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

By Jeffrey Allan Johnson | Go to book overview

7 The Prussianization of the Imperial Institute: Shaping Chemical Research Institutions through the Kaiser Wilhelm Society

If I am replaced by Excellency Fischer--the obvious choice--the change would appear understandable and pleasing to everyone.

-- Adolf von Harnack's offer to resign as president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, January 1913

The form must correspond to the dignity of the parties involved and to the significance of the goals being pursued.

--"Comments on the Legal Form of the Chemical Institutes," Adolf von Harnack Papers, ca. 1911

You will be completely independent.

-- Emil Fischer's promise to Richard Willstätter, ca. 1911, regarding conditions for research in Dahlem


Separate Institutions, a Unifying Vision: The Leadership of Emil Fischer

The Kaiser's approval of Harnack's memorandum and the subsequent creation of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society presented the Imperial Chemical Institute Association with prospects that did not please all concerned. In January 1910 Nernst seemed a little doubtful about the "Prussianization of the [Imperial] Institute" 1 that must result from the new arrangements. Among the many changes that posed new opportunities and problems, three areas are especially worth discussing here. 2 First, could the Institute Association's plans be carried over into a cooperative relationship with the new society? By 1914, three separate Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes and a fund for research grants in chemistry had emerged instead of a unified Imperial Chemical Institute; the added support for these projects came from groups that had hitherto avoided or opposed the Institute Association, and were scarcely more willing to cooperate within the framework of the

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