History of the Academy

The seventeenth century saw the emergence of the “academy”, a learned society whose members worked for the advancement of science and scholarship. In the subsequent two centuries, governments throughout Europe founded national academies to promote science and scholarship and international cooperation in research. The academy of the Netherlands was founded in 1808.

Milestones in the Academy’s history

1808 King Louis Napoleon founds the Royal Institute of Science, Letters and Fine Arts, the forerunner of the present-day Academy.
1812 The Royal Institute moves into the Trippenhuis Building, where the Academy is still housed today.
1851 The Institute is closed and replaced by the Academy.
1902 Academy members Hendrik A. Lorentz and Pieter Zeeman receive the Nobel Prize.
1909 The Academy welcomes its first research institute.
1923 The Biology Council of the Netherlands is founded, the forerunner of the Academy's advisory councils.
1938 The Academy becomes the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences.
1973 H.B.G. Casimir becomes the first Academy president.
1990 The Academy strengthens its international partnerships and networks.
2005 The Young Academy brings new energy to the membership.
2008 The Academy celebrates its 200th anniversary.


The Academy has told its story within the wider context of the history of science in the Netherlands in the series 'Bijdragen tot de geschiedenis van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen' [Papers on the history of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences]. Professor Klaas van Berkel is the Academy’s historiographer. In 2008, the first volume of his De stem van de wetenschap [The voice of science] was published to mark the Academy’s 200th anniversary. This first volume covers the years 1808 to 1914. The second volume, covering 1914 to 2008, was published in Spring 2011.

Archives and library

The Academy archives dating from before 1945 have been transferred to the North-Holland Archives in Haarlem. They include the personal archives of a number of prominent researchers, for example Academy members Lorentz and Zeeman. The archives dating from after the Second World War are held by the Academy.

The Academy has been issuing its own publications since 1808. Published documents include the minutes of meetings and individual scholarly or scientific papers. The collection of Academy publications is part of the Academy Library and is managed by the International Institute of Social History (IISG).