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Akademie der Wissenschaften, Österreichische#

Academy of Sciences, Austrian (Akademie der Wissenschaften, Oesterreichische), independent body, financed mainly by the federal government partly by foundations and subsidies. Regarded as the highest-ranking representative body of the scientific community and the leading research institution in Austria. The Academy has an important library and (since 1973) its own publishing house.

Numerous proposals to establish an Academy of Sciences in Vienna were (1712-1716 made by G. W. Leibniz, 1718, 1721, 1749 by J. C. Gottsched, 1750 etc.) but were not followed up by the respective Austrian rulers for a long time, mainly for financial reasons; it was not until 12 renowned Austrian scholars (J. von Hammer-Purgstall, A. von Arneth, N. J. von Jacquin, J. J. von Littrow, J. J. von Prechtl and others) wrote a petition in 1837 that a founding constitution was drawn up with the co-operation of Metternich and signed on May 14, 1847. The "Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften in Vienna" (Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna) saw itself as a society of scholars and bastion of scientific freedom. After the fall of the Austrian monarchy, the Academy of Sciences was put on a legally and financially secure basis under federal law in 1921 as the "Academy of Sciences in Vienna" and in 1947 as the "Austrian Academy of Sciences"; its task of "promoting science and research in every respect" was also confirmed.

The Academy of Sciences is divided into a mathematics and natural science section (mathematics, natural sciences, medicine, technical sciences) and a philosophy/history section (humanities, legal studies, political science and business/economics) and comprises up to 90 permanent members in Austria, up to 250 corresponding members (although they maintain all of their rights as members, permanent and corresponding members 70 years of age or older are not counted for the purpose of membership limits), and up to 24 honorary members. Permanent members elect the President and Vice President of the Academy of Sciences (term: 3 years) and 2 secretaries (term: 4 years), all of whom have to be confirmed by the Austrian President, as well as new members from among the most renowned figures in science and research.

From the beginning, the Academy was very active in founding and promoting all areas of academic studies, only a few of which can be mentioned as examples here. For instance, the Academy of Sciences published the "Archiv fuer oesterreichische Geschichte (Archives of Austrian History, from 1934; previously "Archiv fuer Kunde oesterreichischer Geschichtsquellen" - Archives for the Study of Austrian Historical Sources), the source edition "Fontes rerum Austriacarum" (Sources of Austrian Studies, from 1849), supported the publication of the"Biographisches Lexicon des Kaisertums Oesterreich" (Biographical Lexicon of the Empire of Austria) by C. Wurzbach, occasioned the foundation of the Zentralanstalt fuer Meteorologie und Geodynamik (1851), was involved in the "Novara's" circumnavigation of the globe (1857-1859), supported and initiated numerous Austrian expeditions (e.g. North Pole Expedition and archaeological excavations ( Ephesus, Limes and others), founded Europe's first phonograph archives in 1899, has published the "Monumenta Germaniae Historica" together with the Academies in Munich and Berlin since 1875 and has carried out long-term publication and serial publication projects (Oesterreichisches Biographisches Lexikon/Austrian Biographical Lexicon 1815-1950, Die Habsburgermonarchie/The Habsburg Monarchy 1848-1918, Oesterr. Staedtebuch/Book of Austrian Towns, A.-Schnitzler-Tagebuch/Diary of Arthur Schnitzler, etc.). The research of the Academy of Sciences in the fields of social studies and the humanities has not only made internationally respected contributions to the development of humanities (e.g. in Byzantine studies, Iranian studies, numismatics, linguistics and literary studies), it has also laid important foundations for regional policy and planning and for the assessment of public-sector measures in health, family and social policy (for example at the Institut fuer Demographie/Institute of Demographic Studies or the Institut fuer Stadt- und Regionalforschung/Institute for Urban and Regional Research). The systematic investigation of everyday life and material culture in the Middle Ages and in the early Modern era carried out by the Institut fuer Realienkunde/Institute for the Study of Artifacts (Krems) has also opened up new perspectives in the study of history. In the 20th century, the mathematics and natural sciences section of the Academy has concentrated its research on physics, biology, medicine and environmental studies. The institutes of the Academy collaborate with large international research institutions (CERN, Paul Scherrer Institute and others). Of all the Academy's outstanding achievements, the following are most worthy of mention: participation in the UA 1 Experiment (proved the existence of W and Z bosons, Nobel Prize 1984), in the DELPHI experiment (detector for lepton, photon and hadron identification), the construction of magnetometers for space travel (Venus, Mars, VEGA Project), contributions towards the explanation of genetic structure, genetic regulation and the like, of Alzheimer's disease, of human thinking processes using EEG (Electroencephalogram), of severe blood diseases, etc. In the field of comparative behavioral studies, the ideas of K. Lorenz are still being pursued (animal behaviour, with special attention to adaptation to the environment). In environment-related research, ecosystem analyses of flowing bodies of water are performed, limits for air pollutants are set, and interdisciplinary groups of engineers, natural and social scientists and economists identify socio-economic/ecological developments and make accompanying prognoses with the help of computer models. Questions of technology's effects on people and on economic and social development are also being investigated. The Academy reacts to topics relevant to the future by constantly restructuring its organisation and allocation of resources.

As of 1993, the Academy's research was carried out in the Institutes (Phonograph Archives, 1899; Comparative Behavioral Studies, 1966; Medium-Energy Physics, 1987; High-Energy Physics, 1966; Molecular Biology, 1966; Limnology, 1972; Information Processing, 1968, 1972; Solid-State Physics, 1971; Space Research, 1972; Biophysics and X-Ray Structure Research, 1974, 1991; Biomedical Gerontology, 1987, 1991; Study of Artifacts of the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, 1967, 1990; Cartography, 1969; Demography, 1975; Urban and Regional Research, 1946, 1988; Asian Cultural and Intellectual History, 1985, 1992); in the research departments (Technology Assessment, 1987; Physiology and Anatomy of the Cerebral Cortex, 1968, 1990; Experimental Neuropathology, 1968, 1990; Biosystematics and Ecology, 1991, 1993; Socio-economics, 1991), in the facilities (Austrian Biographical Encyclopedia and Documentation, 1946, 1993; Encyclopedias of Austrian Dialects and Names, 1911, 1993) and in over 40 commissions. The Academy also prepares reports on research and scientific questions for government authorities. Every year, progress reports are presented and awards are conferred. The seat of the Academy has been the old building of the University of Vienna since 1857 ( Aula).

Presidents of the Academy (ph. = philosophy/history section, m. = mathematics/natural sciences section): Baron Josef von Hammer-Purgstall (ph.), 1847-1849; Baron Andreas von Baumgartner (m.), (1849) 1851-1865; Ritter Theodor von Karajan (ph.), 1866-1869; Ritter Carl von Rokitansky (m.), 1869-1878; Ritter Alfred von Arneth (ph.), 1879-1897; Eduard Suess (m.), 1898-1911; Ritter Eugen von Boehm-Bawerk (ph.), 1911-1914; Viktor Edler von Lang (m.), 1915-1919; Oswald Redlich (ph.), 1919-1938; Heinrich Srbik (ph.), 1938-1945; Ernst Spaeth (m.), 1945/1946; Heinrich Ficker (m.), 1946-1951; Richard Meister (ph.), 1951-1963; Erich Schmid (m.), 1963-1969; Albin Lesky (ph.), 1969-1970; Erich Schmid (m.), 1970-1973; Herbert Hunger (ph.), 1973-1982; Erwin Ploeckinger (m.), 1982-1985; Hans Tuppy (m.), 1985-1987; Otto Hittmair (m.), 1987-1991; Werner Welzig (ph.) since 1991.


Almanac (since 1951), memoranda, minutes of meetings, gazettes; works of individual commissions and institutes, as well as individual works and series.

Further reading#

R. Meister, Geschichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 1847-1947, 1947. Oesterreichische Akademie (ed.), Die Oesterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1994.