Accademia dei Lincei

The Accademia dei Lincei, (literally the "Academy of the Lynxes", but also known as the Lincean Academy), is located at the Palazzo Corsini on the Via della Lungara in Rome, Italy. As the oldest Italian academy, it has been the official scientific academy of Italy since 1871. At its foundation in Rome 1603 by Federico Cesi, it was a locus for what was then the ongoing scientific revolution. It is named after the lynx, whose sharp vision was invoked symbolically as characteristic of those dedicated to science.

  • Timeline of one of the world's oldest scientific societies.
    • 1603-1651 L'Accademia (Federico Cesi)
    • 1745-1847 Le tre Rinascite dei Lincei
    • 1870-1923 La Reale Accademia dei Lincei
    • 1926-1944 I Lincei e l' Accademia d'Italia
    • 1946- present day: L'Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei


The academy replaced the first scientific community ever, the Academia Secretorum Naturae, that was closed due to Inquisition. It was founded in 1603 by Federico Cesi (1586-1630), an aristocrat from Umbria (the son of Duke of Acquasparta and a member of an important family from Rome) who was passionately interested in natural history, above all in botany.

When Cesi visited Naples, he met the polymath Giambattista della Porta, and founded a branch of Porta's academy in that city together with three of his friends, the Dutch physician Johannes Van Heeck (italianized to Giovanni Ecchio), and two fellow Umbrians, mathematician Francesco Stelluti and polymath Anastasio de Filiis. Cesi and his friends took on the goal of understanding all of the natural sciences, an emphasis that set the Lincei apart from the host of 16th and 17th century Italian Academies, most of which were literary and antiquarian. Free experiment was Cesi's plan, respectful of tradition, but untrammeled by blind obedience to authority, even that of Aristotle and Ptolemy, which the new science was calling into question. Porta joined the academy in 1610.

The academy chose the name lynx because of the traditional belief that those cats have unusually sharp vision. Its symbols were both a lynx and an eagle, because they were famed for their sharp eyes. The academy's motto, chosen by Cesi, was: "take care of small things if you want to obtain the greatest results."

Galileo was admitted to the group on December 25 1611, and became its intellectual center. Being a member of the academy was an honour to him, because after being accepted as its member, he signed himself signed himself Galileo Galilei Linceo. The academy published his works and supported him through his disputes with the Catholic Church. Among the academy's early publications in the fields of astronomy, physics and botany were the study of sunspots and the famous Saggiatore of Galileo, and the Tesoro Messicano (Mexican Treasury) describing the flora, fauna, and drugs of the New World, which took decades of labor, down to 1651. With this publication, the first, most famous phase of the Lincei was concluded. Cesi's own intense activity was cut short by his sudden death in 1630, scarcely 45 years of age.

Another important member of the academy was Luca Valerio.

The Linceans produced an important collection of micrographs, or drawings made with the help of the newly invented microscope. After Cesi's death, the academy closed and the drawings were collected by Cassiano dal Pozzo, a Roman antiquarian, who sold them in 1763 to George III of the United Kingdom. The drawings were discovered in Windsor Castle in 1986 by art historian David Freedberg.

Le tre Rinascite dei Lincei

In the 18th century the abbot Scarpellini attempted to revive an academy of "New Lincei", but it underwent a true revival only in 1847, when Pope Pius IX re-founded it as the Pontificia accademia dei Nuovi Lincei, the Pontifical Academy of New Lincei.

La Reale Accademia dei Lincei

in 1874, Quintino Sella turned it into the Accademia Nazionale Reale dei Lincei, the Royal National Lincean Academy. This incarnation broadened its scope to include moral and humanistic sciences, and regained the high prestige associated with the original Lincean Academy. After the unification of Italy, the Piedmontese Quintino Sella infused new life into the Nuovo Lincei, reaffirming its ideals of secular science, but broadening its scope to include humanistic studies: history, philology, archeology, philosophy, economics and law, in two classes of Soci (Fellows). The modern Lincei have constituted a pantheon of European intellectuals: from Righi and Pacinotti to Fermi, from Pasteur to Roentgen and Einstein, from Mommsen to Wilamowitz, Comparetti, Croce, and Gentile.

I Lincei e l' Accademia d'Italia

In the fascist period, it was incorporated into the new Accademia d'Italia, the Italian Academy. After the fall of the fascist regime, when the Accademia d'Italia was suppressed, at the suggestion of Benedetto Croce the Lincean Academy recovered its independence.

L'Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei

In 1986, the Academy was placed under a statute that says it shall be composed of 540 members, of whom 180 are ordinary Italian members, 180 are foreigners, and 180 are Italian corresponding members. The members are divided into two classes: one for mathematical, physical, and natural sciences; the other for moral, historical, and philological sciences.

In 2001, the natural sciences were re-divided into five categories: mathematics, mechanics and applications; astronomy, geodesy, geophysics and applications; physics, chemistry and applications; geology, paleontology, mineralogy and applications; and biological sciences and applications. At the same time, the moral sciences were divided into seven categories: philology and linguistics; archeology; criticism of art and of poetry; history, historical geography, and anthropology; philosophical science; juridical science; social and political science.

External links


it:Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei


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