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"From the Academy Archives" A new online resource


Press Release

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Over the past 230 years, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has accumulated a large collection of documents, records, and objects that help tell the story of the nation’s intellectual development since the latter part of the 18th century. Now the public is being offered a glimpse into that history through a new web-based feature, From the Academy Archives.

To commemorate its founding on May 4, 1780, the Academy announced the new online resource, located on its web site at

The site will highlight one or more significant events from the Academy’s history that occurred during a given month. For example, during the month of May:
  • In 1780, the Academy’s charter was approved by the Massachusetts legislature. Among the sixty-two incorporating members were leaders in the movement for American independence, including Samuel Adams, John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine. The charter also named prominent ministers, educators, judges, lawyers, physicians, and businessmen.
  • In 1852, medical doctor and Fellow Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., spoke at an Academy meeting on “The Use of Direct Light in Microscopic Researches.”
  • In 1876, the Academy’s Recording Secretary presented a paper by Alexander Graham Bell “On Telegraphing Musical Sounds,” later published in the Academy’s Proceedings as “Researches in Telephony.” In the paper, Bell described past work in the field and explained his recent experiments in transmitting both pure musical tones and human speech.
  • In 1927, Herbert E. Ives spoke at the Academy on “Television” with lantern slide illustrations. A researcher at AT&T, Ives had given the first public demonstration of television transmission a month earlier.
  • In 1952, the Academy sponsored a two-day “Symposium on Climatic Change,” chaired by astronomer and past president Harlow Shapley. Speakers from the fields of astronomy, geology, geography, meteorology, paleontology, paleoanthropology, geophysics and geochemistry examined both the scientific basis for climatology and the role climate change has played in the development of life and human culture.
  • And in 1956, the Academy held a two-day conference on “Science and the Modern World View – Toward a Common Understanding of the Sciences and the Humanities.”

Members of the public can sign up to receive email alerts when new items are posted. A library of past items will also be available on the site.

“This initiative to link the past work of the Academy with our vital activities of today is made possible by our ongoing efforts to catalog and conserve the Academy’s rich archive,” said Chief Executive Officer Leslie Berlowitz.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on science and technology policy; global security; social policy; the humanities and culture; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,600 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business and public affairs from around the world.


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