May 4, 1780 — The American Academy of Arts and Science was established today by our second president John Adams (in office from 1797–1801) — and James Bowdoin, a wealthy merchant and American political and intellectual leader from Boston, Massachusetts, during the American Revolution and the following decade.
Together, they were anticipating the young republic’s needs for knowledge and new, practical ideas.
As stated in the Academy’s Charter, the “end and design of the institution 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 original 62 members included Robert Treat Paine and John Hancock. Today, the Academy has 4,600 Fellows and 600 Foreign Honorary Members, including many of the most accomplished scholars and practitioners worldwide.
Words of Wisdom
An Act to incorporate and establish a Society for the cultivation and promotion of Arts and Sciences. Granted May 4, 1780, by an Act of the Legislature of Massachusetts, and amended by the Acts of 1910, 1911, 1931, 1947, and 1974.As the Arts and Sciences are the foundation and support of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce; as they are necessary to the wealth, peace, independence, and happiness of a people; as they essentially promote the honor and dignity of the government which patronizes them, and as they are most effectually cultivated and diffused through a State by the forming and incorporating of men of genius and learning into public societies for these beneficial purposes.
Be it therefore enacted by the Council and House of Representatives in General Court assembled and by the authority of the same that (sixty-two persons) be, and they hereby are formed into, constituted, and made a body politic and corporate, by the name of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and that they, and their successors, and such other persons as shall be elected in the manner hereafter mentioned, shall be and continue a body politic and corporate, by the same name forever.