Purposes and Activities

The Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities

The Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities was established in 1909 in the tradition of the Kurpfälzische Akademie (Academy of the Electoral Palatinate) founded in 1763 by Elector Carl Theodor. Throughout its existence the Heidelberg Academy has upheld its allegiance to the purpose for which it was originally constituted: assembling the outstanding scholars and scientists of the state of Baden-Württemberg for cross-disciplinary exchange and independent research. Like its seven counterparts in other German states (Berlin, Göttingen, Munich, Leipzig, Mainz, Düsseldorf and Hamburg), the Baden-Württemberg State Academy in Heidelberg is a member of the Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities. It is both a scholarly society in the traditional sense of the term and a modern non-university research institution. The Academy organises scholarly and scientific symposia and public lecture series. At the same time it is dedicated to the encouragement of young scholars and scientists, maintaining to this end a Junior Academy of its own, supporting conferences organised by young scholars and scientists and awarding research prizes.


A scholarly society in the grand tradition

In its sessions (plenary and sectional) the Academy serves its members as a forum for regular interdisciplinary discussion of the issues and findings generated by academic research. The full members of the Heidelberg Academy are scholars and scientists from the state of Baden-Württemberg elected on the basis of their outstanding achievements in the sectors they represent. In addition, the Members’ Assembly can elect corresponding members from all over the world. The Academy is sub-divided into two Sections, the Philosophical-Historical Section and the Mathematical-Scientific Section. At present it has 190 full and 70 corresponding members from all walks of scholarly and scientific endeav- our. The range and variety of the research areas involved give the Academy unparalleled opportunities for a form of scholarly and scientific exchange and cooperation that transcends the boundaries traditionally imposed on academic disciplines, Faculties and universities.


A modern research institution

At present the Academy runs 20 ongoing research projects involving some 230 staff members. The range of these projects is wide indeed. The academic responsibility for the individual projects lies with supervisory Commissions made up of Academy members and external experts. These 22 research projects are described in this brochure.
In its work the Academy concentrates on long-term basic research. In the humanities, the Academy contributes to the preservation of our cultural heritage with a variety of projects including critical editions of the works and correspondence of major thinkers and the compilation of a number of dictionaries satisfying the most exacting lexicographic standards. In a number of ventures scientists and scholars work hand in hand, as in the project entitled “The Role of Culture in Early Expansions of Humans”, which investigates both the biological mechanisms and the cultural techniques involved in early human migration. In this way, the Academy supplies a sound fund of knowledge that can be drawn upon by other scholars and scientists active in a research or teaching capacity and also by the public at large.
As a state institution the Heidelberg Academy is funded primarily by the state of Baden-Württemberg. For several of its research projects it also benefits from financial resources made available by the “Academy Programme” run jointly by the Federal Government and the German states. In such cases, the costs for the projects in question are shouldered equally by the Federal Government and the state where the respective Academy is situated. In addition, the Academy Research Units apply for external funding from priority programmes run by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the German Research Foundation, the European Union and other foundations.


Support for young Academics and Scientists

One of the Academy’s central concerns is providing support for Baden-Württemberg’s young scholars and scientists. Since 2002 the „WIN-Kolleg“ Junior Academy has promoted integrated interdisciplinary research on topical issues organised and conducted by young academics. So far, a total of ten cross-disciplinary projects running for a maximum of five years have been successfully sponsored. They centre on three main subjects: “Brain and Mind: Physical and Psychic Functions of the Brain”, “Cultural Foundations of European Unification” and “The Human Life Cycle: Biological, Societal and Cultural Aspects”.
The Academy’s Conferences for Young Academics have been going on since 2007. They give young researchers an opportunity to organise interdisciplinary conferences under their own aegis and in the way they think fit.
Every year the Academy awards four prizes in recognition of outstanding academic achievements by young researchers.
Together with the other Academies of the same cut, the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities claims a place of its own within Germany’s highly variegated academic research system. It sets out to preserves all that is worth maintaining in a long and venerable academic tradition and at the same time extends the range of its activities to satisfy the new expectations generated by society.


responsible: editorial office
Latest Revision: 2015-09-28