Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft  

Historical Review of the Fritz-Haber-Institut
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Content   1. Foundation of the Institute   2. The First World War   3. The years 1919-1933   4. National Socialism and the Second World War  
5. The early years after the Second World War   6. Incorporation into the Max-Planck Society   7. Development into a surface and interface science research center     

1. Foundation of the Institute

The Kaiser-Wilhelm Institutes for Chemistry (left) and for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry (right) --(1913).

What is now called the Fritz-Haber-Institute of the Max-Planck-Society was founded in 1911 as the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry, together with the the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry. These were in fact the first two institutes of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Society (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft, KWG). Setting up the Institute of Chemistry was partially financed by the KWG, but the main contribution came from the "Verein Chemische Reichsanstalt". And installing the Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry was made possible by a generous endowment by Leopold Koppel, a wealthy industrialist and banker. The endowment act was signed on October 28, 1911 in Berlin by the "Koppel Foundation for the Promotion of Scientific Relations Abroad" and by a representative of the Prussian Minister for Scientific and Educational Affairs. According to the endowment act the governing body of the institute was to consist of: (a) the Endowment Council, formed by representatives of the Koppel-Foundation and of the Prussian Ministry, (b) the Scientific Board, to which the Academies of Sciences in Berlin, Göttingen, Leipzig and Munich, together with the Friedrich-Wilhelm University of Berlin would send a total of six representatives, and to which the Kaiser-Wilhelm Society and the Koppel-Foundation would nominate two representatives each, and (c) the director of the institute.

Kaiser Wilhelm II and Adolf von Harnack, followed by Emil Fischer and Fritz Haber walking to the opening ceremony of the first two KWG institutes (October 1912).

For the initial building and equipment the endowment allowed for 700,000 marks. In addition, an annual grant of 35,000 marks for a period of ten years was included to cover operation and maintenance costs. When it became obvious that the initial funds for equipment were not sufficient Koppel made another 300,000 marks available which was announced on the occasion of the opening ceremony. The State of Prussia provided the site for the institute on the Prussian Royal Estate of Dahlem and covered part of the operating expenses of the institute by 50,000 Mark annually, including 15,000 Mark for the salary of the institute director.

The planning of the institute buildings was in the hands of His Majesty's Chief Architect, the State Counselor on Buildings, Ernst von Ihne, who also designed the other Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute in Dahlem, the Institute of Chemistry. His ambition to combine aesthetic appeal with the requirements of scientific research are illustrated by the fact that he covered the roofs with Thuringian slate and gave the facade a gray color, "so that no colored light should penetrate the work space, to exert a disturbing influence on the investigations". On October 23, 1912, only 11 months after the beginning of the construction, a first research building of about 2,500 m2 space and 18,000 m3 capacity was finished for the opening ceremony. The administration of the institute was handled without bureaucracy by the secretariat of the director.

Fritz Haber (left) and Albert Einstein (right) at the "Fritz-Haber-Institut" (1915).

Fritz Haber was appointed director of the institute following the recommendationof the famous Swedish physical chemist Svante Arrhenius. Haber's personality and his previous scientific achievements were considered particularly appropriate for a leader of this new institute, focusing on basic research in the field of physical chemistry, which was expected to give new momentum to the development of the German chemical industry, at that time regarded as a world leader.

In 1913/14 the staff amounted to 5 scientists, 10 assistants, and 13 volunteers and students, with a personnel and operating budget of  70,000 Mark excluding the salary of the director.

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Sat, 6. Aug 2005
Address: Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Faradayweg 4-6, 14195 Berlin, Germany
Tel: +49 30 8413 30