The Estonian Academy of Sciences was founded on 28th of January 1938 as an association of top-level scientists and scholars with commitment and responsibility to advance scientific research and represent Estonian science nationally and internationally. The primary mission of the Academy is to assist in building a knowledge-based Estonia, fostering adaptation of new knowledge for economic growth and improvement of the quality of life in Estonia, enhancing public appreciation of science and scientific methods of thought.

Relying on the intellectual power of its Members, the Academy organises various activities in order to achieve its objectives. The Academy provides independent and highly professional scientific expertise and science-policy advice, promotes excellence in research, communicates and disseminates knowledge, enhances public awareness of science and scientists, encourages research co-operation at national and international levels.

The beginning of academies in Europe

The first academies of sciences were founded in Europe in the 17th century. Their creation was due to the fact that the rulers wanted wise advice. The rulers of the time themselves may not have been interested in science, but they were often accompanied by influential figures who could appreciate knowledge.

Before the independence of Estonia, the Russian St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences included about a hundred scientists from here. On the photo: Academician Friedrich Schmidt together with other participants of the VII International Geological Congress are raising the glasses. The year was 1897. (photo: Historical Archives)

In Russia, which had hitherto developed in the wrong direction on the periphery of Western civilization, the academy had to be founded together with a university and a academic gymnasium, because there was practically no education system. This was done with the ukase of Emperor Peter I in 1724. The Imperial St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences included about hundred scientists who were from or closely associated with Estonia, such as Karl Ernst von Baer, Alexander von Bunge, Alexander von Middendorff, Georg Friedrich Parrot, Georg Wilhelm Richmann, Peter Carl Ludwig Schwarz, Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve, Otto Wilhelm von Struve et al.

Wilhelm Ostwald, a member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, was born and raised in Riga, his father had moved to Livonia from Germany, and the family had roots in Hessen and Berlin. So far, he is the only Nobel Prize winner to graduate from the University of Tartu (photo: Historical Archives)

The beginning of the Estonian Academy of Sciences 1938-1940

In certain periods in the 19th century, the University of Tartu was the only research university in the entire Russian Empire. In the independent Republic of Estonia, it was initially thought that the University of Tartu could also perform the coordinating and advisory functions of the Academy of Sciences. In the 1930s, these beliefs were abandoned. On the photo: the main building of the University of Tartu at the end of the 19th century (photo: Historical Archives)

The first research societies operating with the University of Tartu were established in Estonia in the 19th century and they laid an important foundation for local science. The ideas of founding the Estonian Academy of Sciences arose at the same time as Estonia's independence. However, this was not achieved because there was a shortage of Estonian scientists at that time, and besides that, there were more important challenges for the young country, such as launching a national university and education system in its own language.

By the second half of the 1930s, the situation in Estonian science and education had changed a lot. The Estonian Academy of Sciences was founded on January 28, 1938, based on the Estonian Academy of Sciences Act issued by decree of the President Konstantin Päts. According to the decree, the autonomous academy was subordinated to the Ministry of Education. The law entered into force after its publication in the Riigi Teataja on February 7, 1938.

The first plenary session of the Academy of Sciences took place on April 20, 1938 in the hall of the Council of the University of Tartu. Karl Schlossmann was elected President of the Academy. The formal opening meeting was held on October 22 with the participation of President Päts in the hall of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Tallinn. After the loss of independence in June 1940, the Estonian Academy of Sciences was liquidated by a law signed on July 17 by Julius Semper, the Minister of Education of the pro-Communist puppet Government.

The Estonian Academy of Sciences was born in 1938. The average age of the members of the Academy was a little over 50 in 1938, half of the members of the Academy had received higher education outside Estonia and four of them had fought in the Estonian War of Independence. The photo shows the gathering of academics in the hall of the University of Tartu in April 1938. (Photo: Historical Archives)

Soviet Academy of Sciences in Estonia 1946-1991

On June 28, 1945, the Soviet authorities issued a decree "On the Restoration of the Academy of Sciences". On April 5, 1946, Arnold Veimer, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Estonian SSR, signed a decree on the composition of the Estonian SSR Academy of Sciences. Historian Hans Kruus was appointed the first president of the Estonian SSR Academy of Sciences. On the same day, the Council of Ministers of the Estonian SSR also approved the statutes of the academy. On April 6, 1946, the first meeting of the General Assembly of the Estonian SSR Academy of Sciences took place in the white hall of Toompea Castle.

There were other flags and slogans during the Soviet era. Nor did the Soviet authorities recognize the legal continuity of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, counting 1946 as the foundation of the academy until the Perestoika. On the photo: the President of the Academy Johan Eichfeldt opens a scientific session in Piistaoja. The year was 1950 (Photo: Estonian Film Archive)

From 1947 onwards, the academy came under increasing ideological pressure. The promotion of trustworthy peole to the structures of the Academy of Sciences was called for. In the following years, a large number of people who were distrusted by the Soviet authorities were fired from the Academy of Sciences system and repressed. In 1950, Hans Kruus, President of the Academy of Sciences, was dismissed from office and arrested. After Stalin's death in 1953, pressure on the academy eased. From 1956, researchers were once again able to focus more on research. Together with the Khrushchev Thaw, there was an opportunity to establish ties with foreign countries, and from 1956, Estonian researchers again had the opportunity to go on official trips abroad. Working conditions also improved.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviet Union possesed large resources to support various fields. Science also received more financing. At the same time, this period is characterized by the subordination of all fields of activity to the control of the central government. Researchers learned to orient themselves better in these circumstances, and the research funding received by the party's decisions also improved. At the same time, the state authorities preferred to see quantity rather than quality during this period, which in turn made the activities of researchers and research institutions more complex.

After Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, attempts were made to reverse the centralization process and give more decision-making power to the local level. The general management of the sciences of the Estonian SSR were also passed from the Moscow authorities to the Tallinn ones. The activities of the Academy of Sciences hanged dramatically in 1988 and 1989. Estonian society underwent rapid changes and the Academy of Sciences did not lag behind. The 1988 General Assembly decided to amend the Articles of Association. The new statutes were adopted by the General Assembly on 6 April 1989. The Academy declared itself the legal successor of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, founded in 1938, and increased its autonomy from the institutions of the Estonian SSR and the Central Apparatus and the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

Future members of the Estonian Academy of Sciences: Richard Villems, Andres Metspalu and Mart Ustav in Professor Artur Lind's laboratory in 1982 (photo: Estonian Film Archive)

In Independent Estonia 1991-…

Building of the Estonian Academy of Sciences in the summer of 1990 (photo: Estonian Film Archive)

Estonia's independence in 1991 meant the end of the Soviet system of the Academy of Sciences, because a small country and nation lacked the resources to maintain such an apparatus. Already in 1991, the Estonian Association of Researchers called for the dismantling of the current system and the transformation of the Academy of Sciences into a personal academy. This was to be accompanied by the transfer of research institutes and other institutions of the Academy of Sciences to universities. An evaluation report was ordered from the Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1991, which was completed in 1992 and in principle supported the calls of the Association of Researchers. The Academy of Sciences was criticized for lack of communication and cooperation with universities, low publication and a complex and exaggerated structure.

In 1995, the Academy of Sciences adopted a new statute, which stated that the main activity of the Academy is to provide scientific advice. The 1995 statutes gave a major role in shaping the activities of the Academy to the President elected for five years, who was given the general management of the Academy and representative functions in Estonia and abroad. The day-to-day running of the Academy was to be organized by the Chancellery under the leadership of an elected Secretary-General for five years.

President Jüri Engelbrecht headed the academy with new statutes from 1994-2004. During his time, on 16 April 1997, the Riigikogu passed the Estonian Academy of Sciences Act, which guaranteed the Academy the status of an autonomous person in public law. In addition, the Presidents have achieved the increase of both visibility and role of the Academy in Estonian society under Presidents Engelbrecht, Richard Villems (2004-2014) and Tarmo Soomere (2014-…), and a number of research societies and institutions have been associated with the Academy. In those years, the Academy of Sciences became an important research center, within the framework of which the planning, organization and coordination of the activities of the scientific community are carried out.

Estonia's re-independence and the collapse of the Soviet Union meant major changes, but also marked the return of old traditions. On the photo: A memorial stone restoration ceremony for the fighters of the Baltic Regiment destroyed by the Soviet authorities in the courtyard of the Academy of Sciences in the 1990s (photo: Estonian Film Archive)

The Estonian Academy of Sciences was founded in 1938 on the basis of the Estonian Academy of Sciences Act.

On 13 April 1938, the first 12 members of the Estonian Academy of Sciences were approved by the Minister of State Konstantin Päts on the proposal of the Minister of Education. On 20 April 1938, the first plenary session was held, at which Karl Schlossmann was elected President of the Academy. An overview of the Academy's history.

NameElectedResearch FieldDate of BirthDeceased
Julius AAMISEPP1946*Root Crop Breeding01.09.188319.01.1950
Agu AARNA1961Organic Chemistry11.10.191511.12.1989
Hillar ABEN1977Mechanics03.12.192921.01.2024
Albrecht ALTMA1946*Physics23.03.189708.05.1969
Nikolai ALUMÄE1954Structural Mechanics12.09.191527.03.1992
Richard ANTONS1951Economics11.02.189910.05.1966
Paul ARISTE1954Linguistics03.02.190502.02.1990
Harald ARMAN1946*Architecture22.05.191013.05.1965
Pavel BOGOVSKI1993Oncology10.03.191908.03.2006
Nikolai BUZULUKOV1951Economics04.05.190515.09.1979
Aleksandr DOBRJANSKI1951Chemistry26.08.188931.01.1965
Johan EICHFELD1946*Plant Cultivation and Plant Breeding26.01.189320.04.1989
Olaf EISEN1972Organic Chemistry28.04.192014.03.1989
Harald HABERMAN1946*Zoology19.12.190416.12.1986
Raimund HAGELBERG1981Economics07.02.192717.07.2012
Johannes HEIL1951Engineering15.09.189524.07.1991
Arnold HUMAL1951Mathematics10.03.190813.12.1987
Leo JÜRGENSON1946*Structural Mechanics21.01.190107.09.1986
Juhan KAHK1969History01.08.192828.06.1998
Gunnar KANGRO1961Mathematics21.11.191325.12.1975
Paul KARD1961Physics15.12.191403.09.1985
Arnold KASK1961Estonian Language10.08.190230.07.1994
Harald KERES1961Theoretical Physics15.11.191226.06.2010
Aksel KIPPER1946*Astrophysics05.11.190725.09.1984
Oskar KIRRET1961Chemistry27.11.190918.12.1991
Aleksandr KIUR-MURATOV1951Veterinary Science20.09.189808.03.1968
Feodor KLEMENT1951Physics30.05.190328.06.1973
Arnold KOOP1986History16.07.192221.04.1988
Alfred KOORT1946*Philosophy29.05.190128.09.1956
Ilmar KOPPEL1993Natural Sciences (Physical Chemistry)16.01.194009.01.2020
Arvo KRIKMANN1997Humanities21.07.193927.02.2017
Lembit KRUMM1987Energetics20.07.192813.12.2016
Hans KRUUS1946*History22.10.189130.06.1976
Valdek KULBACH1986Structural Mechanics06.04.192731.01.2020
Eerik KUMARI1961Zoology07.03.191208.01.1984
Grigori KUZMIN1961Astronomy08.04.191722.04.1988
Harri KÄÄR1994Engineering01.07.194420.04.1997
Arno KÖÖRNA1972Economics02.02.192621.12.2017
Ferdinand LAJA1946*Veterinary Science17.04.188902.01.1956
Heinrich LAUL1961Structural Engineering05.08.191016.04.1991
Ülo LEPIK1993Mechanics11.07.192112.02.2022
Georg LIIDJA1987Physics04.08.193312.06.2017
Ülo LILLE1983Biotechnology16.09.193102.01.2023
Artur LIND1987Molecular Biology06.04.192730.11.1989
Endel LIPPMAA1972Chemical Physics15.09.193030.07.2015
Juri LOTMAN1990Semiotics of Culture28.02.192228.10.1993
Artur LUHA1946*Geology09.07.189229.12.1953
ÜLO LUMISTE1993Mathematics30.06.192920.11.2017
Tšeslav LUŠTŠIK1964Solid state physics15.02.192808.08.2020
Viktor MAAMÄGI1961History12.10.191731.05.2005
Ottomar MADDISON1946*Engineering31.03.187930.01.1959
Richard MAHL1954Chemical Technology28.08.189826.06.1964
Udo MARGNA1987Plant Physiology18.11.193417.05.2019
Viktor MASING1993Biogeography11.04.192518.03.2001
Enn MELLIKOV2003Technology of Materials01.04.194523.07.2018
Uno MERESTE1994Humanities and Social Sciences27.05.192806.12.2009
Lennart MERI2001Humanities29.03.192914.03.2006
Harri MOORA1957Archaeology02.03.190002.05.1968
Hilda MOOSBERG1951History23.11.190331.05.1985
Gustav NAAN1951Philosophy17.05.191912.01.1994
Jüri NUUT1946*Mathematics10.07.189231.05.1952
Ergo NÕMMISTE2012Exact Sciences27.06.195611.04.2019
Eve OJA2010Mathematics10.10.194827.01.2019
Karl ORVIKU1946*Geology17.07.190307.03.1981
Kalju PAAVER1969Biology16.12.192118.03.1985
Viktor PALM1978Organical Chemistry17.09.192623.01.2010
Aleksander PANKSEJEV1983History20.10.192127.11.1989
Andrus PARK1987Philosophy17.12.194914.08.1994
Erast PARMASTO1972Botany23.10.192824.04.2012
Juhan PEEGEL1977Filology19.05.191906.11.2007
Mihkel PILL1946*Grain Breeding07.01.188419.06.1951
Aarne PUNG1954Cattle Breeding30.06.190914.08.1994
Eduard PÄLL1961Estonian Language15.09.190313.06.1989
Hugo RAUDSEPP1961Organic Chemistry17.09.190006.01.1976
Anto RAUKAS1977Geology17.02.193519.04.2021
Jaan REBANE1975Philosophy13.05.192410.11.1993
Karl REBANE1961Theoretical Physics11.04.192604.11.2007
Loit REINTAM1990Soil Science12.11.192917.01.2010
Juhan ROSS1993Biogeophysics14.08.192521.06.2002
Ellu SAAR2022Sociology08.10.195502.06.2024
Joosep SAAT1951History30.07.190016.01.1977
Oskar SEPRE1946*Economics20.05.190023.11.1965
Ilo SIBUL1957Physiology10.02.190831.01.1979
Karl SIILIVASK1977History20.01.192718.11.2017
Helle SIMM1977Hydrobiology and Hydrochemistry23.01.192007.10.1991
Boris TAMM1972Cybernetics23.06.193005.02.2002
Vello TARMISTO1977Economics07.01.191806.11.1991
Alma TOMINGAS1946*Pharmacy15.09.190029.01.1963
Nikolai TOMSON1946*Air hygiene of residential buildings14.02.189802.04.1972
Hans-Voldemar TRASS1975Botany and Ecology02.05.192814.02.2017
Andrei TŠERNÕŠOV1951Fuel Chemistry and Energetics22.04.190422.11.1953
Friedebert TUGLAS1946*Literature02.03.188615.04.1971
Peeter TULVISTE1994Humanities and Social Sciences28.10.194511.03.2017
Enn TÕUGU1981Informatics20.05.193530.03.2020
Juhan VAABEL1946*Jurisprudence26.08.189910.04.1971
Voldemar VADI1946*Medicine25.02.189105.11.1951
August VAGA1946*Botany15.03.189311.12.1960
Artur VASSAR1961History18.11.191117.07.1977
Mihkel VEIDERMA1975Inorganic Chemistry27.12.192925.10.2018
Arnold VEIMER1957Economics20.06.190303.03.1977
Johannes Voldemar VESKI1946*Linguistics27.06.187328.03.1968
Aleksander VOLDEK1969Electrical Engineering02.04.191127.01.1977
Andres ÖPIK2013Engineering04.05.194728.01.2023
Ilmar ÖPIK1967Thermophysics17.06.191729.07.2001

NameNominatedResearch FieldDate of BirthDeceased
Hugo KAHO1938Natural Sciences15.11.188517.09.1964
Edgar KANT1938Humanities21.02.190216.10.1978
Paul KOGERMAN1938Natural Sciences05.12.189127.07.1951
Teodor LIPPMAA1939*Natural Sciences17.11.189227.01.1943
Oskar LOORITS1938Humanities09.11.190012.12.1961
Julius MARK1938Humanities27.03.189002.03.1959
Aleksander PALDROK1938Natural Sciences16.05.187101.07.1944
Ludvig PUUSEPP1938Natural Sciences03.12.187519.10.1942
Karl SCHLOSSMANN1938Natural Sciences19.02.188517. 12.1969
Hendrik SEPP1938Humanities23.03.188805.09.1943
Gustav SUITS1938Humanities30.11.188323.05.1956
Jüri ULUOTS1938Humanities13.01.189009.01.1945
Ernst ÖPIK1938Natural Sciences22.10.189310.09.1985
Honorary Members
Konstantin PÄTS1939*23.02.187418.01.1956
Johan LAIDONER1940*12.02.188413.03.1953
NameElectedResearch FieldDate of BirthDeceased
Valdar JAANUSSON1991Geology30.06.192308.08.1999
Carl-Olof JACOBSON1995Zoomorphology24.04.192904.06.2018
Antero JAHKOLA1998Energy Research05.02.193110.12.2017
Matti KUUSI1991Folcloristics25.03.191416.01.1998
Ilse LEHISTE2008Linguistics31.01.192225.12.2010
Indrek MARTINSON1998Physics26.12.193714.11.2009
Gérard A. MAUGIN2002Mechanics02.12.194422.09.2016
Grigori MINTS2008Computer Sciences07.06.193929.05.2014
Endrik NÕGES1995Automatic Control05.04.192706.06.2006
Els OKSAAR1998Linguistics01.10.192609.12.2015
Jaak PEETRE2008Mathematics29.07.193501.04.2019
Johannes PIIPER1991Physiology11.11.192402.01.2012
Jānis STRADIŅŠ1998Physical Chemistry and History of Science10.12.193329.11.2019
Päiviö TOMMILA1991History4.08.193118.11.2022
Endel TULVING2002Psychology26.05.192711.09.2023
Ivar UGI1991Chemistry05.09.193029.09.2005
Henn-Jüri UIBOPUU1995Jurisprudence11.10.192921.10.2012
Richard R. ERNST2003Physical Chemistry14.08.193304.06.2021

The residence of the Estonian Academy of Sciences (built during 1865–1868), on the slope of Toompea, is a former city residence of the prominent Ungern Sternberg noble family, is a conspicuous building in Tallinn architecture.

The palace on Toompea was commissioned by Count Ewald Alexander Andreas von Ungern-Sternberg, descending from a highly influential Baltic-German noble family. Architect of the house is Martin Philipp Gropius, from Berlin.

More about the building in "Estonian Academy of Sciences Building", see also the cover pictures of the brochure.