Celebrating 125 Years of The Academy

In December of 1889, twenty-two civic-minded scholars met to form the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

Led by Edmund James, a political economist from the Wharton School, the Academy aimed to synthesize and advance research that addressed social challenges that might be redressed with more effective policy. Unlike most organizations at the time, the Academy included a broad array of social science disciplines.  Casting social science as an interdisciplinary enterprise in service of practical policy-making was a timely goal: the late nineteenth century witnessed an explosion of specialization and professionalization in the social sciences, a trend that threatened to splinter America’s understanding of major policy issues. The Academy aimed to rectify this problem.

From its founding, the Academy embraced the work of prominent women (e.g. Jane Addams) and African Americans  (e.g. W.E.B. Dubois) in publishing high-quality scholarship that was blind to historical discrimination. Many of the original members were associated with the University of Pennsylvania, but others came from across the country and around the globe.

The Academy’s founders created a democratic institutional system to ensure both the success and transparency of the organization. Past Academy leaders include Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover, both of whom are past Vice Presidents. From its inception, the Academy’s Board of Directors has included eminent scholars, former Senators, philanthropists, successful businessmen and university presidents.

For more than 125 years, the Academy’s flagship journal, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, has brought together public officials and scholars from across the disciplines to tackle issues ranging from racial inequality and intractable poverty to the threat of nuclear terrorism.  Today, the Academy continues to address the central concerns of society in The ANNALS, through its Fellows, and by recognizing a champion of social science in the public interest with the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize.