Escutcheons of Science
 Seal of the Leopoldina Academy

The Leopoldina Academy (1652)
The oldest extant scientific academy

[ The above copyrighted picture is reproduced here by permission:   © 2007 Jochen Wilke ]

Motto :  Nunquam Otiosus   (Never Idle)

[The Academy's insignias] comprise a golden ring that two serpents have wound themselves around.  The serpents are holding a book that has been opened up, and one page shows the eye exploring nature, while the other displays a symbolic plant that was later on replaced in the coat of arms by the Academy's motto. [cf. Leopoldina]

[Zu den Insignien der Akademie] gehört ein goldener Ring, um den sich zwei Schlangen winden, die ein aufgeschlagenes Buch halten, dessen eine Seite das die Natur erforschende Auge, die andere eine symbolische Pflanze zeigt, die später im Wappen durch den Wahlspruch der Akademie ersetzt wurde. [cf. Leopoldina]

In 1652, the Leopoldina was founded in the free Imperial City of  Schweinfurt  by four prominent physicians interested in Natural Sciences, including  Johann Lorenz Bausch  (1605-1665)  who became its first president.  It was originally called Academia Naturae Curiosorum.

In 1670, the Academy began the publication of a journal, entitled  Ephemeriden  which was dedicated to the  Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I  (1640-1705)  who had been elected Emperor at Frankfurt in 1658 and was known as a patron of the arts and sciences.

In 1677, the Academy had its official name changed to  Romani Imperii Academia Naturae Curiosorum.  In 1687, it became  Sacri Romani Imperii Academia Caesareo Leopoldina Naturae Curiosorum  as  Leopold I  vested it with extended privileges, including the rights to award academic degrees and to publish scientific research without censorship.

   Leopoldina Seal

The name which appears around the seal currently sported by the Leopoldina is:  Academia Caesarea Leopoldino-Carolina Naturae Curiosorum.  The Academy thus appears dedicated to  two  emperors (Leopold and Carl) because its privileges were confirmed in 1742 by  Charles VII.  However, the Academy is universally known simply as  Leopoldina.  The latter patron is all but forgotten, although the full name  Imperial Leopoldina-Carolina German Academy of Natural Scientists  was sometimes used in English before 1990.

For a long time, the Leopoldina was merely based wherever its current president happened to reside...  Therefore, it had many successive homes:  Schweinfurt, Nuremberg, Augsburg, Altdorf, Erfurt, Halle (1745-1769), Nuremberg again, Erlangen, Bonn, Breslau, Jena and Dresden.  In 1878, it settled permanently in  Halle an der Saale, where the Academy Library would be built in 1904, which still serves as its headquarters.

 Chain of Office
Chain of Office, by Karl Müller and Renate Greff (1956/1957).

Until 2007, the full name of the Academy was German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina  (translated from its German name:  Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina).  Its uninterrupted existence since 1652 was reaffirmed in the new statutes which were adopted in 1991  (after the reunification of Germany in 1990).

The Leopoldina managed to uphold its status as an all-German institution against the will of the East-German communist state  (GDR)  while it lasted  (from 1949 to 1990).  At first, the Academy did that by holding its conventions alternately in its home at Halle (East Germany) and in its historical birthplace at Schweinfurt (West Germany).  Even when the Cold War and the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961 made that an impractical proposition, the Leopoldina did somehow survive as an  Imperial  institution...

On November 16, 2007, German Science Minister, Annette Schavan (CDU) announced officially that the Leopoldina would take on the vacant rôle of a national science academy for unified Germany.  It thus became an advisory body to the German government on scientific matters, under the official name  Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften  (German Academy of Sciences).  Curiously, the new name would broaden the scope of the Academy, since the German word  Wissenshatfen  encompasses both natural sciences and humanities, although the Leopoldina has no traditional competence in the latter.  Regardless of its new name and status, its heritage makes the Leopoldina the oldest of the three extant major European scientific academies founded in the middle of the 17th Century.  The other two are the  Royal Society  of London (1660) and the French  Académie des Sciences  (1666).

Although the  Accademia dei Lincei  (to which Galileo belonged)  was founded half a century before the Leopoldina  (in 1603)  it cannot claim the same uninterrupted existence...  Actually, that Italian Academy has  two  modern reincarnations:

The  Leopoldina Academy  itself served as the model for other German academies with a more regional scope,  including the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, founded in 1759:

 Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities

Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften

This copyrighted picture is reproduced here by permission.  © 2008, Jochen Wilke.

Leopoldina History (pdf 2.58 MB)      Leopoldina  Royal Society  Academie des Sciences
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