Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/78

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74
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE ROYAL PRUSSIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCE AND THE FINE ARTS. BERLIN.
By EDWARD F. WILLIAMS.

CHICAGO, ILL.

III. From the death of Frederick the Great to the death of Frederick William III., 1786-1812.

NOTHING was of more importance to the academy during this period than its change from a French to a German institution. This change was brought about in part under Frederick William II. (1786-1797) by his minister Hertzberg who had long been a member of the academy, and who under the new king became its curator and so remained till his death in 1795. The change was made complete, in form at least, by the adoption, in 1812, of what is known as the Humboldt brothers' statute. At this time the academy was ruled by a new spirit. It was under the control of men like the Humboldts, Niebuhr and Schleiermacher, who sought to realize through it the aims of Leibniz, its founder. The new spirit was manifest in all its departments; in those of philosophy, history and philology, as well as in those of science. Together with a growing respect for the ability of German writers and thinkers there was an increasing love for the fatherland, a conviction that patriotism was as worthy of cultivation as the new fields of learning which were opening on every side.

Hertzberg, though somewhat arbitrary in his methods, saved the academy from threatened dissolution. He was in many respects a very remarkable man. As a statesman he sought to carry out the views of Frederick the Great. A true son of his century, a scholar of no mean rank, skillful as a historical student in the use of original* documents and deeply interested in the work of the academy, he determined to reorganize it on the basis of the old German spirit. If he cared little for Goethe and his cosmopolitanism and failed to appreciate Herder at his true worth, he did not fail to see what an opportunity the academy might have for directing the thought and life of the German people. In his hands the curatorship became an office of power. In order to weaken French influence in the academy during his first year as curator he added fifteen Germans to its eighteen active members, and secured for foreign membership men of the first rank like Gasse of Breslau, Eberhard of Halle, Kant of Königsberg, Magellan, Volta, Wieland, Heyne and Herder. His only mistake was in not bringing these men to Berlin and associating them with the resident German element