Academies and Learned Societies

Accadèmia del Cimento, Florence
Saggi di naturali esperienze
Florence: Giovanni Filippo Cecchi, 1691

The establishment of learned societies was a major force in the cultivation of the new learning and the dissemination of scientific methods. The Accadèmia del Cimento, founded in 1657 by the Grand Dukes Ferdinand II and Leopold of Florence, represented a direct challenge to the deductive methods of contemporary science. The Saggi di naturali esperienze, first published by the Accadèmia del Cimento in 1667, is among the earliest examples of pure experimental reporting in the history of science. Equipped with what was essentially the first physical laboratory in Europe, the Accadèmia pursued the experimental development of the scientific ideas of Galileo (1564 ­ 1642) and his students Evangelista Torricelli (1608-1647) and Vincenzo Viviani (1621-1703). The efforts of the Accadèmia del Cimento had a great influence on the growth of experimental science elsewhere and created new confidence in methods initiated by Galileo.

Académie Royale des Sciences, Paris
Mémoires de l Académie Royale des Sciences,
depuis 1666 jusqu'à 1699
Paris: Par la compagnie des libraires, 1729-1734
Eleven volumes

The Académie Royale des Sciences, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV, continued to develop the strong experimental emphases of earlier French scientific societies. Sustained by royal funding, the goals of the Académie were to examine the latest inventions and to conduct a wide range of experiments. With the finest observatory in Europe at their disposal, the astronomers made several important discoveries; Ole Römer (1644 ­ 1710), for example, correctly deduced the finite speed of light from his observations of the planet Jupiter. Following a brief period of decline, the Académie was reconstituted in 1699 and, subsequently, issued the Mémoires, or proceedings of its meetings, including unpublished records of sessions held from 1666 ­ 1699. Until its suppression in 1793, the Académie Royale des Sciences, whose members included Buffon, d'Alembert, and Lavoisier, was a major force in the growth of scientific inquiry and experimentation.

Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin
Histoire de l Académie Royale
des Sciences et Belles-Lettres
Berlin: Chez Haude et Spener, 1746-1771
Twenty-five volumes

The Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften at Berlin began as the Societas Regia Scientiarum. Constituted in 1700 by Frederick I, elector of Brandenburg and first king of Prussia, the Societas followed the comprehensive plan of the renowned polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1647-1716). In his devotion to science and to Germany, Leibniz realized that a national scientific academy was a necessary instrument of the modern state, since through it scientific knowledge could be used for the public good. Leibniz further understood that an institution comparable to those in England and France could help restore Germany's leadership in such practical sciences as mining, chemistry, and horology. The Akademie began publication of its transactions in 1710. Over the years contributors included celebrated scholars such as Bopp, Euler, the two Humboldts, and the brothers Grimm.

Imperatorskaya Academiya nauk, Petrograd
Commentarii Academiae Scientiarum
Imperialis Petropolitanae
St. Petersburg: Typis academiae, 1728 ­ 1751
Fourteen volumes

Shortly before his death in 1724, Peter the Great sought out the advice of Leibniz and Wolff on the formation of a scientific academy based on German and French models. His successor, Catherine I (1683? ­ 1727), formally established the Imperatorskaya Akademiya nauk on December 21, 1725. Under Catherine II (1729-1796), the Akademiya played a major role in the advancement of national culture, as the empress dispatched teams of scholars to investigate the topography, geography, natural resources, and history of her vast domain. Commentarii Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae was first published in 1728. Included in volume five, covering the years 1730-1731, are monographs on mechanics, mathematics, chemistry, and ancient history.

Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta
Asiatick Researches;
or, Transactions of the Society
Calcutta; Manuel Cantopher, 1788-1839
Twenty volumes

The Asiatic Society of Bengal, founded by the renowned English jurist and Orientalist Sir William Jones (1746 ­ 1794) in 1784 under the auspices of Governor-general Warren Hastings (1732 ­ 1818), served to kindle an "Oriental renaissance" in Europe during the nineteenth century. By bringing Asian languages, literature, arts, and sciences to the attention of Europeans, the members of the Asiatic Society of Bengal helped to generate a host of comparative disciplines in the areas of philology, religion, mythology, folklore, law, and anthropology. Jones, an extraordinary linguist possessing knowledge of over forty languages, was among the first European scholars to recognize the common ancestry of Sanskrit with Greek, Latin, and other European languages. Commenting on the classical language of India, he praised its "wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either." Among the articles found in the premier issue of Asiatick Researches are "On the Orthography of Asiatick Words," "An Interview with the Young Lama," "On the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India," and "On Extracting the Essential Oil of Roses."