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American Academy of Arts and Sciences

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American Academy of Arts and Sciences

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 independent policy research
Purpose Honoring excellence and providing service to the nation and the world
Headquarters Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Membership 4,000 fellows and 600 foreign honorary members
Website .org.amacadwww
The House of the Academy, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, frequently known as the American Academy, is one of the oldest and most prestigious honorary societies and a leading center for independent policy research in the United States. Election to the Academy is considered one of the nation's highest honors since its founding during the American Revolution by John Adams, John Hancock, James Bowdoin, and other scholar-patriots who contributed prominently to the establishment of the new nation, its government, and its Constitution.[1]

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.[2]

The Academy is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The Academy was established by Massachusetts legislature on 4 May 1780. Its purpose, as described in its Charter of Incorporation, 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."[3] 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 [4]

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' 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 a signature concern of the Academy. 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. Now a group of 59 academic institutions from across the country have become university affiliates of the Academy to support this program.[5]


Founding members

Charter members of the Academy are Robert Treat Paine, Phillips Payson, Samuel Phillips, John Pickering, Oliver Prescott, Zedekiah Sanger, Nathaniel Peaslee Sargeant, Micajah Sawyer, Theodore Sedgwick, William Sever, Stephen Sewall, David Sewall, John Sprague, Ebenezer Storer, Caleb Strong, James Sullivan, John Bernard Sweat, Nathaniel Tracy, Cotton Tufts, James Warren, Samuel West, Edward Wigglesworth, Joseph Willard, Samuel Williams, Abraham Williams, Nehemiah 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 Leonhard Euler, Marquis de Lafayette, Alexander von Humboldt, Leopold von Ranke, Charles Darwin, Jawaharlal Nehru, Werner Heisenberg, Alec Guinness and Sebastião Salgado.[6]

Astronomer Maria Mitchell was the first woman to be elected to the Academy, in 1848.[7]

The current membership encompasses over 4,000 fellows and foreign honorary members on the roster, including more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.[8]

Classes and sections

The current membership is divided into five classes and twenty-four sections.[9]

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

Presidents, 1791–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 name of the Academy and helping to identify proposed studies that will make optimum use of Academy expertise and resources. The Committee on Studies works closely with the Committee on Publications to ensure that Academy project reports and publications enhance the stature of the institution and the visibility of its intellectual contributions to the scholarly and policy communities and to the public at large.


The Academy's four major program areas are:

  • Science, Technology, and Global Security: Explore how the international community can devise new cooperative structures to improve global security, analyzes the impact of rapid developments in science and technology, and develops policies to govern these transformations.
  • Social Policy and American Institutions: Carry out studies that focus on American institutions at the crossroads, particularly the government and the corporation.
  • Humanities and Culture: Enhance public understanding of the value and role of the humanities in American life and create new resources to inform coherent policy analyses relative to the humanities.
  • Education: Deal with education at all levels—from primary and secondary education to teaching and research at the university level.

Research fellowship programs

Visiting Scholars Program: An interdisciplinary research fellowship housed at the headquarters of the Academy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a purpose is 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 professional with training in science or engineering who is interested in transitioning to a career in public policy and administration. While in residence at the headquarters of the Academy, the Hellman Fellow will work with senior scientists and policy experts on critical national and international policy issues related to science, engineering, and technology.


  • 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 225th anniversary year of the Academy, this award honors men, women and institutions that have advanced the ideals of the founders of the Academy. Recipients embody the spirit of the founders - a commitment to intellectual inquiry, leadership and active engagement.

  • Amory Prize

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

  • Emerson-Thoreau Medal

The Emerson-Thoreau Medal was established in 1958 to give special recognition to 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, the prize is awarded to a person for his or her total literary achievement rather than for a specific work.

  • Award for Humanistic Studies

The American Academy Award for Humanistic Studies was 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. The Humanities Award complements the Emerson-Thoreau Medal for achievement in literature. Both awards are administered by a single committee of seven members of the Academy.

  • Rumford Prize

Established in 1839, this is one of the oldest scientific prizes in the United States. This prize recognizes 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 awarded for contributions to the social sciences (broadly defined). An effort is made to rotate the prize among the various 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 during her career encouraged the work of young poets.

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 can 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.[14]

On June 19, 2013,[15][16] the Commission issued its initial report The Heart of the Matter,[17] along with a companion film[18] created specially with the aid of George Lucas.

The Commission's report has received wide press coverage[19] and statements of support from at least fifteen national and state organizations.[20]

The Humanities Indicators

The Humanities Indicators is a project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences that equips researchers and 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.[21][22][23][24] The Humanities Indicators are modeled on the Science and Engineering Indicators, which are published biennially by the National Science Board as required by Congress.

See also


  1. ^ "Yale Faculty Named to American Academy of Arts and Sciences". Yale University. 2004-05-04. 
  2. ^ "About the Academy". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 
  3. ^ "Charter of Incorporation". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 
  4. ^ "Gale Encyclopedia of US History: American Academy of Arts and Sciences". 
  5. ^ "Visiting Scholars Program". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 
  6. ^ "Mr. Sebastiao Ribeiro Salgado", American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Accessed 13 August 2014.
  7. ^ "She is an Astronomer" Maria Mitchell.
  8. ^ "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. 
  9. ^ "Newly Elected Members, April 2014". 
  10. ^ Bowditch, Nathaniel Ingersoll, Memoir of Nathaniel Bowditch, Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1840. Cf. p.138
  11. ^ 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
  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. ^ "American Academy Commission on Humanities and Social Sciences". 
  15. ^ Launch Event - June 19, 2013 on Vimeo. (2013-06-26). Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  16. ^ , "Humanities Committee Sounds an Alarm"New York Times
  17. ^ Report pdfThe Heart of the Matter
  18. ^ The Heart of the Matter on Vimeo. (2013-06-18). Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  19. ^ Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences in the News.
  20. ^ Statements of Support for the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  21. ^ Humanities Indicators.
  22. ^ , "First National Picture of Trends in the Humanities Is Unveiled," January 7, 2009Chronicle of Higher Education.
  23. ^ "A New Humanities Report Card," September 4, 2013.
  24. ^ "The State of the Humanities: Funding 2014."

External links

  • Official website
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