“Ich danke Ihnen von Herzen dafür, dass Sie mich in den Kreis der
korresp. Mitgl. Ihrer Akademie gewählt haben.”

“I am very thankful that you have elected me into the circle of the
corresponding members of your Academy.”

Albert Einstein in a letter to the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences, April 16, 1920


Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab

A short story of the Academy

For the promotion of the sciences the “Collegium Antiquitatum”, the today Royal Danish Academy of Sciences was founded on November 13, 1742 via decree of King Christian VI (1699-1746) in Copenhagen. Decisive influence on the Academy had the founding members, the Danish Chancellor Johan Ludvig von Holstein (1694-1763) and the Danish philologist and historian Hans Gram (1685-1748). The first President was Johan Ludvig von Holstein. In 1781 the Academy received its present name “Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab”. Divided into two classes – natural sciences and human sciences – the Academy now has approx. 250 national and 250 international members.

On April 9, 1920 Albert Einstein was accepted as foreign member of the Academy.

Royal Danish Academy of Sciences,

Albert Einstein and the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences

On January 26, 1920 the Danish physicists Niels Bohr (1885-1962), Martin Knudsen (1871-1949) and P. O. Pedersen (1874-1941) proposed Albert Einstein as foreign member during a meeting of the Academy. The President of the Academy was the Danish language scientist Vilhelm Ludwig Peter Thomsen (1842-1927). Albert Einstein was then elected as foreign member on Friday, April 9, 1920.

On this day among others the Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926), the German physicist Max Planck (1858-1947), the New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), the German chemist Richard Willstätter (1872-1942) and the Polish physicist and chemist Marie Curie (1867-1934) were elected as foreign members into the Academy. Marie Curie was the first female foreign member of the Academy.

Martin Knudsen, the Secretary of the Academy, informed Einstein in writing about his election on April 10. Einstein in turn thanked the Academy with a letter dated April 16. By mistake for the election as corresponding member, though he was elected as foreign member.

Einstein‘s nomination deed dated April 26, 1920 is signed by the President of the Academy, Vilhelm Ludwig Peter Thomsen, and the Secretary Martin Knudsen.

Einstein had contacts to the Academy as well as to single members far beyond his nomination as foreign member. His membership with the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences only ended with his death on April 18, 1955.


Editors: Diana Kormos Buchwald,
Robert Schulmann, József Illy,
Daniel J. Kennefick, Tilman Sauer
The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volume 9Princeton 2004