On January 29, 1817, Academy founder Samuel Latham Mitchill convened the first meeting of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York at the College of Physicians & Surgeons Building in lower Manhattan, not far from where the Academy is located today. Mitchill was a professor of chemistry and natural history, and was also responsible for establishing the first medical journal in the US.
From the very beginning the Academy (then the Lyceum of Natural History) welcomed many renowned Members. Among the rolls of early Members we counted Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States of America.
In 1836 the State of New York commissioned the Lyceum to survey the mineralogy, botany, and zoology of the state.
Renowned geographer, naturalist, explorer, and philosopher Alexander von Humboldt was among the early Members of the Academy.
In 1865, Academy Member Lewis M. Rutherfurd, who invented the first telescope designed for astrophotography, published one of the first high quality images of the moon.
Members of the Academy helped to found a number of important institutions across the city of New York. In 1868, Academy Members played key roles in the founding of the American Museum of Natural History.
On January 5, 1876, the Academy officially changed its name from the Lyceum of Natural History to the New York Academy of Sciences. The name was changed to reflect the larger scope of scientific disciplines represented in the organization as it expanded, such as Chemistry, Engineering, and Technology. Here you can read the text from the original court order for the name change.
Not only was naturalist Charles Darwin an early Member of the Academy, his spirit of discovery remains a part of the Academy to this day through the sculpture our Members commissioned of him to celebrate his 100th birthday.
In addition to helping to found many New York scientific and educational institutions, Academy members also supported and played important roles in national and international organizations. In 1887, the Academy coordinated the first New York meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In 1892, scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator Alexander Graham Bell opened long-distance telephone service from New York to Chicago. Bell was among the many prominent Member of the Academy.
In 1913, the Academy undertook the Puerto Rico survey, the first comprehensive survey of its kind in Puerto Rico. Though it began as a small-scale botanical and entomological exploration, it grew into a multi-year project.
In December of 1942, the Academy published the book Balinese Character: A Photographic Analysis, by Gregory Bateson & Margaret Mead. Both Academy Members, Bateson and Mead compiled over 700 photographs depicting their cultural studies in Bali. Read the book here.
In January of 1946, the Academy held the first ever large scientific conference on antibiotics. You can read proceedings from this groundbreaking conference in the original Annals volume here.
Not only was leading anthropologist Margaret Mead a Member of the Academy, she also became a Vice President in the 1960s. Read more about her here.
On December 4, 1968 the Academy held a symposium honoring Eunice T. Miner at her retirement. Miner served as the Executive Director of the New York Academy of Sciences from 1939 to 1967, overseeing the revitalization of the organization and securing a new headquarters for the Academy, thanks to a generous donation from Norman Woolworth.
In December of 1983 the Academy hosted the first major scientific conference on AIDS. The conference proceedings were published in Annals the following year. Read the volume here.
On November 11, 1988, the physicist Andrei Sakharov made his first appearance in the US at an Academy reception. He credited the Academy's work to build international pressure around the human rights of scientists and his case in particular for his release.
In November of 2007 the first ever Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists were announced at the Academy's annual gala. The Blavatnik Awards honor exceptional young scientists and engineers by celebrating their achievements, recognizing promise, and providing unrestricted funding to the winners.
In February of 2010, the Academy published one of its most downloaded volumes of Annals, "The Biology of Disadvantage: Socioeconomic Status and Health." Read the volume here.
On September 22, 2014, the Academy launched our Global STEM Alliance before a packed audience at the United Nations. The programs aims to improve the STEM pipeline with a focus on mentoring and inspiring students and scientists at all stages.