The Finnish Academy of Science

Founded in 1908

The Finnish Academy of Science and Letters (Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia - Academia Scientiarum Fennica) was founded in 1908. An older Society, the Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters (Societas Scientiarum Fennica), has been in existence since 1838. One might reasonably ask why two very similar organisations should exist together, or perhaps more reasonably, why when Finland had the Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters was there a need for an Academy? The answer is because of language problems in Finland.

In 1809 Finland gained independence from Sweden but was under Russian protection and had a government chosen by the Russian emperor. This was the position when the Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters was founded in 1838. At this time Swedish was the only language allowed within the Finnish administration. There was essentially no Finnish literature, and teaching in both schools and university was in Swedish. Working people spoke Finnish, but Swedish remained the official language of public bodies, and certainly the Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters was a Swedish speaking society. However, after a bitter struggle of supporters of the Finnish language, both Finnish and Swedish were placed on an equal footing as official languages in 1902. However Russian had been made a third official language in 1900. It is against this background that there was a need for a Finnish speaking academy, and hence the foundation of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters in 1908. Its main objective was to unite and support Finnish-speaking scientists and scholars in Finland.

The main advocates for founding the Academy were Kaarle Krohn and Gustaf Komppa. After the Academy was founded Gustaf Komppa was elected secretary general and he served in this role until 1944. The first president of the Academy was Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä. Given the reasons for the creation of the Academy it is not surprising that its main focus was on the humanities and all aspects of Finnish culture. It was only slowly that mathematics and the natural sciences began to increase in importance:-
The Finnish Academy of Science and Letters is a learned society covering the full range of academic disciplines which is devoted to the promotion of scientific and scholarly research and serves as a bond uniting researchers engaged in these activities at the highest level. It functions as a traditional learned society in the sense that its membership is limited and it selects its new members on their academic and scientific merits. Its pursues its declared aims by arranging lectures and discussion meetings, publishing scientific papers, awarding grants and making recommendations and statements of opinion to the authorities in matters concerned with scientific and academic research and those who practise it.
The Academy has two Sections, one being science and the other humanities. Each Section is further divided into disciplines, seven in the science section and eight in the humanities. The science section contains the disciplines: Mathematics and Computer Science; Physics and Astronomy; Geosciences; Chemistry; Biology; Agriculture and Forestry; and Medicine. The Academy publishes the mathematics journal Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae, Mathematica and also the monograph series Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae, Mathematica Dissertationes which publishes doctoral theses.

Finally we note that the Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters is divided into three sections: mathematics and physics, natural sciences, and humanities. The Society published the mathematics journal Societas Scientiarum Fennica. Commentationes Physico-Mathematicae.

Visit the society website.

Last Updated August 2004