Max Planck celebrates 75-year anniversary

21 Feb 2023 | Network Updates | Update from Max Planck Society (MPG)
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A number of prominent guests are expected to attend the official ceremony on February 26, 2023. Former Federal President Joachim Gauck, who is a Senator of the Max Planck Society, will deliver the opening speech. Afterwards, the renowned historian Jürgen Kocka will give a lecture on "Harnack's late heirs: the Metamorphoses of the Max Planck Society since 1948”. In his presentation, he will discuss the eventful history of the MPG, which, however, cannot be considered without that of its predecessor organisation, the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (KWG).

With the foundation of the MPG in 1948 in the “Kameradschaftshaus” (association house) of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society’s aerodynamic testing facility (AVA) in Göttingen - today part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) - the Kaiser Wilhelm Society’s successful principle of promoting non-university research in its own institutes was continued. Adolf von Harnack had first proposed this idea in a memorandum to Kaiser Wilhelm in 1909. The Kaiser accepted Harnack’s proposal in 1911, and the Kaiser Wilhelm Society was formed. This was also signified a groundbreaking reform of the German science system.

But the KWG also has a dark period in its history: During the Nazi era, it become embroiled in the Nazi system in various ways.

The new beginning in 1948 with a focus on basic research was only possible at that time under the name of the internationally respected and politically untarnished Nobel Prize winner in physics, Max Planck. The office of President was taken over by the chemist and Nobel laureate Otto Hahn. The MPG adopted the structural principles of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society and was thus also able to build on the scientific successes of the KWG: To date, a total of 30 scientific members of the MPG and KWG have been awarded the Nobel Prize, making the Max Planck Society one of the three institutions worldwide whose researchers have received the most awards.  

Digital Story and "Pioneers of Knowledge" exhibition

As part of the festive event, the exhibition "Pioneers of Knowledge - The Nobel Laureates of the Max Planck Society" will be opened at the Deutsches Museum. "Pioneers of Knowledge" comprises two formats: the on-site exhibition and the digital story on the web. It tells a broad story of how the research of Nobel laureates changed people's everyday lives and shaped the modern world - including Einstein's theory of relativity, Paul Crutzen's research on the hole in the ozone layer, and Karl Ziegler's patent for the production of polyethylene.

Eight stations and chapters present pioneering scientific topics that have changed the world from 1915 to the present day and are shaping the future: all highlights from the history of the Max Planck Society. This is supplemented in the exhibition with selected exhibits, for example reproductions of more than 20 Nobel Prize certificates or Klaus von Klitzing's laboratory diary, in which his discovery of a new natural constant is documented.

The Digital Story in turn provides additional in-depth information. Each click offers other exciting insights into the world of science. Films, photos, graphics, cartoons, explanations and animations are linked to form an entertaining multimedia story.

The exhibition is open to the interested public from February 27 to April 10, 2023, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the library building of the Deutsches Museum (Museumsinsel 1, 80538 Munich). Admission is free. The exhibition will then be shown in Göttingen, Dresden, Tübingen, Berlin and Hamburg.

History and stories on the Instagram account of the Max Planck Society

If you want to learn more about the history of the Max Planck Society in an entertaining way, you should follow the MPG’s Instagram channel. For the anniversary year, illustrator Niels Schröder has captured milestones in our history, for which often no pictures exist, such as the adventurous journey of Max Planck and his wife Marga in a military jeep from Rogätz to Göttingen at the end of World War II. Starting February 26, the social media team will post a new story every two weeks under #MaxPlanckHistory on its Instagram channel.

This article was first published on February 20 by Max Planck Society.

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