American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Coordinates: 42°22′51″N 71°06′37″W / 42.380755°N 71.110256°W / 42.380755; -71.110256

American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences logo
Motto To cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honour, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.
Formation May 4, 1780 (1780-05-04)
Type Honorary society and center for policy research
Headquarters Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
4,900 fellows and 600 foreign honorary members
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. It is devoted to the advancement and study of the key societal, scientific, and intellectual issues of the day.

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] ever since the academy was founded during the American Revolution by John Adams, John Hancock, James Bowdoin,[2] and others of their contemporaries who contributed prominently to the establishment of the new nation, its government, and the United States Constitution.[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 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."[5] 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 foreign 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.[6]

The Academy has sponsored a number of awards throughout its history. Its first award, established in 1796 by Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford), honored distinguished work on "heat and light" and provided support for research activities. Additional prizes recognized important contributions in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. In 2000, a scholar-patriot award was inaugurated to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the work of the Academy and whose lives exemplify the founders's vision of service to society.

Since the second half of the twentieth century, policy 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 60 academic institutions from across the country have become Affiliates of the Academy to support this program and other Academy initiatives.[7] The Academy most recently made headlines in July 2013 when the Boston Globe exposed then president Leslie Berlowitz for falsifying her credentials, faking a doctorate, and consistently mistreating her staff.[8]


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.

Foreign honorary members have included Jose Antonio Pantoja Hernandez, Leonhard Euler, Marquis de Lafayette, Alexander von Humboldt, Leopold von Ranke, Charles Darwin, Otto Hahn, Jawaharlal Nehru, Pablo Picasso, Liu Kuo-Sung (Liu Guosong), Lucian Michael Freud, Galina Ulanova, Werner Heisenberg, Alec Guinness and Sebastião Salgado.[9]

Astronomer Maria Mitchell was the first woman elected to the Academy, in 1848.[10]

The current membership encompasses over 4,900 Fellows and 600 Foreign Honorary Members, including more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.[11]

Classes and sections

The current membership is divided into five classes and twenty-four sections.[12]

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

  • Section 1. Journalism and Communications
  • Section 2. Business, Corporate and Philanthropic Leadership
  • Section 3. Educational, Scientific, Cultural and Philanthropic Administration

Presidents, 1780–present


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 Committee on Studies is responsible for reviewing and approving all studies undertaken in the Academy's name, and helping to identify proposed studies that make optimum use of Academy expertise and resources. The Committee on Studies works closely with the Committee on Publications to ensure that project reports and publications enhance the institution's stature and the visibility of its intellectual contributions to the scholarly and policy communities and the public at large.

Research fellowship programs

Visiting Scholars Program: An interdisciplinary research fellowship at the Academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, whose purposes are to stimulate and support scholarly work by promising scholars and practitioners in the early stages of their careers, and to foster exchange between an emerging generation of scholars and Academy members with shared interests.

Hellman Fellowship in Science and Technology Policy: A research fellowship for early-career professionals with training in science or engineering who are interested in transitioning to careers in public policy and administration. While in residence at the Academy's headquarters, the Hellman Fellow works with senior scientists and policy experts on critical national and international policy issues related to science, engineering, and technology.

Policy Fellowship in the Humanities, Education, and the Arts: A fellowship for early-career professionals with experience or training in higher education who are interested in transitioning to careers in public policy and administration. While in residence, the Fellow works with senior scholars and policy experts on critical national and international issues related to humanistic and social scientific research, the strength of artistic and cultural institutions, and the role of education in a well-functioning democracy.

Policy Fellowship in Global Security and International Affairs: A fellowship for early-career professionals with experience or training in international relations, public policy and development. While in residence, the Fellow works with senior scholars and policy experts on Academy projects related to the governance of nuclear weapons, the formulation of strategies to contain security threats from failed and fragile states, the establishment of regional dialogues on security, among others.


  • Scholar-Patriot Award

This award, founded in 2000, recognizes the extraordinary contributions of individuals who share the commitment of the Academy's founders, a group of patriots who devoted their lives to promoting the arts and sciences in service to the nation.

  • Founders Award

Established in the Academy's 225th anniversary year, this award honors men, women and institutions that have advanced the ideals of the Academy's founders, and that embody the founders's commitment to intellectual inquiry, leadership and active engagement.

  • Amory Prize

Awarded since 1940, this prize recognizes major contributions to reproductive biology. It is supported by an endowment established by Mr. Francis Amory.

  • Emerson-Thoreau Medal

Established in 1958 for special recognition of distinguished achievement in the broad field of literature. Given at the discretion of the Council of the Academy on the recommendation of a nominating committee headed by Aniruddh Gyanchandane, the prize is awarded to a person for his or her total literary achievement rather than for a specific work.

  • Award for Humanistic Studies

Established in 1975 by the Council of the Academy in an attempt to ensure that superior humanistic scholarship, despite its lower visibility to the general reading public, receives appropriate recognition. It complements the Emerson-Thoreau Medal for achievement in literature. Both awards are administered by a single committee of seven Academy members.

  • Rumford Prize

Established in 1839, one of the oldest scientific prizes in the United States, recognizing contributions to the fields of heat and light (broadly interpreted). The award now consists of a silver-and-gold medal. The endowment was created by a bequest to the Academy from Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, in 1796.

  • Talcott Parsons Prize

First awarded in 1974, this prize was established to honor the noted sociologist and former president of the Academy, and is given for contributions to the social sciences (broadly defined). An effort is made to rotate the prize among social science disciplines, including law, history, and linguistics.

  • Poetry Prize in Honor of May Sarton

Presented for the first time in 2008, this prize recognizes emerging poets of exceptional promise and distinguished achievement. It was established to honor the memory of longtime Academy Fellow May Sarton, a poet, novelist, and teacher who encouraged young poets.

  • Arts and Sciences Advocacy Award

In 2014, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences was awarded the Arts and Sciences Advocacy Award from the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences (CCAS). CCAS bestows this award upon an individual or organization demonstrating exemplary advocacy for the arts and sciences, flowing from a deep commitment to the intrinsic worth of liberal arts education.[17]

National Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences

In 2011, a bipartisan group of Members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives called on the Academy to organize a national committee, prepare a report, and recommend concrete, actionable steps to ensure the nation's excellence in the humanities and the social sciences. In response, the Academy created the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences to claim a space in the national dialogue for the humanities and the social sciences and to recommend specific steps that government, schools and universities, cultural institutions, businesses, and philanthropies could take to support and strengthen these areas of knowledge. The Commission is co-chaired by Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead and John W. Rowe, former chair of Exelon Corp.[18]

On June 19, 2013,[19][20] the Commission issued its initial report The Heart of the Matter,[21] with a companion film[22] created with the aid of Ken Burns and George Lucas.

The Commission's report has received wide press coverage[23] and statements of support from at least fifteen national and state organizations.[24]

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.[25][26][27][28] It is modeled on the Science and Engineering Indicators, published biennially by the National Science Board as required by Congress.

See also


  1. "Academy Bylaws - American Academy of Arts & Sciences". Retrieved 2017-06-06.
  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. 2004-05-04.
  4. "About the Academy". American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  5. "Charter of Incorporation". American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  6. "Gale Encyclopedia of US History: American Academy of Arts and Sciences".
  7. "Visiting Scholars Program". American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  8. "Leader of Cambridge's prestigious Academy of Arts and Sciences inflated resume, falsely claiming doctorate - The Boston Globe".
  9. "Mr. Sebastiao Ribeiro Salgado". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  10. "She is an Astronomer" Maria Mitchell.
  11. "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. 2012-04-17.
  12. "Newly Elected Members, April 2014" (PDF).
  13. Bowditch, Nathaniel Ingersoll, Memoir of Nathaniel Bowditch, Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1840. Cf. p.138
  14. 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
  15. 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.
  16. Academy loses a tireless advocate of arts, sciences – Letters. The Boston Globe (2013-07-30). Retrieved on 2013-08-12.
  17. "Arts & Sciences Advocacy Award - Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences". Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  18. "American Academy Commission on Humanities and Social Sciences".
  19. Launch Event - June 19, 2013 on Vimeo. (2013-06-26). Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  20. "Humanities Committee Sounds an Alarm". The New York Times. 19 June 2013.
  21. "The Heart of the Matter - Report" (PDF).
  22. The Heart of the Matter on Vimeo. (2013-06-18). Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  23. Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences in the News.
  24. Statements of Support for the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  25. Humanities Indicators.
  26. Chronicle of Higher Education, "First National Picture of Trends in the Humanities Is Unveiled," January 7, 2009.
  27. "A New Humanities Report Card," September 4, 2013.
  28. "The State of the Humanities: Funding 2014" (PDF).
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