American Academy of Arts and Sciences

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American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences.png
American Academy of Arts and Sciences logo
FormationMay 4, 1780 (1780-05-04); 239 years ago
TypeHonorary 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 House of the Academy, Cambridge, Massachusetts American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts.JPG
The House of the Academy, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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. [1] The academy was founded during the American Revolution by John Adams, John Hancock, James Bowdoin, [2] and other Founding Fathers of the United States. [3]

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. [4]

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. [5]

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." [6] 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. [7]

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. [8]

The Academy has sponsored a number of awards and prizes, [9] throughout its history and has offered opportunities for fellowships and visiting scholars at the Academy. [10]

In July 2013 the Boston Globe exposed then president Leslie Berlowitz for falsifying her credentials, faking a doctorate, and consistently mistreating her staff. [11] Berlowitz subsequently resigned. [12] [13]


The Humanities Indicators

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. [14] [15] [16] [17] It is modeled on the Science and Engineering Indicators, published biennially by the National Science Board as required by Congress.


Founding members

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, [18] 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. [19]

Astronomer Maria Mitchell was the first woman elected to the Academy, in 1848. [20]

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. [21]

Classes and sections

The current membership is divided into five classes and twenty-four sections. [22]

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

Presidents, 1780–present

See also

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  1. "Academy Bylaws - American Academy of Arts & Sciences". Archived from the original on June 2, 2017. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
  2. Kershaw, G. E. (2014). American Academy of arts and sciences. In M. Spencer (Ed.), The Bloomsbury encyclopedia of the American Enlightenment. London, UK: Bloomsbury.
  3. "Yale Faculty Named to American Academy of Arts and Sciences". Yale University. May 4, 2004. Archived from the original on September 18, 2016. Retrieved April 21, 2012.
  4. "About the Academy". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on September 2, 2012. Retrieved September 11, 2012.
  5. "Our Work". American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
  6. "Charter of Incorporation". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on January 3, 2011. Retrieved April 21, 2012.
  7. "Gale Encyclopedia of US History: American Academy of Arts and Sciences".
  8. "Visiting Scholars Program". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on August 30, 2014. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  9. "Prizes". American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
  10. "Fellowships". American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
  11. "Leader of Cambridge's prestigious Academy of Arts and Sciences inflated resume, falsely claiming doctorate - The Boston Globe".
  12. Embattled head of American Academy of Arts and Sciences resigns after questions about resume – Metro. The Boston Globe (2013-07-26). Retrieved on 2013-08-12.
  13. Academy loses a tireless advocate of arts, sciences – Letters. The Boston Globe (2013-07-30). Retrieved on 2013-08-12.
  14. Humanities Indicators.
  15. Chronicle of Higher Education, "First National Picture of Trends in the Humanities Is Unveiled," January 7, 2009.
  16. "A New Humanities Report Card," September 4, 2013.
  17. "The State of the Humanities: Funding 2014" (PDF).
  18. "Albert Einstein". American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
  19. "Mr. Sebastiao Ribeiro Salgado". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved August 13, 2014.[ permanent dead link ]
  20. "She is an Astronomer" Maria Mitchell.
  21. "Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tyler Jacks, Andre Previn, and Melinda F. Gates Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. April 17, 2012.
  22. "Newly Elected Members, April 2014" (PDF).
  23. Bowditch, Nathaniel Ingersoll, Memoir of Nathaniel Bowditch, Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1840. Cf. p.138
  24. White, Daniel Appleton, "Eulogy on John Pickering, LL. D., President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences", eulogy delivered to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, October 28, 1846; published in Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, v.3

Coordinates: 42°22′51″N71°06′37″W / 42.380755°N 71.110256°W / 42.380755; -71.110256