The members of the Leopoldina are organized in 28 sections that are grouped in four classes.
On 1 January 1652 four physicians − Johann Lorenz Bausch, Johann Michael Fehr, Georg Balthasar Metzger and Georg Balthasar Wohlfahrth − establish the Academia Naturae Curiosorum in the Free Imperial City of Schweinfurt. It is now the oldest continuously existing academy of medicine and the natural sciences in the world. The four physicians invite leading scholars of their day to join them in “exploring nature [...] for the glory of God and the good of mankind.” The selected motto for this ambitious objective is „Nunquam otiosus“ (“never idle”).
City physician Johann Laurentius Bausch (1605-1665) becomes the Academy’s first President. Over the following years he is joined by members from other cities in Germany. They soon realize that in order to draft a proposed encyclopedia, they would have to gather existing knowledge and subject it to discussion. To this end, in 1670 Sachs Lewenhaimb, a physician in Breslau (Wrocław), initiates the world’s first journal of natural science and medicine, the Miscellanea Curiosa Medico-Physica Academiae Naturae Curiosorum, which is still in print today.
Soon after being established, the Academy starts to seek public recognition, which is achieved when Emperor Leopold I. grants the Academy official approval in August of 1677. Ten years later, Leopold awards the Academy special privileges, guaranteeing its independence from the various ruling dynasties in the region and providing complete freedom from censorship for all its publications. Ever since the Academy is called Sacri Romani Imperii Academia Caesareo-Leopoldina Naturae Curiosorum − or the Leopoldina for short. The emperors Charles VI. and Charles VII. confirm and extend the Academy’s privileges.