Rahul Sharma (Editor)

American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit

4 May 1780

American Academy of Arts and Sciences httpsoirriceeduuploadedImagesOfficeofInst

May 4, 1780 (1780-05-04)

Honorary society and center for policy research

Honoring excellence and providing service to the nation and the world

4,900 fellows and 600 foreign honorary members

To cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honour, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.

National Academy of Sciences, American Philosophical Society, American Association for the Ad, American Academy of Arts an, National Academy of Medicine


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 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 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 is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The Academy was established by the Massachusetts legislature on May 4th, 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 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.

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. More than 60 academic institutions from across the country have become Affiliates of the Academy to support this program and other Academy initiatives. The Academy most recently made headlines in July 2013 when the Boston Globe outed then president Leslie Berlowitz for falsifying her credentials, faking a doctorate, and consistently mistreating her staff.

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 Jose Antonio Pantoja Hernandez 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.

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

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

Classes and sections

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

Class I – Mathematical and Physical Sciences

  • Section 1. Applied Mathematics and Statistics
  • Section 2. Physics
  • Section 3. Chemistry
  • Section 4. Astronomy (including Astrophysics) and Earth Science
  • Section 5. Engineering Sciences and Technologies
  • Section 6. Computer Sciences (including Artificial Intelligence and Information Technologies)
  • Class II – Biological Sciences

  • Section 1. Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology
  • Section 2. Cellular and Developmental Biology, Microbiology and Immunology (including Genetics)
  • Section 3. Neurosciences, Cognitive Sciences, and Behavioral Biology
  • Section 4. Evolutionary and Population Biology and Ecology
  • Section 5. Medical Sciences (including Physiology and Pharmacology), Clinical Medicine, and Public Health
  • Class III – Social Sciences

  • Section 1. Social and Developmental Psychology and Education
  • Section 2. Economics
  • Section 3. Political Science, International Relations, and Public Policy
  • Section 4. Law (including the Practice of Law)
  • Section 5. Archaeology, Anthropology, Sociology, Geography and Demography
  • Class IV – Arts and Humanities

  • Section 1. Philosophy and Religious Studies
  • Section 2. History
  • Section 3. Literary Criticism (including Philology)
  • Section 4. Literature (Fiction, Poetry, Short Stories, Nonfiction, Playwriting, Screenwriting and Translation)
  • Section 5. Visual Arts and Performing Arts—Criticism and Practice
  • 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
  • Activities

    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.

    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.

    Policy Fellowship in the Humanities, Education, and the Arts Policy Fellowship in the Humanities and Education is for an early-career professional with experience or training in higher education who is interested in transitioning to a career in public policy and administration. While in residence, the Fellow will work 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 Policy Fellowship in Global Security and International Affairs is for an early-career professional with experience or training in international relations, public policy and development. While in residence, the Fellow will work 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 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.

  • 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.

    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.

    On June 19, 2013, the Commission issued its initial report The Heart of the Matter, along with a companion film created specially with the aid of Ken Burns and George Lucas.

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

    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. The Humanities Indicators are modeled on the Science and Engineering Indicators, which are published biennially by the National Science Board as required by Congress.


    American Academy of Arts and Sciences Wikipedia

    Similar Topics