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

By Jeffrey Allan Johnson | Go to book overview

5 How and Where Are We Going to Collect Such Great Sums?: The Imperial Institute Association as Investment in Research

How and where are we going to collect such great sums? A great deal of water is going to run down the Spree before the requisite donors have gathered in sufficient numbers.

-- Carl Duisberg, March 1907

Standstill means retreat. . . . In the peaceful competition of nations, Germany can conquer only in the sign of scientific and industrial progress. . . . With the great sums that must be raised to provide armaments for a possible war, one ought not to shrink from small expenditures on facilities for a peaceful contest.

-- Ernst Beckmann, On the Establishment of an Imperial Chemical Institute, 1908


Potential Motivations for Private Supporters of the Imperial Institute: Investment vs. Philanthropy

As Emil Fischer later acknowledged, the opposition of Carl von Martius and his allies had shattered any hopes for a major government subsidy to the Imperial Institute. 1 The rhetoric of professional prestige, national interest, and academic reform alone could not unite the German chemical community; a scientific program promising something to everyone, but most of all to the physical chemists, could not help but raise a multisided opposition. Against that, Fischer would have needed a powerful and influential ally like Werner von Siemens, who had forced the Imperial Physical and Technical Institute past its bureaucratic obstacles. 2 How, and how effectively, Fischer and his friends sought support in the absence of a Siemens offers an illuminating perspective on Imperial Germany's social priorities regarding science, and thus on the modernity of the German social structure.

The Imperial bureaucracy had demanded that the Imperial Chemical Institute project be financed largely through private means, but it had not

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