Science has always been an international affair, but at the start of the twentieth century there was a genuine boom in international research partnerships – many 0f them overly ambitious – which then collapsed during the First World War. The Academy owes its three oldest institutes to these contradictory trends, one focusing on brain research, the other on developmental biology, and the third on fungal culture research.
Brains, embryos, fungal cultures
In 1903, the science academies of virtually every European country decided to set up a network of “brain institutes” that would enable them to share rare research material, specifically brain specimens. The Academy did not want the Netherlands to miss the boat, and urged the Government to establish the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research in Amsterdam – the Academy’s very first research institute.
In 1917, the Academy became the custodian of a collection of embryos assembled by the founder of the Institut International d’Embryologie, A.A.W. Hubrecht. It was also made responsible for the Fungal Biodiversity Centre (CBS). All three institutes are still part of the Academy organisation. The Fungal Biodiversity Centre has retained its original name in Dutch; the Hubrecht Institute was renamed in honour of its spiritual founder; and the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research is now part of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience.
The Academy research institutes
The Academy now has fifteen research institutes, all of which are engaged in outstanding scientific and scholarly research. A number of the institutes also provide services to researchers and other users. Still others also play a role in social issues and public debate. The institutes are located throughout the Netherlands. Together they employ approximately 1,300 staff.