Leopoldina Home Menü

Leopoldina Home

History of the Academy

Pursuit of Independence

Otto Schlüter (XXI. President, 1952-1953) succeeds in preserving the independence of the Leopoldina as a supranational scientific community. He is able to prevent its impending integration into other organizations, for instance into the Cultural Alliance for the Democratic Renewal of Germany founded in 1945, or into the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin. In 1952, the year of the Leopoldina’s 300th anniversary, the East German government finally recognizes the organization’s independence and supports the celebrations. The Academy subsequently receives the necessary funding to continue its work.

In 1954 Kurt Mothes (XXII. President, 1954-1974), a plant biochemist and pharmacist from Halle, assumes the presidency. In 1955 the Academy begins holding annual assemblies on important interdisciplinary issues with all sections and members of the Academy invited to participate. They are supposed to be held alternately in Halle and Schweinfurt, but only once, in 1957, members actually assemble in Schweinfurt. With the Berlin Wall going up in 1961, the Academy’s birthplace is now located behind the „Iron Curtain“, out of reach for East German scientists due to travel restrictions.

Nevertheless, events organized by the Leopoldina provide East German scientists with opportunities to stay in touch with the international research community. President Mothes uses the annual assemblies to critically analyze academic and research policy developments in both the East and West. During moments of politically charged interaction with the party and state leadership in the GDR, Mothes threatens to move the Academy headquarters to West Germany.
Heinz Bethge (XVIII. President, 1974-1990) maintains his predecessor’s independent course until the dissolution of the GDR. He also uses his position as President of the Leopoldina to gain additional leeway. After the German Reunification in 1990, the Leopoldina is recognized as a valuable partner in reforming the East German scientific system and its reincorporation into the now reunified German science and research community. The Academy has maintained its autonomy and independence and receives the legal status of a non-profit organization in 1991.