August 2004