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    Kaiser Wilhelm Society for Promotion of Science

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    A little piece you generally don't see.

    Now the Max Planck Society, this remains the foremost German scientific research society, with numerous Nobel laureates among its members. The badge was established in 1911 as a mark of recogition and favor by the Kaiser.

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    Incredible piece. Here's some more info I put together for those not familiar with those:

    At the dawn of the XX century, an idea of unifying various German Research Institutes into one umbrella organization became reality. What is now known as Max Planck Society, started with Kaiser’s Pledge on October 10th, 1910. Back then it was called Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Advancement of Science (Kaiser-WIlhelm-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften).
    The Society progressed rather quickly. The membership rolls for January 1911 list 83 names.
    Its main goal was to unify various Research Schools, Institutes and even independent Researchers as well as giving the very top scientists an opportunity for cutting edge research without any teaching obligations. Upon its founding, it was fully independent (and non-governmental) association that proved to be world’s leading research organization. Its membership rolls included names like Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch and Otto Hahn to name few. It was modeled after Paris Pasteur’s Institute and Berlin’s Physikalisch-Techinsche Reichsanstalt.

    From its inception in 1911 to the end of the WW2 in 1945, four scientists served in the position of KWG President: Adolf von Harnack (1911-1930), Max Planck (1930-1937), Carl Bosch (1937-1940) and Albert Vögler (1941-1945).
    15 of its members (1911-1945) were Nobel Prize Laureates (33, from 1911 until present day).

    The newly-found Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft (or KWG for short) came out with the idea of recognizing its members with its own, very prestigious decoration.

    Since the Institute bore the name of Emperor Wilhelm II, who was also its biggest patron (at least upon its founding), it is not surprising that the award of the Society also bore his likeness.
    While not much is known about the Society’s first model decoration, we do know what it looked like as some have survived to the present day. The medal was awarded in its unchanged form from the founding of the Institute in 1911 to the beginning of 1927 when the awards were redesigned. The likeness of the Kaiser was removed and the new decoration featured Minerva- Roman Goddess of Wisdom.

    The newly redesigned decoration was presented in 5 classes:

    -in bronze as a merit badge (Verdienstabzeichen)

    -in silver as a honor badge with lauer leaves (Ehrenabzeichen)

    -in gold as a membership badge with lauer leaves (Mitgliederabzeichen)

    -The Senator Badges with lauer wreath as an award to the members of the Society’s Senate members worn as a neck decoration (Die Senatorenabzeichen)

    -The Chain of Office of the President of the KWG (Die Amskette des Präsidenten der KWG)

    What set those badges apart from the rest of the decorations of that day was their unique procurement process: A Professor of Royal School of Arts and Crafts in Munich Friedrich Schmidt was put in charge of acquiring the decorations for the next presentation ceremony. He was also the person who kept the original dies for the badges under lock and key since they remained the sole property of KWG. Those dies were only made available to their manufacturer- a famous jeweller Gebr. Hemmerle of Munich- for the production time. They were to be returned immediately after to the office of Prof. Schmidt.
    The same process was followed in regards to production of the miniature badges and its manufacturer- firm of Deschler of Munich. Any commercial or display speciments of those badges were expressly forbiden from being produced by the KWG. It is probably for that reason why we see so little of them presently.
    As already mentioned, the Senators badges were to be worn on the neck of the recipient, while the merit, honor and membership badges were to be worn in the left buttonhole of the recipient’s jacket.
    The 1927 model badges were designed by an architect Carl Sattler of Munich’s Royal School of Arts and Crafts.
    Although it is considered a forerunner award to the German Award for Arts and Sciences, unlike the later, it is a private award of the Institute. Main reason for that was the fact that Weimar Constitution expressly prohibited any state orders and decorations (Art. 109).

    Bronze grade medals were die struck in brass, higher grades were typically struck in silver.

    The 2nd model (Minerva model) merit badges were awarded only 324 times between 1927 and 1945 according to most sources. Unlike the gold membership badges, the bronze pieces were awarded with their own Award Certificates.They were awarded by the President of KWG.

    The gold (or membership badges) were awarded to the members for the duration of their membership and upon paying the initial contribution of 20.000 DM with the yearly payments of 1000 DM (single contribution of 40.000 DM cancelled the anual payments). They were to be returned upon the cancellation of the embership for whatever reason by either party (Society of the member him/herself).

    Upon the revival of the KWG, after the Second World War, which was now known as Max Planck Society, the badges were also brought back but only as miniatures (membership badges). The merit badges were phased out completely. They were replaced by Adolf von Harnack & Otto Hahn Medal (which was inagurated in 1924 as another KWG decoration) that continues to be awarded to this day.

    The Senate badge has been awarded to 125 individuals (until 1945) and its name list is available through PM. That badge features slightly different center piece, both in size and detail from the 2-4 class badges. Typically engraved with recipients name and date on the verso.

    Cast reproductions exist with spurious allocation to names not present on the membership rolls.







    Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 12.15.33 PM.jpg


    Here's a Chain of Office as worn by Max Planck in his role as a President of the Society. It is not known to me if the chain has been changed since 1911 or if it exists in its first and unchanged form.


    Here's a full set (sans the President's Chain of Office) of the 1927 model decorations as presented by Geile/Klietmann.



    Max Planck Institute
    Jüdisches Museum Berlin
    Reichshandbuch der deutschen Gesellschaft
    Max Planck Gesellschaft
    Hitlers Herzog, H. Sandner
    Ordenskunde nr.56-1983 (Geile/Klietmann)
    Deutsch Ordensmuseum
    Geschaftsbericht 1931 der Deutsche Bank und Disconto-Gesellschaft AG
    Other various private sources & collections


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    On 02/07/2008 at 17:44, Eric Stahlhut said:

    whilst the KWG operated independently from any state per se, it was founded in 1911, so i guess it's sorta permissible to include it on this thread. here's the golden honor abzeichen for the Kaiser Wilhelm Society for advancement of sciences




    On 02/07/2008 at 17:46, Eric Stahlhut said:

    notice the curious snaps on the ribbon.


    i think Albert Einstein was a member of this society.





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    thank you for the correction, matthew.  when i made the post back in 2008 i was probably using a nimmergut or niemann catalog for reference, which most likely had very limited or inaccurate information.

    and thank you for reviving this old thread with an updated  and detailed summary!

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