The Academy consists of ordinary and corresponding (i.e. external) members as well as honorary members. The ordinary and corresponding members form the learned society of the Academy. In accordance with the statutes, their research must have contributed to a "substantial increase of knowledge" concerning their subject. The Academy has the right to decide about membership itself; this means that only such people can become members who are proposed by members of the Academy solely on the basis of their academic reputation and without outside influence. The Academy elects new members once a year; it is not possible to apply for membership.
Ordinary members must be resident in the State of Bavaria. Only they have the right to vote and are obliged to take part in the sessions and work of the Academy. The number of full members who have not yet reached the age of 70 is limited to 45; the number of corresponding members (i.e. those living outside Bavaria) is limited to 80 in each class.
Numerous prominent scholars and Nobel prize winners have been members of the Academy, among them Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, Theodor Mommsen, Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt, Max Planck, Otto Hahn, Albert Einstein, Max Weber, Werner Heisenberg, and Adolf Butenandt. Past presidents have included Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, Justus von Liebig, Ignaz von Döllinger, and Max von Pettenkofer.
The prominent chemist Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) was president of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities from 1859 to 1873.