American Academy of Arts and Sciences logo
|Formation||May 4, 1780|
|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 ever since the academy was founded during the American Revolution by John Adams, John Hancock, James Bowdoin, and others of their contemporaries who contributed prominently to the establishment of the new nation, its government, and the United States Constitution.
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.
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 Kuo-Sung (Liu Guosong), Lucian Michael Freud, Galina Ulanova, Werner Heisenberg, Alec Guinness, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Sebastião Salgado.
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
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.
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.
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.
Awarded since 1940, this prize recognizes major contributions to reproductive biology. It is supported by an endowment established by Mr. Francis Amory.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.