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

By Jeffrey Allan Johnson | Go to book overview

8 The Promises Were Not Kept: Limits to the Development of the New Institutes before the War

There were . . . drawbacks at Dahlem which seem to beset the establishment of research institutions in Germany permanently and immutably . . . The promises proclaimed . . . were not kept. . . . Disadvantages . . . follow from the isolation and the special position of research establishments.

-- Richard Willstätter, From My Life


Institutional Limits

By 1914 the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry already faced difficulties, not just in hiring new staff but even in holding the researchers it already had. The root problems were only partly financial. Rather the budgetary complications were exacerbated by a deeper flaw, the inability of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes to gain full acceptance into the existing structure of academic institutions supported by the Prussian government.

From the beginning the Kaiser Wilhelm Society encountered resistance from within the Berlin Academy and the universities. Let Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf present his reasons for fomenting opposition: "first because the Emperor only lent his name and the money chiefly came from industrial sources, secondly because they [the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes] had nothing to do with the University, and lastly because if industry creates anything of the kind, it expects practical results for itself. We cannot blame industry for that, but it is very American. . . . A friend of the Academy may become anxious if he pictures to himself that all these richly endowed and successful institutes might be combined in one union for natural science, so that our department [i.e., the Geisteswissenschaften, or humanities] would be quite overshadowed." 1 The Kaiser, it should be noted, had done somewhat more than just "lent his name"; but his participation in the opening festivities of the first two chemistry institutes would have more than confirmed Wilamowitz's fears that industry expected

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