4 9 4 D O C . 7 0 P L I G H T O F G E R M A N S C I E N C E
Published in Neue Freie Presse (Vienna), 25 December 1921, Morning Edition, p. [1].
[1]Requested to write an article that might further the “scientific community of interest” (“wissen-
schaftliche Gemeinschaft”) between Germany and Austria (see the editor of Neue Freie Presse to
Einstein, 17 December 1921), Einstein directed his comments to a general public in contrast to earlier,
more limited appeals for an exchange of scientific literature (Einstein 1920b [Doc. 36]) and for
greater tolerance (Einstein 1920i [Doc. 47]). His broader approach reflected in part the degenerating
state of scientific research in Germany. For example, more than a year earlier, his own Kaiser Wilhelm
Institute of Physics had abandoned plans to support “large-scale” (“gross angelegte”) scientific
research and chosen to concentrate on fifteen more narrowly focused individual projects (see
Tätigkeitsbericht des KWI für Physik vom 1. April 1919 bis 31. März 1920, enclosed in Einstein to
Friedrich Schmidt-Ott, 13 September 1920, GyBP, I Abt. Rep. 1A, Nr. 1665, pp. 48 and 45). The
underlying weakness of the economy was momentarily belied by a short-lived recovery in December
1921, although with the mark at more than 190 to the dollar (see Feldman 1993, p. 5), it had lost
almost half its value compared to that in February 1920 (see Einstein 1920b [Doc. 36], note 1).
[2]The case for linkage between economic prosperity and scientific achievement made by Einstein
indirectly and almost apologetically was stated without equivocation and with great succinctness by
Friedrich Schmidt-Ott, one of the founders and President of the Emergency Society for German
Science and Scholarship (Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft), which was officially con-
stituted fourteen months earlier. Arguing that German science “is today perhaps the only thing left for
which the world still envies Germany” (“ist heute vielleicht das Einzige, um das die Welt Deutschland
noch beneidet”), Schmidt-Ott singled out the practical utility of science, so well demonstrated by its
contributions to the nation’s economic development and its wartime effort and the expectations of its
necessary role in the coming reconstruction (see Friedrich Schmidt-Ott/Eduard Wildhagen’s memo-
randum of September 1920, “Die Not der deutschen Wissenschaft,” cited in Zierold 1968, pp. 561–
[3]In directing his appeal to wealthy members of the audience, Einstein was following an example
set by Fritz Haber, another of the founders of the Notgemeinschaft. In spring 1920, Haber had pointed
out the importance of private funding (see Marsch 1994, p. 41, which cites Haber’s article of 7 March
1920, “Die gefährdete Forschungsarbeit”), though he warned that isolated pleas would do little to
change the situation (see Fritz Haber to Eduard Meyer, 27 March 1920, cited in Zierold 1968, p. 11).
The yield from private contributions proved remarkably gratifying, however. In addition to the
Reich’s budgetary appropriations to the Notgemeinschaft of 40 million marks in the years 1920 and
1921, another 7.9 million were provided by private (including foreign) sources (see table in Zierold
1968, pp. 38–39); an example is the grant of 200,000 marks made by the German-Americans Rudolf
Pagenstecher and his daughter a year earlier (see Doc. 65, note 1).
[4]On 30 October 1920, the German academies of science, the Association of German Universities
(Verband der Deutschen Hochschulen), the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, the German Association of
Technical-Scientific Societies (Deutscher Verband der technisch-wissenschaftlichen Vereine), and
the Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians (Gesellschaft Deutscher Naturforscher und
Ärzte) constituted themselves as the Notgemeinschaft in order to “ward off the threat of complete
collapse to German scientific research due to the current economic emergency situation” (“die der
deutschen wissenschaftlichen Forschung durch die gegenwärtige wirtschaftliche Notlage erwachsene
Gefahr völligen Zusammenbruchs abzuwenden”; see Statute of 30 October 1920, cited in Zierold
1968, p. 543). The Notgemeinschaft had five goals: granting research stipends; facilitating the publi-
cation of scientific works through subsidies or outright covering of costs; supporting research librar-
ies; providing direct subventions to individual researchers for the purchase of equipment; and giving
advice on and support for group research (see Nipperdey and Schmugge 1970, pp. 18–19).
In addition to an executive committee (Hauptausschuß) of the Notgemeinschaft and several com-
mittees for specialized research (Fachausschüsse), an honorary committee (Ehrenausschuß) was
formed in January 1921. Together with luminaries such as Wilhelm Röntgen and Max Planck,
Einstein was asked by President Schmidt-Ott to serve on the committee as a figurehead, lending his
name to the ongoing campaign for American donations (see Friedrich Schmidt-Ott to Einstein, 19
January 1921). The committee, it was hoped, would strengthen the bonds between German science
and the German-American community already forged by Franz Boas (1858–1942) and Hugo Lieber
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