Swedish Academy of Sciences

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Kungl. Vetenskapsakademin) was founded in 1739 by five men: Jonas Alströmer, J Cederhielm, Anders Johan von Hšpken, Carl Linnaeus (styled Carl von Linné after 1761 when granted this Swedish mark of nobility), and Marten Triewald. Triewald had attended public lectures organised by the Royal Society in London and it was this Society, as well as the Academy of Sciences in Paris, which inspired the foundation of the Swedish Academy. The first meetings of the Academy were held in Stockholm at the House of the Nobility. The aims set out by the Academy at the time of its foundations were:-

... in Sweden to generate and spread knowledge in mathematics, natural science, economy, trade and useful arts and manufacturing.

Within its statutes it adopted the motto:-

... to further the advance of science, in particular mathematics and natural sciences.

In line with the model of the French Academy of Sciences, the Swedish Academy had a Permanent Secretary who was very influential. The first Permanent Secretary was the politician Anders Johan von Höpken, one of the founders of the Academy. The Academy received the Royal Insignia in 1741, two years after its foundation.

In its early days the Academy was based in buildings scattered around Stockholm. The first building erected by the Academy was an Observatory on the highest hill in the city. The city of Stockholm took over the Observatory building in the 1930s but it was acquired again by the Academy in 1999 and it is now a History of Science museum with emphasis on astronomy. Astronomy has always been a major research area in the Academy and they built a new Observatory in Saltsjšbaden, on the southeast edge of the city of Stockholm. However in 1973 the running of the Saltsjšbaden Observatory was taken over by Stockholm University. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences moved from to a new site in 1915 which is now within the National City Park in Stockholm.

The funding for the Academy was based on a rather strange arrangement. It was awarded an "almanac privilege" in 1747 which gave it sole responsibility for reviewing the content of all almanacs to be printed in Sweden. The funding of the Academy was through royalties on all almanacs sold. The Academy also published Transactions (Handlingar) and bulletins in its Almanac. Not only did the Academy publish research findings aimed at scientists working at the frontiers of research but it also published scientific articles aimed at the general public in Sweden. The Academy today publishes several journals, in particular in mathematics Acta Mathematica and Arkiv für Matematik.

The Academy has seven Institutes, the three most relevant to this archive being the Institute for Astrophysics, the Mittag-Leffler Institute, and the Centre for the History of Science.

  1. The Institute for Astrophysics had a group working on Solar Physics in Anacapri in Italy up to 1978 when this group moved to La Palma in the Canary Islands.

  2. The Mittag-Leffler Institute for mathematics, originally the home of Mittag-Leffler and his wife, was established in 1916, becoming part of the Academy in 1919. Each year a theme is chosen and mathematicians, up to 35 at any one time, working in that area can visit for periods of time.

  3. The Centre for the History of Science was established in 1988 and manages the historical archive of the Academy as well as promoting research into the history of science.
A number of extremely prestigious prizes are awarded by the Academy. International awards include the Crafoord Prize established in 1980 and awarded every year (for research in mathematics, astronomy, geology, and biology) and the Rolf Schock Prizes awarded every second year (for logic and philosophy, mathematics, the visual arts, and music). Alfred Nobel's will set up the Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry to be awarded by the Academy. These awards have been made since 1901, the awarding ceremony taking place on 10 December, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death. The Crafoord Prize was set up to specifically cover areas not covered by the Nobel prizes.

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JOC/EFR August 2004 School of Mathematics and Statistics
University of St Andrews, Scotland
The URL of this page is:
http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Societies/Swedish_Academy.html