Max Planck Society

Max Planck Society
Max Planck Society

Eugen Fischer (Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology) with Max Planck, circa 1940
Formation 1948 / 1911 (foundation of Kaiser Wilhelm Society)
Budget €1.4 billion (2006)
Staff 13000

The Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science (German: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften Eingetragener Verein; abbreviated MPG) is a formally independent non-governmental and non-profit association of German research institutes publicly funded by the federal and the 16 state governments of Germany.

The nearly 80 research institutes of the Max Planck Society conduct basic research in the interest of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the arts and humanities. They have a total staff of approx. 13,000 permanent employees, including 4,700 scientists, plus around 11,000 non-tenured scientists and guests. Their budget for 2006 was about €1.4 billion, with 84% from state and federal funds.[1] The Max Planck Institutes focus on excellence in research, with 32 Nobel Prizes awarded to their scientists, and are generally regarded as the foremost basic research organization in Germany and Europe.

Other notable networks of publicly funded research institutes in Germany are the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, performing applied research with a focus on industrial collaborations, the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, a network of the national laboratories in Germany, and the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Scientific Community, a loose network of institutes performing basic to applied research.



The organisation was established in 1911 as the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, or Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft (KWG), a non-governmental research organisation named for the then German emperor. The KWG was one of the world's leading research organisations; its board of directors included scientists like Walther Bothe, Peter Debye, Albert Einstein, Fritz Haber and Werner Heisenberg. In 1946, Otto Hahn assumed the position of President of KWG, and in 1948, the society was renamed the Max Planck Society (MPG) after its former President (1930–37) Max Planck, who was recently deceased.

The Max Planck Society has a world-leading reputation as a science & technology research organization. In 2006, the Times Higher Education Supplement rankings[2] of non-university research institutions (based on international peer review by academics) placed the Max Planck Society as No.1 in the world for science research, and No.3 in technology research (behind AT&T and the Argonne National Laboratory in the United States).

The domain attracted at least 1.7 million visitors annually by 2008 according to a study.[3]

The society's logo features Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom.

List of presidents of the KWG and the MPG


Entrance of the administrative headquarters of the Max Planck Society in Munich.

The Max Planck Society is formally an eingetragener Verein, a registered association with the institute directors as scientific members having equal voting rights.[4] The society has its registered seat in Berlin, while the administrative headquarters are located in Munich. In 2002 the cell biologist Peter Gruss assumed the office of President of the MPG.

Funding is provided predominantly from federal and state sources, but also from research and license fees and donations. One of the larger donations from the Duke of Bavaria in 1967 was the castle Schloss Ringberg near Kreuth in Bavaria. The castle passed to the Max Planck Society after the death of the duke in 1973 and is now used for conferences.

Max Planck Institutes and Research Groups

The Max Planck Society consists of nearly 80 research institutes. In addition, the society funds a number of Max Planck Research Groups (MPRG) and International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS). The purpose of establishing independent research groups at various universities is to strengthen the required networking between universities and institutes of the Max Planck Society.

The research units are located all over Germany and in other European countries. The society is currently planning its first non-European centre, with an institute on the Jupiter campus of Florida Atlantic University to focus on bioimaging.[5]

The Max Planck Institutes operate independently from, though in close cooperation with, the universities, and focus on innovative research which does not fit into the university structure due to their interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary nature or which require resources that cannot be met by the state universities.

Internally, Max Planck Institutes are organized into research departments headed by directors such that each MPI has several directors, a position roughly comparable to anything from full professor to department head at a university.

Currently, the following institutes and research groups exist:

  • Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Andechs-Erling (Biological Rhythms and Behaviour), Radolfzell, Seewiesen (Reproductive Biology and Behaviour)[2]

International Max Planck Research Schools

Together with the Association of Universities and other Education Institutions in Germany, the Max Planck Society established numerous International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS) to promote junior scientists:

Former institutes

Among others:

Nobel Laureates

Max-Planck-Society (since 1948)

Kaiser-Wilhelm-Society (1914-1948)

See also


  • Alison Abbott: German science starts facing up to its historical amnesia, in: Nature Vol 403 (2000), S.474f. (article about the Commission for the history of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft under National Socialism)
  • Gretchen Vogel: Aufbau Ost: Max Planck's East German Experiment, in: Science Vol. 326, 6. November 2009 (about the new institutes in the eastern part of Germany)


External links

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