The birth of the Max Planck Society

1946

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Photo: Telegram from Max Planck, in which he agreed to naming of the new "Max Planck Society", 1946, Archives of the Max Planck Society.

A new research society was established in Bad Driburg in the British zone in September 1946 on the initiative of the British Allies, which was to take over the properties and the staff of the KWS. Max Planck sent a telegram to the founding assembly expressing his best wishes and agreeing to the new society being named after him. The foundation of a new society under the name of the internationally respected and politically irreproachable Nobel Prize winner offered a way out of the controversy. The opinion among the US Allies was that because the KWS as an organization had been close to the Nazi regime, it represented a threat to future peace and needed to be dissolved. The Allied Control Council agreed and began to prepare a corresponding law. But the British did not share this opinion, and leading scientists with politically unblemished backgrounds also called for the KWS to be preserved on the grounds of its many great successes and its illustrious role in the international scientific community. In Germany there were concerns about further ‘brain drain’ once it became apparent that many exiled scientists would not be returning from the countries to which they had emigrated. The ‘Max Planck Society’, a British invention, proved to be a future-proof model, which was ultimately accepted by all of the Western Allies.

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