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History of the Academy

The Academy's Nomadic Years

After the transfer of presidency from Johann Michael Fehr (II. President, 1666-1686) to Johann Georg von Volckamer (III. President, 1686-1693) the Leopoldina moves from Schweinfurt to a new location in the Free City of Nuremberg. There, a new library with a natural history collection is opened in 1731. Over the next two centuries the Academy moves several times as its statutes stipulate, that it must be located in the President’s place of residence. Between 1686 and 1878 the Leopoldina changes locations a total of 15 times.

The Leopoldina’s nomadic years are marked by political and social developments of the 18th and 19th century. For example, in 1686 the Academy leaves Schweinfurt after the Thirty Years’ War and is relocated in Halle during the period of industrialization in 1878. Personalities with excellent scientific, organizational and occasionally even diplomatic skills shape the Academy and help to establish its reputation. Lucas von Schroeck (IV. President, 1693-1730), Andreas Elias von Büchner (VI. President, 1735-1769) and Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck (XI. President, 1818-1858) are particularly effective presidents of this era.

The Leopoldina’s locations between 1652 and 1878

1652-1686 Schweinfurt 1788-1818 Erlangen
1686-1693 Nuremberg 1819-1830 Bonn
1693-1730 Augsburg 1830-1858 Breslau
1730-1735 Altdorf 1858-1862 Jena
1735-1745 Erfurt 1862-1878 Dresden
1745-1769 Halle since 1878 Halle
1770-1788 Nuremberg  

In the 18th century in particular, the Leopoldina opens up to members from outside the field of science. Ministers, government officials and clergy are welcomed into the Academy as patrons or advocates. In 1789, the year of the French Revolution, Princess Yekaterina Romanovna Vorontsova-Dashkova becomes the first female member. In the five decades between 1769 and 1818, the Leopoldina selects an average of seven new members per year. However, in 1818 alone, the first year of Nees von Esenbeck’s presidency, the Academy accepts 54 predominantly younger scienists.

Classes and Sections

The members of the Leopoldina are organized in 28 sections that are grouped in four classes.