1902 Encyclopedia > Academy > Scientific Academies

(Part 2)


Italy -- The first society for the prosecution of physical science was that established at Naples, 1650, under the presidence of Baptista Porta. It was called Academia Secretorum Naturoe or de Secreti. It arose from a meeting of some scientific friends, who assembled at Porta's house, and called themselves the Otiosi. No member was admitted who had not made some useful discovery in medicine or natural philosophy. The name suggested to an ignorant public the prosecution of magic and the black arts. Porta went to Rome to justify himself before Paul III. He was acquitted by the Pope, but the academy was dissolved, and he was ordered to abstain for the future from the practice of all illicit arts.

At Rome he was admitted to the Lincei, an academy founded by Federigo Cesi, the Marcese di Monticelli. The device of the Lincei was a lynx with its eyes turned towards heaven tearing a Cerberus with its claws, intimating that they were prepared to do battle with error and falsehood. Their motto was the verse of Lucretius describing rain dropping from a cloud -- "Redit agmine dulci." Besides Porta, Galileo and Colonna were enrolled among its members. The society devoted itself exclusively to physical science. Porta, under its auspices, published his great work, Magioe Naturalis libri xx, 1589, in fol; his Phytognomonica, or, the occult virtue of plants; his De Humana Physiognomia, from which Lavater largely borrowed; also various works on optics and pneumatics, in which he approached the true theory of vision. He is even said by some to have anticipated Galileo in the invention of the telescope.

But the principal monument still remaining of the zeal and industry of Cesi and his academy is the Phytobasamos, a compendium of the natural history of Mexico, written by a Spaniard, Hernendez. During fifty years the MS. had been neglected, when Cesi discovered it, and employed Terentio, Fabro, and Colonna, all Lynceans, to edit it and enrich it with notes and emendations. Cesi's own great work, Theatrum Naturoe, was never published. The MS. still exists in the Albani Library at Rome. After Cesi's death, 1630 the academy languished for some years under the patronage of Urban VIII. An academy of the same name was inaugurated at Rome 1784, and still flourishes. It numbers among its members some of our English philosophers. But the fame of the Lincei was far outstripped by that of the Accademia del Cimento, established in Florence 1657, under the patronage of the Grand Duke Ferdinand II, at the instigation of his brother Leopold, acting under the advice of Viviani, one of the greatest geometers of Europe. The object of this academy was (as the name implies) to make experiments and relate them, abjuring all preconceived notions. Unfortunately for science, it flourished for only ten years. Leopold in 1667 was made a cardinal, and the society languished without its head. It has, however, left a record of its labours in a volume containing an account of the experiments, published by the secretary in 1667. It is in the form of a beautifully printed folio, with numerous full print pages of illustration. It contains, among others, those on the supposed incompressibility of water, on the pressure of the air, and on the universal gravity of bodies. Torricelli, the inventor of the barometer, was one of its members.

Passing by numerous other Italian Academies of Science, we come to those of modern times.

The Royal Academy of Sciences at Turin originated in 1757 as a private society; in 1759 it published a volume of Miscellanea Philosophico-Mathematica Socitatis privatoe taurinensis; shortly after it was constituted a Royal Society by Charles Emanuel III., and in 1783 Victor Amadeus III. made it a Royal Academy of Sciences. It consists of 40 members, residents of Turin, 20 non-resident, and 20foreign members. It publishes each year a quarto volume of proceedings, and has crowned and awarded prizes to manyl earned works.

France. -- The Old Academy of Sciences originated in much the same way as the French Academy. A private society of scientific men had for somethirty years been accustomed to meet first at the house of Montmort, the maitre des requestes, afterwards at that of Thevenot, a great traveler and man of universal genius, in order to converse on their studies, and communicate their discoveries. To this society belonged, among others, Descartes, Gassendi, Blaise Pascal, and his father. Hobbes, the philosopher of Malmesbury, was presented to it during his visit to Paris in 1640. Colbert, just as Richelieu in the case of the French Academy, conceived the idea of giving an official status to this body of learned men. Seven eminent mathematicians, among whom were Huyghens and De Bessy, the author of a famous treatise on magic squares, were chosen to form the nucleus of the new society. A certain number of chemists, physicians, and anatomists were subsequently added. Pensions were granted by Louis XIV. to each of the members, and a fund for instruments and experimentations placed at their disposal. They commenced their session the 22d December 1666 in the Royal Library. They met twice a week-the mathematicians on the Wednesdays, the physicists (as the naturalists and physiologists were then called) on the Saturdays. Duhamel was appointed secretary by the king. This post he owed more to his polished Latinity than to his scientific attainments, all the proceedings of the society being recorded in Latin. A treasurer was also nominated, who, notwithstanding his pretentious title, was nothing more than conservator of the scientific instruments, &c. At first the academy was rather a laboratory and observatory than an academy proper. Experiments were undertaken common and results discussed. Several foreign savants, in particular the Danish astronomer Roemer, joined the society, attracted by the liberality of the Grand Monarque; and the German physician and geometer Tschirnhausen and Sir Isaac Newton were made foreign associates. The death of Colbert, who was succeeded by Louvois, exercised a disastrous effect on the fortunes of the academy. The labours of the academicians were diverted from the pursuit of pure science to such works as the construction of fountains and cascades at Versailles, and the mathematicians were employed to calculate the odds of the games of lansquenet and basset. In 1699 the academy was reconstituted by M. de Pontchartrain, under whose department as secretary of state the academies came. By its new constitution it consisted of ten honorary members, men of high rank, who interested themselves in science, fifteen pensionaries, who were the working members, viz., three geometricians, and the same number of astronomers, mechanicians, anatomists, and chemists. Each section of three had two associates attached to it, and besides, each pensionary had the power of naming a pupil. There were eight foreign and four free associates. The officers were, a president and a vice-president, named by the king from among the honorary members, and a secretary and treasurer chosen from the pensionaries, who held their offices for life. Fontenelle, a man of wit, and rather a populariser of sciences than an original investigator, succeeded Duhamel as secretary. The constitution, as is evident, was purely aristocratical, and unlike that of the French Academy, in which the principle of equality among the members was never violated. Science was not yet strong enough to dispense with the patronage of the great. The two leading spirits of the academy at this period were Clairaut and Reaumur. Clairaut was the first to explain capillary attraction, and predicted within a few days of the correct time the return of Halley's comet. His theory on the figure of the earth was only superseded by Laplace's Mecanique Celeste. Reaumur was principally distinguished by his practical discoveries, and a thermometer in common use at the present day bears his name.

To trace the subsequent fortunes of this academy would far exceed our limits, being equivalent to writing the history of the rise and progress of science in France. It has reckoned among its members Laplace, Buffon, Lagrange, D'Alembert, Lavoisier, and Jussieu, the father of modern botany. Those of our readers who wish for further information we would refer to M. Alfred Maury's excellent history.

On 21st December 1792, the old Academy of Sciences met for the last time. Many of the members fell by the guillotine, many were imprisoned, more reduced to indigence. The aristocracy of talent was almost as much detested and persucted by the Revolution as that of rank.

On 1795 the Convention decided on founding an Institute, which was to replace all the academies. The first class of the Institute corresponded closely to the old academy. See INSTITUTE.

In 1816 the Academy was reconstituted as a branch of the Institute. The new academy has reckoned among its members, besides many other brilliant names, Carnot the engineer, the physicians Fresnel, Ampere, Arago, Biot, the chemists Gay -- Lussac and Thenard, the zoologists G. Cuvier and the two Geoffroy Saint-Hilaires.

The French had also considerable academies in most of their large towns. Montpellier, for example, had a Royal Academy of Sciences, founded in 1706 by Louis XIV., on nearly the same footing as that of Paris, of which, indeed, it was in some measure the counterpart. It was reconstituted in 1847, and organized under three sections -- medicine, science, and letters. It has continued to publish annual reports of considerable value. Toulouse also had an academy under the nomination of Lanternists; and there were analogous institutions at Nimes, Arles, Lyons, Dijon, Bordwaux, and other places. Of these several, we believe, are still in existence, if not in activity.

Before passing on to German academies, we may here notice a private scientific and philosophical society, the precursor of the French Academy of Sciences. It does not appear to have had any distinguishing name; but the promoter of it was Eusebius Renaudot, Councellor and Physician in Ordinary to the King of France, and Doctor Regent of the Faculty of Physic at Paris, by whom a full account of its conferences was published, translated into English by G. Havers, 1664. in the preface it is said to be "a production of an assembly of the choicest wits of France." We will quote a few of the subjects of these discussions in order to show the character of the society: - "Why the loadstone draws iron;" "Whether the soul's immortality is demonstrable by natural reason;" "Of the little hairy girl lately seen in this city." On subjects of popular superstition their views were far in advance of the time. Of judicial astrology, it is said" "Why should we seek in heaven the causes of accidents which befall us if we can find them on earth?" Of the philosopher's stone- "This most extravagant conceit, that it is the panacea, joined to the other absurdities of that chimerical art, makes us believe that it is good for nothing but to serve for imaginary consolation to the miserable."

Germany. -- The Collegium Curiosum was a scientific society, founded by J. Sturm, professor of mathematics and natural philosophy in the University of Altorff, in Franconia, in 1672, on the plan of the Academia del Cimento. It originally consisted of 20 members, and continued to flourish long after the death of its founder. The early labours of the society were devoted to the repetition (under varied conditions) of the most notable experiments of the day, or to the discussion of the results. Two volumes of proceedings were published by Sturn in 1676 and 1685 respectively. The Programma Invitatorium is dated June 3, 1672; and Sturm therein urges that, as the day of disputatious philosophy had given way to that of experimental philosophy, and as, moreover, scientific societies had been founded at Florence, London, and Rome, it would therefore seem desirable to found one in Germany, for the attainment of which end he requests the co-operation of the learned.

The work of 1676, entitled Collegium Experimentale sive Curiosum, commences with an account of the diving-bell, "a new invention;" next follow chapters on the camera obscura, the Torricellian experiment, the air-pump, microscope, telescope, &c. The two works have been pronounced by a competent authority1 to constitute a nearer approach to a text-book of the physics of the period than any preceding work.

The Royal Academy of Sciences at Berlin was founded in 1700 by Frederic I. after Leibnitz' comprehensive plan, but was not opened till 1711. Leibnitz was the first president. Under Maupertuis, who succeeded him, it did good service. Its present constitution dates from January 24, 1812. it is divided into four sections-physical, mathematical, philosophical, and historical. Each section is under a paid secretary elected for life; each secretary presides in turn for a quarter of a year. The members are -- 1st, Regular members who are paid; these hold general meetings every Thursday, and sectional meetings every Monday. 2d, Foreign members, not to exceed 24 in number. 3d, Honorary members and correspondents. Since 1811 it has published yearly Memoires de l'Academie Royale Sciences et Belles Lettres a Berlin. For its scientific and philosophical attainments the name of W. and A. v Gumboldt, Ideles, Savigny, Schleiermacher, Bopp, and Ranke, will sufficiently vouch.

The Academy of Sciences at Mannheim was established by Charles Theodore, Elector Palatine, in the year 1755. The plan of this institution was furnished by Schaepflin, according to which it was divided into two classes, the historical and physical. In 1780 a sub-division of the latter took place into the physical, properly so-called and the meteorological. The meteorological observations are published separately, under the title of Ephemerides Societatis Meteorologicoe Palatinoe. The historical and physical memoirs are published under title of Acta Academioe Theodoro-Palatinoe.

The Electoral Bavarian Academy of Sciences at Munich was established in 1759, and publishes its memoirs under the title of Abhandungen der Baierischen Akademie. Soon after the Elector of Bavaria was raised to the rank of king, the Bavarian government, by his orders, directed its attention to a new organization of the Academy of Sciences of Munich. The design of the king was, to render its labours more extensive than those of any similar institution in Europe, by giving to it, under the direction of the ministry, the immediate superintendence over all the establishments for public instruction in the kingdom of Bavaria. The Privy-Councillor Jacobi, a man of most excellent character, and of considerable scientific attainments, was appointed president.

The Electoral Academy at Erfurt was established by the Elector of Mentz, in the year 1754. it consists of a protector, president, director, assessors, adjuncts, and associates. Its object is to promote the useful sciences. The memoirs were originally published in Latin, but afterwards in German. The Hessian Academy of Sciences at Giessen publish their transactions under the title of Acta Philosophico-Medica Academioe Scientiarum Principalis Hessiacoe. In the Netherlands there are scientific academies at Flushing and Brussels, both of which have published their transactions.

Russia. -- The Imperial Academy of Sciences at St Petersburg was projected by the Czar Peter the Great. Having in the course of his travels observed the advantage of public societies for the encouragement and promotion of literature, he formed the design of founding an academy of sciences at St Petersburg. By the advice of Wolf and Leibnitz, whom he consulted on this occasion, the society was accordingly regulated, and several learned foreigners were invited to become members. Peter himself drew the plan, and signed it on the 10th of February 1724; but he was prevented, by the suddenness of his death, from carrying it into execution. His decease, however, did not prevent its completion; for on the 21st of December 1725, Catharine I. established it according to Peter's plan, and on the 27th of the same month the society assembled for the first time. On the 1st of August 1726, Catharine honoured the meeting with her presence, when Professor Bulfinger, a German naturalist of great eminence, pronounced an oration upon the advances made in the theory of magnetic variations, and also on the progress of research in so far as regarded the discovery of the longitude. A short time afterwards the empress settled a fund of 4982 pound per annum fore the support of the academy; and 15 members, all eminent for their learning and talents, were admitted and pensioned, under the title of professors in the various branches of science and literature. The most distinguished of these professors were Nicholas and Daniel Bernouilli, the two De Lisles, Bulfinger, and Wolff.

During the short reign of Peter II. the salaries of the members were discontinued, and the academy utterly neglected by the Court; but it was again patronized by the Empress Anne, who even added a seminary for the education of youth under the superintendence of the professors. Both institutions flourished for some time under the direction of Baron Korf; but upon his death, towards the end of Anne's reign, an ignorant person being appointed president, many of the most able members quitted Russia. At the accession of Elizabeth, however, new life and vigour were infused into the academy. The original plan was enlarged and improved, some of the most learned foreigners were again drawn to St Petersburg'; and what was considered as a good omen for the literature of Russia, two natives, Lomonosof and Rumovsky, men of genius and abilities, who had prosecuted their studies in foreign universities, were enrolled among its members. Lastly, the annual income was increased to 10,659 pound, and sundry other advantages were conferred upon the institution.

The Empress Catherine II., with her usual zeal for promoting the diffusion of knowledge, took this useful society under her immediate protection. She altered the court of directors greatly to the advantage of the whole body, corrected many of its abuses, and infused a new vigour and spirit into their researches. By Catharine's particular recommendation the most ingenious professors visited the various provinces of her vast dominions; and as the funds of the academy were not sufficient to defray the whoel expense of these expeditions, the empress supplied the deficiency by a grant 2000 pounds, which was renewed as occasion required,

The purpose and object of these travels will appear from the instructions given by the academy to the several persons who engaged in them. They were ordered to institute inquiries respecting the different sorts of earths and waters; the best methods of cultivating barren and desert spots; the local disorders incident to men and animals, together with the most efficacious means of relieving them; the breeding of cattle, particularly of sheep; the rearing of bees and silk-worms; the different places and objects for fishing and hunting; minerals of all kinds; the arts and trades; and the formation of a Flora Russica, or collection of indigenous plants. They were particularly instructed to rectify the longitude and latitude of the principal towns; to make astronomical, geographical, and meteorological observations; to trace the courses of rivers; to construct the most exact charts; and to very distinct and accurate in remarking and describing the manners and customs of the different races of people, their dresses, languages, antiquities, traditions, history, religion; in a word, to gain every information which might tend to illustrate the real state of the whole Russian empire. More ample instructions cannot well be conceived; and they appear to have been very zealously and faithfully executed. The consequence was that time, no country could boast, within the space of so few years, such a number of excellent publications on its internal state, its natural productions, its topography, geography, and history, and on the manners, customs, and languages of the different tribes who inhabit it, as issued from the press of this academy. In its researches in Asiatic languages, and general knowledge of Oriental customs and religions, it proved itself the worthy rival of our own Royal Asiatic Society.

The first transactions of this society were published in 1728, and entitled Commetarii Academioe Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanoe ad annum 1726, with a dedication to Peter II. the publication was continued under this form until the year 1747, when the transactions were called Novi Commentarii Academioe, &c.; and 1777, the academy again changed the title into Acta Academioe Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanoe, and likewise made some alteration in the arrangements and plan of the work. The papers, which had been hitherto published in the Latin language only, were now written indifferently either in that language or in French, and preface added, entitled Partie Historique, which contains an account of its proceedings, meetings, the admission of new members, and other remarkable occurrences. Of the Commentaries, 14 volumes were published: the first of the New Commentaries made its appearance in 1750, and the twentieth in 1776. Under the new title of Acta Academioe, a number of volumes have been given to the public; and two are printed every year. These transactions abound with ingenious and elaborate disquisitions upon various parts of science and natural history; and it may not be exaggeration to assert, that no society in Europe has more distinguished itself for the excellence of its publications, particularly in the more abstruse parts of pure and mixed mathematics.

The academy is still composed, as at first, of 15 professors, besides the president and director. Each of these professors has a house and an annual stipend of from 200 pound to 600 pound. Besides the professors, there are four adjuncts, with pensions, who are present at the sittings of the society, and succeed to the first vacancies. The direction of the academy is generally entrusted to a person of distinction.

The buildings and apparatus of this academy are on a vast scale. There is a fine library, consisting of 36,000 curious books and manuscripts; together with an extensive museum, in which the various branches of natural history, &c., are distribution in different apartments. The latter is extremely rich in native productions, having been considerably augmented by the collections made by Pallas, Gmelin, Guldenstaedt, and other professors, during their expeditions through the various parts of the Russian empire. The stuffed animals and birds occupy one apartment. The chamber of rarities, the cabinet of coins, &c., contain innumerable articles of the highest curiosity and value. The motto of the society is exceedingly modest; it consists of only one word, Paulatim.

Sweden. -- The Academy of Sciences at Stockholm, or the Royal Swedish Academy, owes its institution to six persons of distinguished learning, among whom was the celebrated Linnaeus. They originally met on the 2d of June 1739, when they formed a private society, in which some dissertations were read; and in the end of the same year their first publication made its appearance. As the meetings continued and the members increased, the society attracted the notice of the king; and, accordingly, on the 31st of March 1741, it was incorporated under the name of the royal Swedish Academy. Not receiving any pension from the crown, it is merely under the protection of the king, being directed, like our Royal Society, by its own members. It has now, however, a large fund, which has chiefly arisen from legacies and other donations; but a professor of experimental philosophy, and two secretaries, are still the only persons who receive any salaries. Each of the members resident at Stockholm becomes president by rotation, and continues in office during three months. There are two kinds of members, native and foreign; the election of the former takes place in April, that of the latter in July; and no money is paid at the time of admission. The dissertations read at each meeting are collected and published four times in the year: they are written in the Swedish language, and printed in octavo, and the annual publications make a volume. The first 40 volumes, which were completed in 1779, are called the Old Transactions.

Denmark. -- The Royal Academy of Sciences at Copenhagen owes its institution to the zeal of six individuals, whom Christian VI., in 1742, ordered to arrange his cabinet of medals. These persons were John gram, Joachim Frederic Ramus, Christian Louis Scheid, Mark Woldickey, Eric Pontopidan, and Bernard Moelman, who, occasionally meeting for this purpose, extended their designs; associated with them others who were eminent in several branches of science; and forming a kind of literary society, employed themselves in searching into, and explaining the history and antiquities of their country. The Count of Holstein, the first president, warmly patronized this society, and recommended it so strongly to Christian VI. that, in 1743, his Danish majesty took it under his protection, called it the Royal Academy of Sciences, endowed it with a fund, and ordered the members of join to their former pursuits natural history, physics, and mathematics. In consequence of the royal favour the members engaged with fresh zeal in their pursuits; and the academy has published 15 volumes in the Danish languages, some of which have been translated into Latin.

. -- In 1616 a scheme for founding a Royal Academy was started by Edmund Bolton, an eminent scholar and antiquary. Bolton, in his petition to King James, which was supported by George Villiers, Marquis of Buckingham, proposed that the title of the academy should be "King James, his Academe or College of honour." In the list of members occurs the name of Sir Kenelm Digby, one of the original members of the Royal Society. The death of the king proved fatal to the undertaking. In 1635 a second attempt was made to found an academy, under the patronage of Charles I., with the title of :Minerva's Musaeum," for the instruction of young noblemen in the liberal arts and sciences, but the project was soon dropped. About 1645 some of the more ardent followers of Bacon used to meet, some in London, some of Oxford, for the discussion of subjects connected with experimental science. This was the origin of the Royal Society, which received its charter in 1662. See ROYAL SOCIETY.

Ireland. -- The Royal Irish Academy arose out of a society established at Dublin about the year 1782, and consisting of a number of gentlemen, most of whom belonged to the university. They held weekly meetings, and read essays in turn on various subjects. The members of this society afterwards formed a more extensive plan, and, admitting only such names as might add dignity to their new institution, became the founders of the Royal Irish Academy. They professed to unite the advancement of science with the history of mankind and polite literature. The first volume of their transactions (for 1787) appeared in 1788, and seven volumes were afterwards published. A society was formed in Dublin, similar to the Royal Society in London, as early as the year 1683; but the distraction state of the country proved unpropitious to the cultivation of philosophy and literature.

Holland. -- The Royal Academy of Sciences and Amsterdam, erected by a royal ordinance 1852, succeeded the Royal Institute of the Low Countries, founded by Louis Napoleon, King of Holland, 1808. in 1855 it had published 192 volumes of proceedings, and received an annual subsidy of 14,000 florins from the state.

Spain. -- The Academy of Sciences at Madrid, founded 1774, after the model of the French Academy.

Portugal. -- The Academy of sciences atLisbon is divided into three classes -- natural history, mathematics, and national literature. It consists of 24 ordinary and 36 extraordinary members. Since 1779 it has published Memorias de Letteratura Portugueza; Memorias Economicas; Collecao de Livros ineditos ineditos di Historia Portugueza.

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