Past Members

The list of members of the predecessor academies includes, firstly, all members of the (until 1918 ‘Royal’) Prussian Academy of Sciences (PAW) that was originally founded in 1700 as the Society of Sciences of the Elector of Brandenburg; it was renamed in 1946 as the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin (DAW) and then in 1972 as the Academy of Sciences of the German Democratic Republic (AdW). The DAW and AdW were continuations of the PAW and its learned society, but were also gradually transformed into a new kind of organisation, a comprehensive research facility with numerous institutes and many different functions, as was typical of the countries in the area of Soviet power with centralised research structures. The second component of this list is formed by the members of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin (AWB) that was set up in 1987 in West Berlin. This was a new type of initiative that was fundamentally different from both the long tradition of German academies and the East Berlin academy model.

Neither academy survived German reunification. Whereas the brief existence of the AWB was brought to a close in 1990 by a resolution of the Berlin City Parliament, the process of dissolving the AdW lasted from 1989 to 1992. Its 59 research institutes were detached from it and only in part continued as newly constituted institutions. The members of the learned society of the AdW were informed in 1992 by the Berlin Senator for Science and Research that, with the reconstution of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (formerly Prussian Academy of Sciences), the learned society of the AdW had ceased to exist. The Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, created in 1993, did take over research interests, assets and structural aspects of the old Prussian Academy, the East Berlin AdW and the West Berlin AWB, but as a learned society it was reconstituted entirely anew. The membership of the predecessor academy thus ended with the politicians’ decisions dissolving the academies by a certain date, for the AWB on the 31st of December 1990 and for the AdW on the 7th July 1992.

This list is based on older works by Erik Amburger (Die Mitglieder der Deutschen Academie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin 1700–1950) and Werner Hartkopf (Die Berliner Academie der Wissenschaften. Ihre Mitglieder und Preisträger 1700–1990). The information reported there was taken over and then corrected and expanded on the basis of archival sources in the archive of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. The entries on the small number of members of the West Berlin Academy, which was only in existence for less than four years, were taken from its yearbooks and expanded by more up-to-date sources. Uncertain entries – especially on the dates of birth and death and on the selection of members – are marked as such. Members whose names changed are listed twice. All data have been incorporated in such a way that computer-aided searches remain possible and the uncertain data can be filtered separately. It is also possible to identify resignations, organisational changes and formal exclusions, as well as the membership status and any alterations in it.

The following membership categories are used:

Ordinary Member
External Member
Honorary Member
Corresponding Member
Extraordinary Member
External Ordinary Member
AM (Extern. M)
außerord. M (extraord. M)
ausw. OM (extern. OM)


To simplify the database, the resident members are classed as Ordinary Members and the absent members as External Members. In the short-lived West Berlin Academy there was only one status, namely Member. Persons from Germany and abroad who had made outstanding contributions to science and technology could be elected as Academy members. Membership was not tied to residence in Berlin. Nonetheless, active engagement in the work of the Academy was expected.

In the case of the older Berlin learned society that existed for centuries under various names, it is not possible to make any clear, general statement about the membership, so some further information on the membership status is necessary. The status does not constitute a rank or grade and, in particular, it does not amount to a judgement on scientific standing, but rather characterises the member’s position in the Academy and the rights and duties arising from it. The Academy for the most part used four categories of membership: Ordinary, External, Corresponding and Honorary. Ordinary Members were resident in Berlin and took an active part in the business of the Academy. External Members were not lower in rank than Ordinary Members, because if they moved to Berlin they would automatically be transferred to the Ordinary status. Corresponding Members included scholars outside Berlin whose work had been especially noted by the Academy, but whose direct participation in the work of the Berlin Academy could not be expected. The Honorary Members included especially outstanding scholars (though this was less frequent from the 1880s onwards) and, increasingly, supporters of scholarship in the widest sense: politicians, academic administrators and patrons and donors.

However, these four categories were not in use throughout the entire history of the Academy and their meaning changed over time. From 1700 to 1743 the Academy made only the internal distinction between present and absent members. In 1744 the categories Ordinary Member (OM), Honorary Member (EM) and External Member (AM) were introduced. Honorary Members were either resident in Berlin or had a residence elsewhere. The Honorary Members resident in Berlin were not obliged to join in the work of the Academy, but had the right to present scholarly treatises at the meetings of the Academy. For the absent members, all that changed was the name. The Statute of the 10th of May 1746 for the Academy, passed by Frederick the Great, maintained these membership categories, but, on the French model, made a distinction among the Ordinary Members between Veterans, who were excused from the duties of an Academy member, the Pensioners, who received a salary, and the unpaid Associés. Between 1799 and 1811 there was also a further category of member: because the number of Ordinary Members was initially limited to 28, Extraordinary Members (außerord. M) were accepted, who would acquire ordinary membership whenever a position became available.

In 1812 the Academy began to distinguish between Ordinary Members, External Members, Honorary Members and Corresponding Members. In practice, this meant dividing the members outside in Berlin into two categories: firstly the External Members, who at once became Ordinary Members if they moved to Berlin and took up their duties as academicians, and secondly the Corresponding Members, who were to ensure that the Berlin Academy maintained national and international contacts. Both locals and foreigners could be accepted as Honorary Members. This division lasted in essentials until 1939. Until that point only one correction and one modernisation was found necessary. The correction concerned honorary membership. From 1838, Ordinary Members who left Berlin also became Honorary Members, so that there were now two groups of Honorary Members: those who had been elected as Honorary Members from the start, and those who acquired this status by leaving Berlin. In 1925 this was again corrected, in that the latter group were classed as External Members. The modernisation involved a relaxation of the obligation for Ordinary Members to live in Berlin, which was viewed as out-of-date. In 1930 the Academy therefore requested the creation of positions as external Ordinary Members (ausw. OM), which was realised in 1935.

In 1945/46, the discriminatory distinctions introduced by the the National Socialist regime in the citizenship of the Reich were revoked. However, Ordinary Membership remained explicitly reserved for German scholars, whose active engagement was required, but not defined more closely. Residence in Berlin was not obligatory for Ordinary Members, so that the category of external Ordinary Members again became superfluous. The Academy distinguished between Ordinary Members, Corresponding Members (highly regarded scholars both at home and abroad) and Honorary Members.

In 1969 the membership categories were again changed significantly. Ordinary Members and Corresponding Members from now on had to be citizens of the GDR. The Corresponding Members too were now obliged to take an active part in the work of the Academy. The status of Corresponding Member increasingly came to represent a period of candidacy for Ordinary Membership. From now on, all Ordinary and Corresponding Members from West Germany and the rest of the world were classed as External Members.

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