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Academy is a term with multiple meanings. In its original meaning (as in The Academy section below) reference was to the doctrines, organization or physical plant of the Athenian philosophical school associated with the Greek philosopher Plato. The term is also variously applied to contemporary schools, colleges and universities, both individually and collectively: Academe, the academy, academic (e.g., academic vs. athletic scholarships), academics, as applied to teachers and students as a group, and many other such references. Some private schools (e.g., Brookline Academy) and even organizations incorporate the term into their names or titles (e.g., The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which presents the Academy Awards annually) and the scholarly American Academy of Arts and Letters, discussed below.


The word academy is of Greek origin, dating at least to the fourth century BCE and is a reference to Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

The term also takes several derivative forms and variations, including academe, academic, and academia.

The term academy appears frequently in the titles of various European royal,aristrocratic or national institutions, like the Acad´emie Francaise, and others discussed below, and various British Royal Academies. 'Academe' as a literary reference is used by Shakespeare in Love's Labour Lost, and sometimes refers to the literary life.

In contemporary usage, the adjective form academic usually refers to aspects of the environment or community concerned with the pursuit of research, education, and scholarship at any level, while academia is usually a specific reference to the college or university level.

The Academy

Plato's dialogues, and to a lesser extent Aristotle's writings, have conveyed to later generations an impression that the Academy was the physical location of the 'golden age' of Greek philosophy. While there is debate among scholars whether this notion is misleading, it is none the less influential.

Physically, the Academy in Athens was a garden open to the public, six stadia outside the walls of Athens, by the side of the river Cephissus. It is supposed to have contained a sacred grove of olive trees dedicated to Athena. Plato is thought to have acquired property there around 387 BCE[1] and to have taught there, together with other philosophers and aristocrats.

An alternative explanation is that the term is from its being part of an estate said to have belonged to Academus. The inspiration behind the Academy however, was the school established by Pythagoras at Croton. When Plato died, leadership of the Academy was passed to his nephew Speusippus, who was later followed by Sceptics such as Arcesilaus and Carneades. With the fall of Athens in AD 88, all the buildings were destroyed. [2]

Heads of 'The Academy

Plato's immediate successors as Head (or Diadochus) of the Academy were Speusippus (347-339 BCE), followed by Xenocrates (339-314 BC), Polemon (314-269 BC), Crates (ca. 269-266 BC), and Arcesilaus (ca. 266-240 BC). The selection of Speusippus, instead of Aristotle is thought by some scholars of ancient history to be the reason for the latter's departure from the Academy at about that time. He left to become tutor to Alexander of Macedonia, who later succeeded his father as Macedonian ruler. Alexander is known to some sources as "Alexander the Great" although this term is the source of considerable consternation among many scholars of Orientalism, some of whom would designate him as "Alexander the Terrible" for the destructive nature of his conquests and city foundings.

Later heads include Lacydes of Cyrene, Carneades, Clitomachus, and Philo of Larissa, considered to be the 'last undisputed head of the Academy'.[3]

In the early 5th century (c. 410) the Academy was revived by various 'Neoplatonists' at a different location in a large house which Proclus eventually inherited from Plutarch and Syrianus.

Accademia della crusca

The Accademia della Crusca is a Florentine (Italian) organization of linguists, philologists and literary scholars that is the oldest linguistic institution in Europe. It has been the most important guardian of the Italian language since its founding in 1583. It's official determinations are published in annual revisions to the official dictionary of Italian and the Accademia served as the model for similar linguistic organizations in French, Spanish, German and English.

Acad´emie Francaise

The Acad´emie Francaise, or as it is usually known in English, The French Academy, is the official custodian of the French language, both in terms of meanings and pronunciation. Unlike contemporary English, which is a veritable linguistic free-for-all, the governing council of the Acad´emie Francaise adopts, embraces or approves the acceptance and correct pronunciation of all new terms into the official French language. This is thought by some linguists to be an impossible task, and results in various creoles or unofficial language variants. It is unclear, for example, the extent to which Quebeque (Canadian) French is well aligned with "official" (academic) French.

As an institution, the Acad´emie Francaise was officially founded in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, suppressed during the French Revolution and restored in 1803 by Napolean Boneparte as the oldest of the five departments of the Institut de France

Institute of the Polish Language

The Institute of the Polish Language in Krakow is an organization within the Polish Academy of Sciences established in 1973 for reasons very similar to the earlier and older national language institutes discussed above. The Institute employs scholars specializing in "dialectology, onomastics, history and descriptive grammar of Polish language, new Polish vocabulary, and other language phenomena related to the development of contemporary Polish language." The Institute includes several units located elsewhere in Poland, including the Comparative Grammar Unit in Poznań, a unit for the Dictionary of Polish Verbs in Sosnowiec, and the Department of Linguistics in Warsaw. The largest project of the Institute, dedicated to contemporary Polish, is the Great Dictionary of the Polish, published exclusively in a continuously updated electronic edition. Numerous other historical dictionaries have been and are being produced by the Institute.

Accademia della Arcadia

The Academy of Arcadia was a literary academy founded in Rome in 1690 by Giovanni Vincenzo Gravina and Giovanni Mario Crescimbeni and Turin-based Paolo Coardi. The academy was originally a school of thought in reaction to what members considered the bad taste of the Baroque, and evolved into a literary movement that spread throughout 18th century Italy. The founders saw poetry as a source of cultural renewal.

The reference to Arcadia in the organization's name is a reference to the shepherd-poets of the mythical region of Arcadia.

American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters

The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters is a 250-member honor society established in 1976, which between 1976-1993 when the practice was abandoned, also allowed up to 75 non-U.S. honorary members. The AAIAL was established through the merger of the American Academy of Arts, founded in 1904 to emulate the French Academy, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The AAAL itself was the product of the earlier merger of the American Social Science Association, founded in Boston in 1865, and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, founded in 1898. In 1980, the AAIAL established the annual [[Witter Bynner Poetry Prize to support young poets. It is one of the relatively rare federally chartered (502(c)1) nonprofit organizations established under Title 36 of the U.S. Code.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is one of the oldest learned societies and national institutions in the U.S., founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock, James Bowdoin and others, with a charter from the Massachusetts Legislature. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were among the first class of fellows. The Academy currently conducts a program of multidisciplinary policy research and has owned and produced a well-known and respected academic journal, Daedalus, since the 1950s. The journal is currently published by MIT Press.

The current membership of the Academy is divided into five classes - Mathematics and Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and Public Affairs, Business and Administration, which in turn are divided into a total of 24 sections.

American Academy in Rome

The American Academy in Rome is an arts research organization, founded in 1894 in the Italian capital city by a diverse group of American architects, painters and sculptors who met regularly to plan the fine arts section of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. Under the leadership of Charles McKim partner in the New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, the group discussed formation of a European school for training American artists. They settled on Rome because of the large historical concentration of paintings, sculpture and classical architecture there. The Academy briefly operated as the American School of Architecture in Rome between 1895 and 1897, when it reformed as the American Academy in Rome, which merged in 1912 with the American School of Classical Studies in Rome. The merger gave the Academy a broader focus on fine arts and classical studies. Although it received Congressional recognition under Title 35 as a national institution the American Academy in Rome continues to be primarily privately funded. Each year up to 30 U.S. artists and scholars are awarded the Rome Prize for residencies that include living and work space, range from six months to two years in architecture, ancient studies, art conservation, classical studies, design, Historic preservation, Italian studies, landscape architecture, literature, medieval studies, musical composition, and visual arts.

French Academy in Rome

The French Academy in Rome was the original of the national academies in Rome, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV and originating the procedure of awarding scholarships to artists named the Prize of Rome (Prix de Rome). In this case, the awards were for 3-5 years, for the study of art or architecture.


  1. see, for example,
  2. 'Essentials of Philosophy and Ethics', edited by Martin Cohen, Hodder Arnold 2006
  3. The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 53-54