The Kaiser's Chemists: Science and Modernization in Imperial Germany

By Jeffrey Allan Johnson | Go to book overview

3 The Reich Must Join In with Us: The Plan for an Imperial Chemical Institute

One dare not ignore the recent, energetic efforts that have been made abroad to catch up with us, especially in the United States of America. . . . What Werner von Siemens said of physics twenty-two years ago, when he advocated founding the Imperial Physical and Technical Institute, is equally true . . . of academic chemistry today. In the future chemistry too must have research institutes which are freed from instructional duties and are so richly equipped that they can also undertake costly experimentation.

-- Emil Fischer, February 1906

The Reich must join in with us. . . . We do not just want to ask, however; rather we also have, I believe, a right to demand. --Carl Dulsberg, February 1906


The Proposal

For more than a decade the Imperial Physical and Technical Institute has not only demonstrated its right to exist, it has exerted an unexpectedly far-reaching, even authoritative influence on various branches of physics and has played a decisive role in a great many questions of electrotechnology and physical technology in general. Its industrial significance is revealed in the fact that facilities modeled on the German Imperial Institute have recently appeared in England and North America.

The wish has often been expressed for an institution that would similarly promote chemistry, the sister science of physics. In view of chemistry's multifaceted and direct significance for practical life, one could even say that physics took precedence in this respect through an historical accident. 1

So began the confidential "Preliminary Draft of a Memorandum on the Establishment of an Imperial Chemical Institute," which some forty aca

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