New York Academy of Sciences

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The New York Academy of Sciences
Motto Per terras, per celestis, per aerum, per maria (Latin)
Established 1817[1]
Type Non-profit Professional Society
(IRS exemption status): 501(c)(3)[2]
Purpose Science, Education, and Public Policy
Headquarters New York, NY, United States
Area served
Method Donations and Grants
Key people
Ellis Rubinstein, current CEO and President
Eunice Miner, Executive Director, 1935-1967
Samuel L. Mitchill, founder
NYAS 40th floor lobby

The New York Academy of Sciences (originally the Lyceum of Natural History) was founded in January 1817.[1] It is one of the oldest scientific societies in the United States.[3] An independent, non-profit organization with more than 20,000 members in 100 countries, the Academy’s mission is "to advance scientific research and knowledge; to support scientific literacy; and to promote the resolution of society's global challenges through science-based solutions.[4]" The current President and CEO is Ellis Rubinstein;[5] the current chair of the board of governors of the Academy is Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor, The State University of New York (SUNY).[6]


Founded on January 29, 1817, the New York Academy of Sciences was originally called the Lyceum of Natural History.[1] Convened by the Academy's founder and first President, Samuel L. Mitchill, the first meeting of the Lyceum took place at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, located on Barclay Street near Broadway in lower Manhattan.[1] The principle activities of the early Lyceum focused on hosting lectures, collecting natural history specimens, and establishing a library.[1] In 1823, the Lyceum began publishing its own scientific journal, then the Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York, now the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. By 1826 the Lyceum owned "the richest collection of reptiles and fish in the country," however a fire in 1866 destroyed the collection completely.[3] Following the fire, the Academy turned its focus away from collecting and instead to research, scientific publishing, and disseminating scientific information.

Since its beginnings, Academy membership has included prominent leaders in the sciences, business, academia and government, including Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Louis Pasteur, Charles Darwin, Margaret Mead, and Albert Einstein. Prior to 1877, the Academy only admitted men, but on November 5, 1877, they elected Erminnie A. Smith the first female member.[7] In 2007, members included twenty-three Nobel Laureate on its advisory President’s Council alone and other luminaries from all walks of life.

The Academy is well known for its significant contributions to the scientific community on an international level including the publication of the first studies on environmental pollution in 1876[citation needed];[8] the first conference on antibiotics in 1946[citation needed]; a groundbreaking gathering on the cardiovascular effects of smoking in 1960[citation needed]; the world’s first major conferences on AIDS in 1983[citation needed] and a conference on SARS in 2003[citation needed].[9] The Academy has also held landmark conferences on Special Challenges Facing Women in Science in 1998[citation needed]; a conference on music and neuroscience in 2000[citation needed]; and a conference in China on the Frontiers of Biomedical Science in 2005.[citation needed].

Early Academy members played prominent roles in the establishment of New York University in 1831[1] and the American Museum of Natural History in 1858.[1]

In 2006, the Academy moved into a new home on the 40th floor of 7 World Trade Center.


The Academy’s wide range of programs include its annual schedule of major interdisciplinary symposia on basic or applied frontier research fields; its robust publishing and dissemination initiatives; its efforts to improve science literacy; and its work in support of the human rights of scientists.

Since 2002, under the leadership of President Ellis Rubinstein, the Academy has undertaken new programs to better serve its constituencies by fostering the creation of mini-communities of common interest. These include the Frontiers of Science Program of interdisciplinary discussion groups at the cutting edge of emerging areas in biological sciences; the Science Alliance program, which encompasses 30 higher education institutions from throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Australia and offers career-oriented programming for graduate students and postdocs; and the Physical Sciences and Engineering program, which provides a novel and critical forum for the exchange of new ideas and data in emerging interdisciplinary areas. Areas of particular emphasis at the Academy in recent years include fields like systems biology, genome integrity, emerging infectious diseases, nanobiotechnology, cosmology, green science and sustainability, string theory, and quantitative finance, among others.

The Academy has an extensive publishing program. Since 1823, The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences is the oldest continuously published scientific series in the United States. In recent years, the Academy also has developed a series of electronic briefings, online multimedia postings that offer overviews of NYAS and partner events for worldwide scientific audiences.

One of the Academy’s initiatives is Scientists Without Borders, a collaborative program with the United Nations Millennium Project and other key partners. Launched on May 12, 2008, Scientists Without Borders is designed to establish a global network of scientists, institutions, academies, industry experts and funding agencies that will address health and other needs of the developing world.

Human Rights of Scientists Award[edit]

The Committee on the Human Rights of Scientists was created in 1978 to support and promote the human rights of scientists, health professionals, engineers, and educators around the world. The committee intervenes on behalf of colleagues in the sciences who have been detained, imprisoned, exiled, or deprived of the rights to pursue science, communicate their findings to their peers and the general public, and travel freely.

The full name is "Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights of Scientists Award", it is given to scientists for their contributions to safeguard or advance the human rights of scientists all across the world. It was retitled in 1986.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Baatz, Simon (1990). "Knowledge, Culture and Science in the Metropolis: The New York Academy of Sciences, 1817–1970". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 584. 
  2. ^ New York Academy of Sciences, accessed October 28, 2015
  3. ^ a b "The New York Academy of Sciences and the American Intellectual Tradition: An Historical Overview". Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences (1): 3–13. December 1975. doi:10.1111/j.2164-0947.1975.tb03035.x. 
  4. ^ "Mission & History". The New York Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 25 March 2016. 
  5. ^ "Who We Are". The New York Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 25 March 2016. 
  6. ^ "Board of Governors". The New York Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 25 March 2016. 
  7. ^ Fairchild, Herman Le Roy (1887). A History of the New York Academy of Sciences, Formerly the Lyceum of Natural History. New York Academy of Sciences. p. 133. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  8. ^ Records of Publications, New York Academy of Sciences Archives.
  9. ^ "SARSin the Context of Emerging Infectious Threats" (PDF). Columbia University. May 17, 2003. Retrieved 2016.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  10. ^


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