French Academy of Sciences

The French Academy of Sciences (French: Académie des sciences) is a learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research. It was at the forefront of scientific developments in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, and is one of the earliest Academies of Sciences.

Currently headed by Sébastien Candel (President of the Academy), it is one of the five Academies of the Institut de France.

Colbert Presenting the Members of the Royal Academy of Sciences to Louis XIV in 1667
Colbert Presenting the Members of the Royal Academy of Sciences to Louis XIV in 1667, by Henri Testelin; in the background appears the new Paris Observatory


Académie des Sciences 1698
A heroic depiction of the activities of the Academy from 1698

The Academy of Sciences traces its origin to Colbert's plan to create a general academy. He chose a small group of scholars who met on 22 December 1666 in the King's library, and thereafter held twice-weekly working meetings there. The first 30 years of the Academy's existence were relatively informal, since no statutes had as yet been laid down for the institution. In contrast to its British counterpart, the Academy was founded as an organ of government. The Academy was expected to remain apolitical, and to avoid discussion of religious and social issues (Conner, 2005, p. 385).

Sébastien Leclerc I, Louis XIV Visiting the Royal Academy of Sciences, 1671
Louis XIV Visiting the Royal Academy of Sciences, (Sébastien Leclerc I, France, 1671)

On 20 January 1699, Louis XIV gave the Company its first rules. The Academy received the name of Royal Academy of Sciences and was installed in the Louvre in Paris. Following this reform, the Academy began publishing a volume each year with information on all the work done by its members and obituaries for members who had died. This reform also codified the method by which members of the Academy could receive pensions for their work.[1] On 8 August 1793, the National Convention abolished all the academies. On 22 August 1795, a National Institute of Sciences and Arts was put in place, bringing together the old academies of the sciences, literature and arts, among them the Académie française and the Académie des sciences. Almost all the old members of the previously abolished Académie were formally re-elected and retook their ancient seats. Among the exceptions was Dominique, comte de Cassini, who refused to take his seat. Membership in the Academy was not restricted to scientists: in 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte was elected a member of the Academy and three years later a president in connection with his Egyptian expedition, which had a scientific component.[2] In 1816, the again renamed "Royal Academy of Sciences" became autonomous, while forming part of the Institute of France; the head of State became its patron. In the Second Republic, the name returned to Académie des sciences. During this period, the Academy was funded by and accountable to the Ministry of Public Instruction.[3] The Academy came to control French patent laws in the course of the eighteenth century, acting as the liaison of artisans' knowledge to the public domain. As a result, academicians dominated technological activities in France (Conner, 2005, p. 385). The Academy proceedings were published under the name Comptes rendus de l'Académie des sciences (1835–1965). The Comptes rendus is now a journal series with seven titles. The publications can be found on site of the French National Library.

In 1818 the French Academy of Sciences launched a competition to explain the properties of light. The civil engineer Augustin-Jean Fresnel entered this competition by submitting a new wave theory of light.[4] Siméon Denis Poisson, one of the members of the judging committee, studied Fresnel's theory in detail. Being a supporter of the particle-theory of light, he looked for a way to disprove it. Poisson thought that he had found a flaw when he demonstrate that Fresnel's theory predicts that an on-axis bright spot would exist in the shadow of a circular obstacle, where there should be complete darkness according to the particle-theory of light. The Poisson spot is not easily observed in every-day situations, so it was only natural for Poisson to interpret it as an absurd result and that it should disprove Fresnel's theory. However, the head of the committee, Dominique-François-Jean Arago, and who incidentally later became Prime Minister of France, decided to perform the experiment in more detail. He molded a 2-mm metallic disk to a glass plate with wax.[5] To everyone's surprise he succeeded in observing the predicted spot, which convinced most scientists of the wave-nature of light.

Acta Eruditorum - I orologi, 1737 – BEIC 13458392
Illustration from Acta Eruditorum (1737) where was published Machines et inventions approuvées par l'Academie Royale des Sciences

For three centuries women were not allowed as members of the Academy. This meant that many women scientists were excluded, including two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie, Nobel winner Irène Joliot-Curie, mathematician Sophie Germain, and many other deserving women scientists. The first woman admitted as a correspondent member was a student of Curie's, Marguerite Perey, in 1962. The first female full member was Yvonne Choquet-Bruhat in 1979.

The Academy today

Institut France
The Institut de France in Paris where the Academy is housed

Today the Academy is one of five academies comprising the Institut de France. Its members are elected for life. Currently there are 150 full members, 300 corresponding members, and 120 foreign associates. They are divided into two scientific groups: the Mathematical and Physical sciences and their applications and the Chemical, Biological, Geological and Medical sciences and their applications.

Medals, awards and prizes

Each year, the Academy of Sciences distributes about 80 prizes. These include:

  • the Grande Médaille, awarded annually, in rotation, in the relevant disciplines of each division of the Academy, to a French or foreign scholar who has contributed to the development of science in a decisive way.
  • the Lalande Prize, awarded from 1802 through 1970, for outstanding achievement in astronomy
  • the Valz Prize, awarded from 1877 through 1970, to honor advances in astronomy
  • the Richard Lounsbery Award, jointly with the National Academy of Sciences
  • the Prix Jacques Herbrand, for mathematics and physics
  • the Prix Paul Pascal, for chemistry
  • the Louis Bachelier Prize for major contributions to mathematical modeling in finance [6]
  • the Prix Michel Montpetit for computer science and applied mathematics, awarded since 1977[7]
  • the Leconte Prize, awarded annually since 1886, to recognize important discoveries in mathematics, physics, chemistry, natural history or medicine

People of the Academy

The following are incomplete lists of the officers of the Academy. See also Category:Officers of the French Academy of Sciences.

For a list of the Academy's members past and present, see Category:Members of the French Academy of Sciences


Source: French Academy of Sciences


Permanent secretaries

Mathematical Sciences

Physical Sciences

Chemistry and Biology

See also


  1. ^ Moak, David, ed. (2007). The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan LIbrary. pp. 54–55. Archived from the original on March 31, 2015.
  2. ^ Alder, Ken (2002), The Measure of All Things – The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error that Transformed the World, The Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-1675-X
  3. ^ Crosland 1992
  4. ^ Fresnel, A.J. (1868), OEuvres Completes 1, Paris: Imprimerie impériale
  5. ^ Fresnel, A.J. (1868), OEuvres Completes 1, Paris: Imprimerie impériale, p. 369
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 October 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ French wikipedia article; both "Monpetit Archived 2 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine" and "Montpetit Archived 14 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine" is found in Academy publications.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 November 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)


  • Connor (2005), Missing A work is cited twice in the text, but the reference is not listed here. Incomplete reference.
  • Crosland, Maurice P. (1992), Science Under Control: The French Academy of Sciences, 1795–1914, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-52475-X
  • Stéphane Schmitt, "Studies on animals and the rise of comparative anatomy at and around the Parisian Royal Academy of Sciences in the eighteenth century," Science in Context 29 (1), 2016, p. 11-54.
  • Stroup, Alice (1987), Royal Funding of the Parisian Académie Royale Des Sciences During the 1690s, DIANE Publishing, ISBN 0-87169-774-2
  • Sturdy, David J. (1995), Science and Social Status: The Members of the Academie Des Sciences 1666–1750, Boydell & Brewer, ISBN 0-85115-395-X

External links

Achille Richard

Achille Richard was a French botanist and physician (27 April 1794 in Paris – 5 October 1852).

He was son of a notable botanist, Louis-Claude Marie Richard (1754–1821).

Pharmacist in the French fleet and member of several well-known societies of their time.

Achille Richard was one of the botanical leaders of his time, and his books are even nowadays valued for their clarity and precision.

He entered on 24 February 1834, as member of the French Academy of Sciences (Botanical Section). He was also member of the French National Academy of Medicine.

Achille Richard studied and described several genera of orchids that take his abbreviation in the generic name, among them Ludisia.

Achille Valenciennes

Achille Valenciennes (9 August 1794 – 13 April 1865) was a French zoologist.Valenciennes was born in Paris, and studied under Georges Cuvier. Valenciennes' study of parasitic worms in humans made an important contribution to the study of parasitology. Valenciennes also carried out diverse systematic classifications, linking fossil and current species.

He worked with Cuvier on the 22-volume "Histoire Naturelle des Poissons" (Natural History of Fish) (1828–1848), carrying on alone after Cuvier died in 1832. In 1832 he succeeded Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville (1777–1850) as chair of Histoire naturelle des mollusques, des vers et des zoophytes at the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle.

Early in his career, he was tasked of classifying animals described by Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) during his travels in the American tropics (1799 to 1803), and a lasting friendship was established between the two men. He is the binomial authority for many species of fish, such as the bartail jawfish.

Working in the scientific field of herpetology, Valenciennes described two new species of reptiles.The organ of Valenciennes, a part of the anatomy of a female of the genus Nautilus whose purpose remains unknown, is still named after him.

A species of lizard, Anolis valencienni, is named after him.

André-Marie Ampère

André-Marie Ampère (; French: [ɑ̃pɛʁ]; 20 January 1775 – 10 June 1836) was a French physicist and mathematician who was one of the founders of the science of classical electromagnetism, which he referred to as "electrodynamics". He is also the inventor of numerous applications, such as the solenoid (a term coined by him) and the electrical telegraph. An autodidact, Ampère was a member of the French Academy of Sciences and professor at the École polytechnique and the Collège de France.

The SI unit of measurement of electric current, the ampere, is named after him. His name is also one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.

André Marie Constant Duméril

André Marie Constant Duméril (January 1, 1774 – August 14, 1860) was a French zoologist. He was professor of anatomy at the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle from 1801 to 1812, when he became professor of herpetology and ichthyology. His son Auguste Duméril was also a zoologist.

Antoine Émile Henry Labeyrie

Antoine Émile Henry Labeyrie (born 12 May 1943) is a French astronomer, who held the Observational astrophysics chair at the Collège de France between 1991 and 2014, where he is currently professor emeritus. He is working with the Hypertelescope Lise association, which aims to develop an extremely large astronomical interferometer with spherical geometry that might theoretically show features on Earth-like worlds around other suns, as its president. He is a member of the French Academy of Sciences in the Sciences of the Universe (sciences de l'univers) section. Between 1995 and 1999 he was director of the Haute-Provence Observatory.

Labeyrie graduated from the "grande école" SupOptique (École supérieure d'optique). He invented speckle interferometry, and works with astronomical interferometers. Labeyrie concentrated particularly on the use of "diluted optics" beam combination or "densified pupils" of a similar type but larger scale than those Michelson used for measuring the diameters of stars in the 1920s, in contrast to other astronomical interferometer researchers who generally switched to pupil-plane beam combination in the 1980s and 1990s.

The main-belt asteroid 8788 Labeyrie (1978 VP2) is named in honor of Antoine Émile Henry Labeyrie and Catherine Labeyrie. In 2000, he was awarded The Benjamin Franklin Medal.

Bengt I. Samuelsson

Bengt Ingemar Samuelsson (born 21 May 1934) is a Swedish biochemist. He shared with Sune K. Bergström and John R. Vane the 1982 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discoveries concerning prostaglandins and related substances.

Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran

Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran (18 June 1845 – 18 May 1922) was a French physician who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1907 for his discoveries of parasitic protozoans as causative agents of infectious diseases such as malaria and trypanosomiasis. Following his father, Louis Théodore Laveran, he took up military medicine as his profession. He obtained his medical degree from University of Strasbourg in 1867.

At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, he joined the French Army. At the age of 29 he became Chair of Military Diseases and Epidemics at the École de Val-de-Grâce. At the end of his tenure in 1878 he worked in Algeria, where he made his major achievements. He discovered that the protozoan parasite Plasmodium was responsible for malaria, and that Trypanosoma caused trypanosomiasis or African sleeping sickness. In 1894 he returned to France to serve in various military health services. In 1896 he joined Pasteur Institute as Chief of the Honorary Service, from where he received the Nobel Prize. He donated half of his Nobel prize money to establish the Laboratory of Tropical Medicine at the Pasteur Institute. In 1908, he founded the Société de Pathologie Exotique.Laveran was elected to French Academy of Sciences in 1893, and was conferred Commander of the National Order of the Legion of Honour in 1912.


ESPCI Paris (officially the École supérieure de physique et de chimie industrielles de la Ville de Paris; The City of Paris Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Educational Institution) is an institution of higher education founded in 1882 by the city of Paris, France. It educates undergraduate and graduate students in physics, chemistry and biology and conducts high-level research in those fields. It is ranked as the first French École d'Ingénieurs in the 2017 Shanghai Ranking.ESPCI Paris is a constituent college of PSL Research University and a founding member of the ParisTech (Paris Institute of Technology) alliance.

5 researchers and alumni from ESPCI Paris have been awarded the Nobel Prize:

Pierre and Marie Curie (Physics, 1903),

Marie Curie - second Nobel Prize (Chemistry, 1911),

Frédéric Joliot-Curie (Chemistry, 1935),

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (Physics, 1991),

Georges Charpak (Physics, 1992).Two thirds of the students enter the School following a competitive examination (concours X-ESPCI-ENS) following at least two years of Classes Préparatoires. The other students are recruited by submitting applications. The School itself is also known as Physique-Chimie or simply PC.

ESPCI Paris nurtures relationships with many industrial partners such as Schlumberger, Rhodia, Total, Thales, Arkema, Michelin, Withings, which sponsors groups of students and has research contracts with ESPCI laboratories. ESPCI Paris also has partnerships with L'Oréal and Saint-Gobain for professional recruitment.

Eugène Simon

Eugène Louis Simon (30 April 1848 – 17 November 1924) was a French naturalist who worked particularly on insects and spiders, but also on birds and plants. He is by far the most prolific spider taxonomist in history, describing over 4,000 species.

Giulio Natta

Giulio Natta (26 February 1903 – 2 May 1979) was an Italian chemist and Nobel laureate. He won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963 with Karl Ziegler for work on high polymers. He was also a recipient of Lomonosov Gold Medal in 1969.

Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville

Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville (12 September 1777 – 1 May 1850) was a French zoologist and anatomist.

Jean-Jacques Amelot de Chaillou

Jean-Jacques Amelot de Chaillou (30 April 1689 – 7 May 1749, Paris) was a French politician. He was marquis of Combrande, baron de Châtillon-sur-Indre, seigneur de Chaillou.

Jean-Pierre Sauvage

Jean-Pierre Sauvage (French pronunciation: ​[ʒãpjɛʁ sovaʒ]; born 21 October 1944) is a French coordination chemist working at Strasbourg University. He graduated from the National School of Chemistry of Strasbourg (now known as ECPM Strasbourg), in 1967 . He has specialized in supramolecular chemistry for which he has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa.

Jean Leray

Jean Leray (French: [ləʁɛ]; 7 November 1906 – 10 November 1998) was a French mathematician, who worked on both partial differential equations and algebraic topology.

Jean Moreau de Séchelles

Jean Moreau de Séchelles (French: [mɔʁo də seʃɛl]; 10 May 1690 – 31 December 1761) was a French official and politician.

Joseph Fourier

Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier (; French: [fuʁje]; 21 March 1768 – 16 May 1830) was a French mathematician and physicist born in Auxerre and best known for initiating the investigation of Fourier series and their applications to problems of heat transfer and vibrations. The Fourier transform and Fourier's law are also named in his honour. Fourier is also generally credited with the discovery of the greenhouse effect.

Jules A. Hoffmann

Jules A. Hoffmann (French pronunciation: ​[ʒyl ɔfman]; born 2 August 1941) is a Luxembourg-born French biologist. During his youth, growing up in Luxembourg, he developed a strong interest in insects under the influence of his father, Jos Hoffmann. This eventually resulted in the younger Hoffmann's dedication to the field of biology using insects as model organisms. He currently holds a faculty position at the University of Strasbourg. He is a research director and member of the board of administrators of the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) in Strasbourg, France. He was elected to the positions of Vice-President (2005-2006) and President (2007-2008) of the French Academy of Sciences. Hoffmann and Bruce Beutler were jointly awarded a half share of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for "their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity,". [More specifically, the work showing increased Drosomycin expression following activation of Toll pathway in microbial infection.]

Hoffmann and Lemaitre discovered the function of the fruit fly Toll gene in innate immunity. Its mammalian homologs, the Toll-like receptors, were discovered by Beutler. Toll-like receptors identify constituents of other organisms like fungi and bacteria, and trigger an immune response, explaining, for example, how septic shock can be triggered by bacterial remains.

Roger Guillemin

Roger Charles Louis Guillemin (born January 11, 1924) is a French-born American neuroscientist. He received the National Medal of Science in 1976, and the Nobel prize for medicine in 1977 for his work on neurohormones, sharing the prize that year with Andrew Schally and Rosalyn Sussman Yalow.

W. Jason Morgan

William Jason Morgan (born October 10, 1935) is an American geophysicist who has made seminal contributions to the theory of plate tectonics and geodynamics. He retired as the Knox Taylor Professor emeritus of geology and professor of geosciences at Princeton University. He currently serves as a visiting scholar in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University.

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