“… Ich wurde Mitglied vieler wissenschaftlicher Gesellschaften,
und mehrere Medaillen wurden mir verliehen, …”
”…I became a member of many scientific societies and I was awarded many medals, …“
Albert Einstein, Berlin 1932
ACADEMIES AND SOCIETIES
Albert Einstein‘s membership in scientific academies and societies
Albert Einstein was a member (full member, corresponding member, foreign member, honorary member) of many national and international scientific academies and societies such as the Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin) and the Kaiserlich Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher zu Halle an der Saale (German Imperial Academy of Natural Scientists in Halle/Saale).
The young patent clerk Albert Einstein developed his first institutional scientific ideas in 1903. Reason therefore was the membership in scientific and physical societies in Switzerland, in the beginning in Bern and later also in Zurich.
As Einstein moved to Berlin in April 1914 he became among other things also a member of the Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Prussian Academy of Sciences).
After 1919 he became a member of ever more national and international academies and societies. One of the reasons for this increasing number of memberships was the confirmation of Einstein’s prediction of the deviation of light in the gravitational field of the sun by the British astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944) on May 29, 1919. This confirmation of the general theory of relativity made Einstein world-famous overnight. The myth Albert Einstein was born.
Albert Einstein then got more and more requests and in the following years he became a member of many national and international scientific institutions.
In the following table you can see that Einstein‘s membership with all the German academies and societies ended in 1933. The reason were the political balance of power and the associated incidents in Nazi Germany after 1933. Einstein had already left Germany for good when he asked his friend and colleague, the German physicist and Nobel Prize laureate Max von Laue (1879-1960), in a letter dated June 5, 1933 to cancel the membership with all German scientific institutions for him. In the letter Einstein asked von Laue „dafür zu sorgen, dass sein Name aus den Verzeichnissen dieser Körperschaft gestrichen wird […] Dieser Weg dürfte der richtige sein, da so neue theatralische Effekte vermieden werden.“ “to make sure that his name be struck from the lists of these bodies […] This is probably the right way, because this way new theatrical effects are avoided.” Einstein also cancelled his membership with the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei on December 15, 1938, after the exclusion of its Jewish Italian members.
However, at this point of time there were academies and societies which already had excluded Einstein from the respective community, among other things because of his Jewish roots and probably also due to political reasons.
In 1933 Albert Einstein found a new home in the US. He lived in Princeton, New Jersey and worked at the Institute for Advanced Study. During the following years he became a member of ever more societies.
For some of the named institutions Einstein was also awarded the honorary membership, such as on occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Naturforschende Gesellschaft in Bern (Bern Society for Natural Sciences) on November 21, 1936. In the certificate is says that the society “[…] Herrn Professor Dr. Albert Einstein […] ihr ehemaliges aktives Mitglied […] zu ihrem Ehrenmitglied ernennt”.
”[…] appoints Professor Dr. Albert Einstein […] its former active member […] honorary member”.
Post-war requests for a new membership in German institutions (1945) were rejected by Einstein. This also applies for a request of the German physicist Arnold Sommerfeld (1868-1951), who wanted to persuade Einstein to again become a member of the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Bavarian Academy of Sciences). In Einstein‘s reply to Sommerfeld dated December 14, 1946, it reads: “[…] will ich nichts mehr mit Deutschen zu tun haben, auch nichts mit einer relativ harmlosen Akademie. […]”
“[…] I do not wish to have anything more to do with Germans, not even with a relatively harmless Academy. […]”. Two requests of the Königliche Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen (Royal Scientific Society, Göttingen) were not answered by Einstein.
Though Einstein‘s membership in the academies and societies only existed on paper, in the later years this membership was kept over the years, even decades. Many memberships only ended with Einstein’s death on April 18, 1955.
Selection: Einstein‘s membership in national and international scientific institutions:
|Country||Membership||Academy / Society|
|Switzerland||1903 – 1955||Naturforschende Gesellschaft in Bern|
Society for Natural Sciences, Bern
|Switzerland||1909 – 1955||Physikalische Gesellschaft Zürich|
Physical Society Zurich
|Switzerland||1910 – 1955||Naturforschende Gesellschaft in Zürich|
Society for Natural Sciences, Zurich
|Germany||1913 – 1933||Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft|
German Physical Society
|Germany||1914 – 1933||Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin|
Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin
|Germany||1915 – 1933||Königliche Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen|
Royal Scientific Society, Göttingen
|Denmark||1920 – 1955||Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab|
Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters
|Netherlands||1920 – 1955||Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen|
Royal Academy of Sciences in Amsterdam
|Italy||1921 – 1938|
1946 – 1955
|Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei|
|Spain||1923 – 1955||Real Akademia de Ciencias Exactas, Fisicas y Naturales|
Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences
|Germany||1927 – 1933||Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften|
Bavarian Academy of Sciences
|Germany||1932 – 1933||Kaiserlich Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher zu Halle, Leopoldina|
Imperial German Academy of Natural Scientists in Halle, Leopoldina
Courtesy of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina: 1
|Editors: D. C. Cassidy, M. J. Klein, A. J. Kox,|
R. Schulmann, D. Kormos Buchwald, a.o.
|The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volume 1-13||Princeton 1987-2012|
|Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina||Festgabe zur Jahresversammlung 1979/80 RAUM UND ZEIT|
ACTA HISTORICA LEOPOLDINA, Nr. 14
|Max Flückiger||Albert Einstein in Bern||Bern 1974|
|Ann M. Hentschel, Gerd Graßhoff, Karl Wolfgang Graff||Albert Einstein “Jene glücklichen Berner Jahre”||Bern 2005|
(Editors: C. Dirks, H. Simon)
|Albert Einstein – ein politischer Jude|
(relativ jüdisch. Albert Einstein Jude, Zionist, Nonkonformist)