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American Academy of Arts and Sciences logo
|Formation||May 4, 1780 ; 239 years ago|
|Type||Honorary society and independent research center|
|Headquarters||Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.|
|more than 5,700 active members, across the United States and around the world|
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the oldest learned societies in the United States. Founded in 1780, the Academy is dedicated to honoring excellence and leadership, working across disciplines and divides, and advancing the common good.
Membership in the academy is achieved through a thorough petition, review, and election process and has been considered a high honor of scholarly and societal merit.The academy was founded during the American Revolution by John Adams, John Hancock, James Bowdoin, and other Founding Fathers of the United States.
Today the Academy is charged with a dual function: to elect to membership the finest minds and most influential leaders, drawn from science, scholarship, business, public affairs, and the arts, from each generation, and to conduct policy studies in response to the needs of society. Major Academy projects now have focused on higher education and research, humanities and cultural studies, scientific and technological advances, politics, population and the environment, and the welfare of children. Dædalus , the Academy's quarterly journal, is widely regarded as one of the world's leading intellectual journals.
The Academy carries out nonpartisan policy research by bringing together scientists, scholars, artists, policymakers, business leaders, and other experts to make multidisciplinary analyses of complex social, political, and intellectual topics. The Academy's current areas of work are Arts & Humanities, Democracy & Justice, Education, Energy & Environment, Global Affairs, and Science & Technology.
David W. Oxtoby began his term as the organization's president in January 2019. A chemist by training, he served as President of Pomona College from 2003 to 2017. He was elected a member of the American Academy in 2012.
The Academy is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Academy was established by the Massachusetts legislature on May 4, 1780. Its purpose, as described in its charter, is "to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people."The sixty-two incorporating fellows represented varying interests and high standing in the political, professional, and commercial sectors of the state. The first class of new members, chosen by the Academy in 1781, included Benjamin Franklin and George Washington as well as several international honorary members. The initial volume of Academy Memoirs appeared in 1785, and the Proceedings followed in 1846. In the 1950s, the Academy launched its journal Daedalus, reflecting its commitment to a broader intellectual and socially-oriented program.
Since the second half of the twentieth century, independent research has become a central focus of the Academy. In the late 1950s, arms control emerged as one of its signature concerns. The Academy also served as the catalyst in establishing the National Humanities Center in North Carolina. In the late 1990s, the Academy developed a new strategic plan, focusing on four major areas: science, technology, and global security; social policy and education; humanities and culture; and education. In 2002, the Academy established a visiting scholars program in association with Harvard University. More than 75 academic institutions from across the country have become Affiliates of the Academy to support this program and other Academy initiatives.
The Academy has sponsored a number of awards and prizes,throughout its history and has offered opportunities for fellowships and visiting scholars at the Academy.
In July 2013 the Boston Globe exposed then president Leslie Berlowitz for falsifying her credentials, faking a doctorate, and consistently mistreating her staff.Berlowitz subsequently resigned.
A project of the Academy that equips researchers, policymakers, universities, foundations, museums, libraries, humanities councils, and other public institutions with statistical tools for answering basic questions about primary and secondary humanities education, undergraduate and graduate education in the humanities, the humanities workforce, levels and sources of program funding, public understanding and impact of the humanities, and other areas of concern in the humanities community.It is modeled on the Science and Engineering Indicators, published biennially by the National Science Board as required by Congress.
Charter members of the Academy are John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Bacon, James Bowdoin, Charles Chauncy, John Clarke, David Cobb, Samuel Cooper, Nathan Cushing, Thomas Cushing, William Cushing, Tristram Dalton, Francis Dana, Samuel Deane, Perez Fobes, Caleb Gannett, Henry Gardner, Benjamin Guild, John Hancock, Joseph Hawley, Edward Augustus Holyoke, Ebenezer Hunt, Jonathan Jackson, Charles Jarvis, Samuel Langdon, Levi Lincoln, Daniel Little, Elijah Lothrup, John Lowell, Samuel Mather, Samuel Moody, Andrew Oliver, Joseph Orne, Theodore Parsons, George Partridge, Robert Treat Paine, Phillips Payson, Samuel Phillips, John Pickering, Oliver Prescott, Zedekiah Sanger, Nathaniel Peaslee Sargeant, Micajah Sawyer, Theodore Sedgwick, William Sever, David Sewall, Stephen Sewall, John Sprague, Ebenezer Storer, Caleb Strong, James Sullivan, John Bernard Sweat, Nathaniel Tracy, Cotton Tufts, James Warren, Samuel West, Edward Wigglesworth, Joseph Willard, Abraham Williams, Nehemiah Williams, Samuel Williams, and James Winthrop.
From the beginning, the membership, nominated and elected by peers, has included not only scientists and scholars, but also writers and artists as well as representatives from the full range of professions and public life. Throughout the Academy's history, 10,000 fellows have been elected, including such notables as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John James Audubon, Joseph Henry, Washington Irving, Josiah Willard Gibbs, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Willa Cather, T. S. Eliot, Edward R. Murrow, Jonas Salk, Eudora Welty, and Duke Ellington.
International honorary members have included Jose Antonio Pantoja Hernandez, Albert Einstein,Leonhard Euler, Marquis de Lafayette, Alexander von Humboldt, Leopold von Ranke, Charles Darwin, Otto Hahn, Jawaharlal Nehru, Pablo Picasso, Liu Guosong, Lucian Michael Freud, Galina Ulanova, Werner Heisenberg, Alec Guinness, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Menahem Yaari, Yitzhak Apeloig, Zvi Galil, Haim Harari, and Sebastião Salgado.
Astronomer Maria Mitchell was the first woman elected to the Academy, in 1848.
The current membership encompasses over 5,700 members based across the United States and around the world. Academy members include more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.
The current membership is divided into five classes and twenty-four sections.
Class I – Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Class II – Biological Sciences
Class III – Social Sciences
Class IV – Arts and Humanities
Class V – Public affairs, business, and administration
Henry Brooks Adams was an American historian and member of the Adams political family, descended from two U.S. Presidents.
Nathaniel Bowditch was an early American mathematician remembered for his work on ocean navigation. He is often credited as the founder of modern maritime navigation; his book The New American Practical Navigator, first published in 1802, is still carried on board every commissioned U.S. Naval vessel. In 2001, an elementary and middle school in Salem was named in his honor.
James Bowdoin II was an American political and intellectual leader from Boston, Massachusetts, during the American Revolution and the following decade. He initially gained fame and influence as a wealthy merchant. He served in both branches of the Massachusetts General Court from the 1750s to the 1770s. Although he was initially supportive of the royal governors, he opposed British colonial policy and eventually became an influential advocate of independence. He authored a highly political report on the 1770 Boston Massacre that has been described by historian Francis Walett as one of the most influential pieces of writing that shaped public opinion in the colonies.
Robert Charles Winthrop was an American lawyer and philanthropist and one time Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He was a descendant of John Winthrop.
The Boston Brahmins or Boston elite are members of Boston's traditional old upper class. They are often associated with Harvard University, Anglicanism, aristocratic clubs such as the Somerset in Boston, the Knickerbocker in New York, the Metropolitan in Washington D.C., and traditional Anglo-American customs and clothing. Descendants of the earliest English colonists are typically considered to be the most representative of the Boston Brahmins.
Thomas Cushing III was an American lawyer, merchant, and statesman from Boston, Massachusetts. Active in Boston politics, he represented the city in the provincial assembly from 1761 to its dissolution in 1774, serving as the lower house's speaker for most of those years. Because of his role as speaker, his signature was affixed to many documents protesting British policies, leading officials in London to consider him a dangerous radical. He engaged in extended communications with Benjamin Franklin who at times lobbied on behalf of the legislature's interests in London, seeking ways to reduce the rising tensions of the American Revolution.
The Royal Irish Academy, based in Dublin, is an all-Ireland, independent academic body that promotes study and excellence in the sciences, humanities and social sciences. It is one of Ireland's premier learned societies and cultural institutions. As of 2019 the RIA has around 600 members, regular members being Irish residents elected in recognition of their academic achievements, and Honorary Members similarly qualified but based abroad; a small number of members are elected in recognition of non-academic contributions to society. The Academy was established in 1785 and granted a royal charter in 1786.
Increase Sumner was an American lawyer, jurist, and politician from Massachusetts. He was the fifth governor of Massachusetts, serving from 1797 to 1799. Trained as a lawyer, he served in the provisional government of Massachusetts during the American Revolutionary War, and was elected to the Confederation Congress in 1782. Appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court the same year, he served there as an associate justice until 1797.
Lawrence Academy at Groton is a private, selective, nonsectarian, coeducational college preparatory boarding school located in Groton, Massachusetts, in the United States. Founded by a group of fifty residents of Groton and Pepperell, Massachusetts in 1792 as Groton Academy, and chartered in 1793 by Governor John Hancock, Lawrence is the tenth oldest boarding school in the United States, and the third in Massachusetts, following Governor Dummer Academy (1763) and Phillips Academy at Andover (1778). The phrase on Lawrence Academy's seal is "Omnibus Lucet": in Latin, "Let light shine upon all."
The National Academy of Design is an honorary association of American artists, founded in New York City in 1825 by Samuel Morse, Asher Durand, Thomas Cole, Martin E. Thompson, Charles Cushing Wright, Ithiel Town, and others "to promote the fine arts in America through instruction and exhibition." Membership is limited to 450 American artists and architects, who are elected by their peers on the basis of recognized excellence.
The Governor's Academy is an independent school north of Boston located on 450 acres (1.8 km2) in the village of Byfield, Massachusetts, United States, 33 miles (53 km) north of Boston. The Academy enrolls approximately 400 students in grades nine through twelve, 70% of whom are boarders. The school was established in 1763 and is the oldest continuously operating independent boarding school in the United States.
Theodore Lyman III was a natural scientist, military staff officer during the American Civil War, and United States Representative from Massachusetts.
Henry Pickering Bowditch was an American soldier, physician, physiologist, and dean of the Harvard Medical School. Following his teacher Carl Ludwig, he promoted the training of medical practitioners in a context of physiological research. His teaching career at Harvard spanned 35 years.
The American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) is the oldest psychical research organization in the United States dedicated to parapsychology. It maintains offices and a library, in New York City, which are open to both members and the general public. The society has an open membership, anyone with an interest in psychical research is invited to join. It maintains a website; and publishes the quarterly Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research.
The Union Club of Boston, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest gentlemen's clubs in the United States. It is located on Beacon Hill, adjacent to the Massachusetts State House. The clubhouse at No. 7 and No. 8 Park Street was originally the homes of John Amory Lowell (#7), and Abbott Lawrence (#8). The houses were built c.1830-40, and they were remodeled for club use in 1896. The clubhouse overlooks the Boston Common, and has views of the Common itself, Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, and the hills to the west of the ciy.
The Bowdoin Prizes are prestigious awards given annually to Harvard University undergraduate and graduate students. From the income of the bequest of Governor James Bowdoin, AB 1745, prizes are offered to students at the University in graduate and undergraduate categories for work in the English Language, in the Natural Sciences, in Greek, and in Latin. Each winner of a Bowdoin Prize receives, in addition to a sum of money, a medal, a certificate, and his or her name printed in the Commencement Program.
The Boston Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in Boston, Massachusetts, was founded "to promote and direct popular education by lectures and other means." Modelled after the recently formed Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in London, the Boston group's officers included Daniel Webster, Nathan Hale, Jacob Bigelow, William Ellery Channing, Edward Everett, Nathaniel L. Frothingham, and Abbott Lawrence. The society published the American Library of Useful Knowledge, a series of scholarly works by British and American authors. Public lectures on a variety of topics were held at Boston's Masonic Temple, and other venues.
Leslie Cohen Berlowitz was President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Berlowitz became the Academy's executive officer in 1996 and was later promoted to Chief Executive Officer and President. From 1969 to 1996, Berlowitz was an administrator at New York University. In 2013 the Boston Globe pointed to a falsification of her degree on Academy grant applications and that her Academy salary appeared higher than standards at comparable institutions. The Globe also brought her draconian management style into question.
Charles Pickering Bowditch was an American financier, archaeologist, cryptographer and linguistics scholar who specialized in Mayan epigraphy.
Meeting House Hill is one of the oldest sections of Boston's historic Dorchester neighborhood. It is the site of the First Parish Church and the Mather School, the oldest public elementary school in North America. Located immediately to the north of Fields Corner, it is within walking distance of the Fields Corner and Savin Hill MBTA stations.
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