societies, learned and literary

societies, learned and literary,

associations of individuals with a common professional interest, intended to promote learning. Many societies publish the proceedings of their meetings as well as journals, reports, and outstanding investigations by their members. They often award prizes, encourage or subsidize research, and maintain libraries.

A forerunner of the modern society was the Museum, founded c.300 B.C. in Alexandria by Ptolemy I. The earliest important medieval society was established by Charlemagne under the guidance of AlcuinAlcuin
or Albinus
, 735?–804, English churchman and educator. He was educated at the cathedral school of York by a disciple of Bede; he became principal in 766. Charlemagne invited him (781?) to court at Aachen to set up a school.
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. Learned societies of the modern type originated in Italy as literary academies during the revival of classical learning. The short-lived Accademia Platonica, founded in the 15th cent. by Cosimo de' Medici, served as a model. The most widely known extant society of the early period is the Accademia della Crusca, founded (1582) in Florence and several times reorganized. The Accademia Secretorum Naturae (Naples, c.1560) is believed to have been the earliest scientific society.

Outstanding among European societies are the French AcademyFrench Academy
(L'Académie française), learned society of France. It is one of the five societies of the Institut de France. Development
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 (1635), now a section of the Institut de FranceInstitut de France
, cultural institution of the French state. Founded in 1795 by the Directory, it replaced five learned societies that had been suppressed in 1793 by the Convention.
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; the Royal SocietyRoyal Society,
oldest scientific organization in Great Britain and one of the oldest in Europe. It was founded in 1660 by a group of learned men in London who met to promote scientific discussion, particularly in the physical sciences.
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 (1662); the Prussian Academy of Sciences, founded by Frederick I in 1700 as the Societas Regia Scientarum; and the Russian Academy of Sciences, founded at St. Petersburg in 1725. Many countries have national academies, councils, or institutes. Among them are the Royal Canadian Institute (1849), the Indian Academy of Sciences (1934), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (1949), the Science Council of Japan (1949), the Polish Academy of Sciences (1952), the Australian Academy of Science (1954), the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (1959), and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (1959). Local and regional societies have also flourished.

Many societies cover a broad field, among them the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1831), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1847), the National Academy of Sciences (established in 1863 by the U.S. Congress), the American Philosophical SocietyAmerican Philosophical Society,
first scientific society in America, founded (1743) in Philadelphia. It was an outgrowth of the Junto formed (1727) by Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was the first secretary of the society, and Thomas Hopkinson the first president.
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 (incorporated under its present name in 1769), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (chartered in 1780 in Boston). However, the specialization of knowledge has resulted in the establishment of literary, historical, archaeological, and scientific societies covering very restricted fields. The specialization of fields and the geographical distribution of societies necessitate methods of coordination including informal cooperation and formal affiliations, as in the American Medical Association (1847), in which local medical organizations are represented.


See K. O. Murra, ed., International Scientific Organizations (1962); Directory of Selected Scientific Institutions in the U.S.S.R. (1963); Scientific and Learned Societies of Great Britain (61st ed. 1964).

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