The Berlin Academy
Societas Regia Scientiarum, 1700-1744
Académie Royale des Sciences et Belles-Lettres de Prusse, 1744-1810
Königlichen Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 1810-1918
Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 1918-1946
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 1946-1972
Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR, 1972-1992
Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1992-present
The Berlin Academy has its origins in the initiative of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz,
who, beginning in the 1690s, petitioned Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg (later
King Frederick I of Prussia) to establish a German academy of sciences. After great efforts
on the part of Leibniz, Frederick established the Academy in 1710, under the name of
Societas Regia Scientiarum. Leibniz soon left Berlin, and the Societas
declined under the rule of Frederick's successor, Frederick William I (who saw little
value in such an institution), but the notion and tradition of state-supported science
In spite of these difficulties, the Societas did manage to publish a semi-regular
journal, though the publication dates were somewhat erratic. This journal, the
Berolinensia, appeared in seven volumes between 1710 and 1744.
In 1740, after 30 years of neglect, institutional science entered a period of revival, due
largely to the accession of Frederick II to the
Prussian throne. Over the next four years, Frederick pursued a vigorous domestic policy,
pushing for major reforms in Prussian science, the military, and administration.
While Frederick immediately proposed sweeping changes to Prussian science, the first
few years of his reign had little impact on the Societas. From 1740 to 1744,
Frederick was preoccupied with the Silesian Wars, was rarely in Berlin, and was
noticeably absent from any movement for science reform. As a result, the Societas
continued to suffer as it had under his predecessor, lacking funds and resources.
It was Frederick's professed commitment to reform, and an increasingly xenophobic atmosphere
in Russia, persuaded Euler to acccept a position at the Societas in 1741. He and
other scientists were displeased at the lack of substantive change, and they responded
in 1743 by founding the Société Littéraire de Berlin. The
purpose of the Société was to pursue scientific research in a
completely private fashion, with no direct connection to the crown.
However, the Société was to be a short-lived venture. Its
inauguration coincided with the end of the first Silesian war and the return of
Frederick to Berlin. In 1744, Frederick delivered on his promise of reform, overseeing
the reorganization and merger of the Societas with the Société
under the new name of Académie Royale des Sciences et Belles-Lettres de
Prusse. (Additionally, the language of preference changed from Latin to French.)
With this, the establishment of the Academy was complete. Along with the new
institution came new journals, the
Mémoires, which first appeared in 1745. This journal appeared in various incarnations over the next six decades, often bound together with the corresponding Histoire for each year. Most of Euler's works during the Berlin years were published here.
The Academy continued in this fashion until 1809, when Wilhelm von Humboldt became
president and initiated another major reorganization. This time, the language of
preference shifted from French to German, and the Academy took on the new name of
Königlichen Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin. The
Mémoires were also replaced, by the Abhandlungen.
Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, more changes, reorganizations, and
renamings were to occur. These changes reflected the political situations of the
times: Germany united in 1871 under the rule of the Kaiser, the end of World
War I gave rise to the Weimar Republic and the Nazi period, and the Cold War
division of Germany saw the Academy under the auspices of the East German government.
The last major change came in the early 1990s, when Germany was reunited
and the Academy was reformed as the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der