Over 300 holdings of private papers for the most part of academy members and other significant scholars, together with four valuable collections of autographs, have been incorporated into an independent tectonic group of records in the academy archive, the department of private papers. The holdings cover a period of more than 300 years. Because of the volume and the significance of the holdings from the 19th and 20th century, the department is an important place for users looking for private papers of scholars in the German-speaking world.
The acquisitions of the Prussian Academy of Sciences form the basis of the department of private papers. The private papers or parts or fragments of private papers of the scholars listed below were either acquisitions of the Prussian Academy or were held there in trust: the polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), the philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (1775-1854), the historian and ancient scholar Theodor Mommsen (1817-1903), the classical philologist and ancient scholar August Boeckh (1785-1867), the natural scientist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), the physiologist and physicist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894), the physicist Eugen Goldstein (1850-1930) and the astronomer and mathematician Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784-1846).
When, in 1944, the Literaturarchiv-Gesellschaft was dissolved, the Prussian Academy took on additional valuable holdings. Worthy of mention are the private papers of the writers Willibald Alexis (1798-1871), Friedrich von Sallet (1812-1843), Ernst von Wildenbruch (1845-1909), Henriette Herz (1764-1847) and Helmina von Chézy (1783-1856), the writer and historian Ernst Moritz Arndt (1769-1860), the literary critics and writers Wolfgang Menzel (1798-1873) and Heinrich Hart (1855-1906), the essayist and literary historian Karl Hillebrand (1829-1884), the specialists in German studies Wilhelm Scherer (1841-1886) and Konrad Burdach (1859-1936), the theologians and philosophers Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911), the historians Barthold Georg Niebuhr (1776-1831) and Max Lenz (1850-1932), the zoologist and microbiologist Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg (1795-1876) and the physician and pathologist Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), who worked also in the fields of anthropology and prehistory.
In the 1960s, in its function as the ultimate archive for all research facilities of the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, the academy archive was given the non-current records of the institutes which also included private papers. Amongst these private papers were those of the astronomers Johann Elert Bode (1747-1826), Johann Franz Encke (1791-1865), Wilhelm Foerster (1832-1921), the Kirch family for the first half of the 18th century and of the Indologist Heinrich Lüders (1869-1943) and nutrition researcher Arthur Scheunert (1879-1957).
In the following decades, the academy archive also received holdings of private papers from the relatives of deceased academy members, including those of the following: the historians Eduard Meyer (1855-1930) and Eduard Winter (1896-1982), the ancient historian and author Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich (1901-1979), the art historian Ludwig Justi (1876-1957), the specialist in German studies Theodor Frings (1886-1968), the specialist in Roman languages and literature Werner Krauss (1900-1976), the economist Friedrich Behrens (1909-1980), the president of the academy and biophysicist Walter Friedrich (1883-1968). The historian and economist Jürgen Kuczynski (1904-1997) donated parts of his correspondence and some manuscripts to the academy during his lifetime.
The transfer of the extensive private papers of the Nobel Prize laureates and academy members Wilhelm Ostwald (1853-1932), Otto Warburg (1883-1970) and the part of private papers of Max von Laue (1879-1960) was a particularly valuable contribution to the department of private papers.
Over the years gone by, the archive has continued to be able to receive donations from heirs to the private papers of members of the Prussian Academy of Sciences such as, for example, the classical philologists and religious scholars Eduard Norden (1868-1941) and Ludwig Deubner (1877-1946), the poet and philosopher Karl Wilhelm Ramler (1725-1798) and the art historian Wilhelm Pinder (1878-1947).
The private papers of members who were senior executives in the management sector of the academy and, at the same time, in the academy institutes and facilities, are a valuable addition in terms of content to the official academy records from the post 1945 era. Worthy of particular mention here are the private papers of the cancer researcher Arnold Graffi (1910-2006), of the physicist Karl Lanius (1927-2010), of the mathematicians Helmut Thiele (1926-2003) and Lothar Budach (1935-2007), of the vice-president of the academy and historian Helmut Scheel (1915-1996) and of the president of the academy and classical philologist Johannes Stroux (1886-1954).
Through the acquisition of premature legacies and private papers of members of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities either during the member's lifetime or posthumously - as, for example, was the case with engineer Werner Albring (1914-2007), the physicist Horst Tobias Witt (1922-2007), the structural engineer Heinz Duddeck (1928-2017), the chemist Ernst Schmitz (1928-2021) and the linguist Manfred Bierwisch (born 1930), the department now safeguards holdings to the present day.