Kaiser Wilhelm Society

(Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft, KWG)
   Founded in 1911 as part of a centennial celebration for the University of Berlin,* the KWG was sponsored by the German Emperor. Its goal was to create insti-tutes in which scholars pursued pure and applied research beyond the scope of universities dedicated primarily to teaching. Its leading voice and its president until 1930 was the theologian Adolf von Harnack.* Under Harnack s leadership KWG soon established several institutes, chiefly in the natural and medical sci-ences. Its approximately two hundred members, often bankers and industrialists, were each levied a minimum contribution of twenty thousand Reichsmarks. Governance began with a senate, numbering thirty individuals in the Weimar era, that fashioned policy. The senate was in turn led by a seven-member ex-ecutive; as president, Harnack led the executive. Of its several institutes, Ernst Beckmann directed the one for chemistry (the original institute) from 1912 until 1923 (Otto Hahn* became director in 1928); Fritz Haber* directed the Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry during 1912-1933; the Institute for Coal Research, established in 1914, was directed by Franz Fischer; the Biology Institute, formed in 1915, was directed until 1933 by Carl Correns; Max Rubner, a physiologist, led the Physiology Institute during 1913-1932; and August von Wassermann directed the Institute for Experimental Therapy. Although German physics was destined for international distinction, the Physics Institute, tenta-tively founded in 1917, remained but a mechanism for dispensing grants until 1938.
   After attending to the demands associated with the war, KWG preserved its name during the Weimar era at the urging of Max Planck.* Guiding its precar-ious life through the inflation,* Harnack shifted its focus from pure to applied science, and the KWG fell increasingly under the influence of industry. By 1926 Krupp,* IG Farben,* and the steel cartel* held five of seven executive seats.
   When Harnack died in July 1930, Planck succeeded him. His seven-year term began with efforts to mitigate the depression s* impact on the society; it ended with the nearly impossible task of protecting the KWG s autonomy from Nazi ideology. Planck gave way to IG Farben s Carl Bosch.* While Bosch was not a Nazi, he sympathized with the view that the society had been a tool of Jewish science under Planck. Nobel laureate Otto Hahn* assumed direction of the post-war organization, renamed the Max Planck Society in 1946.
   REFERENCES:Beyerchen, Scientists under Hitler; Heilbron, Dilemmas of an Upright Man; Johnson, Kaiser's Chemists; Macrakis, Surviving the Swastika; Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, 50 Jahre; Pauck, Harnack and Troeltsch.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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