The Romanian Academy

Founded in 1866

The Romanian Academy was founded on 13 April 1866 under the name Societatea Literară Română (Romanian Literary Society). It changed its name to Societatea Academică Romînă (Romanian Academic Society) in 1867, and finally to Academia Română (Romanian Academy) in 1879. Before looking at the founding of the Academy, we look at the background.

Modern Romania came into existence in 1859 when the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia were united under Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza who was the ruling prince of both Principalities. He was overthrown in 1866 and replaced by Carol I, king of Romania from 1866 to 1881. Both Wallachia and Moldavia had schools of higher learning, one in Bucharest founded around 1689 became the University of Bucharest and one founded in Iasi in 1707 eventually became the University of Iasi. These schools did not operate as academies, but there were societies founded which operated as academies in Brasov (1821), Bucharest (1844), Sibiu (1861), and Cernauti (1862). These societies were local ones not attempting to act for whole areas. Mostly they were literary societies with little interest in the sciences. The uniting of Wallachia and Moldavia was the motivating force to creating a national academy. Two people who played an important role in creating this national academy were Constantin Alexandru Rosetti (1816-1885) and Ion Heliade Rădulescu (1802-1872) so let us give a little information about these two men.

Constantin Alexandru Rosetti, born in Bucharest, was a poet who studied in Paris before becoming involved in politics, in particular in the 1848 revolution in which he was a leading figure. The revolution, attempting to unite Wallachia and Moldavia, failed at that time. He championed a free press and headed a democratic movement. He served at Minister of Education and Religion under Carol I, leader of united Romania from 1866 to 1881, and it was in his capacity as Minister of Education that he was the leading founder of the Romanian Academy.

Ion Heliade Rădulescu was a poet and writer of short stories who taught at the Saint Sava College in Bucharest for most of his career. A great advocate of the Romanian language he translated many foreign works into that language. He was also a leading figure in the 1848 revolution and elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1866. A founder member of the Romanian Academy, he became its first President serving from 1867 to 1870.

The Society founded in 1866 had 21 founding members who were not all from Romania but came from a much wider area. As well as from the united Wallachia and Moldavia, there were also founding members from Transylvania, Banat, Maramures, Bukovine, Bessarabia (today the Republic of Moldavia) and the Balkan Peninsula. Although the Society was founded in 1866 as a literary society, it soon broadened its areas to include the sciences. The statutes of 1867 established three sections: (i) Philology and Literature (which included the visual arts), (ii) History and Archaeology, and (iii) Natural Sciences. The first president to be trained as a mathematician was Ion Ghica (1816-1897) who became the fourth President of the Romanian Academic Society when he took on that role in 1876. He was born in Bucharest and studied mathematics in Paris from 1837 to 1840. He participated in the 1848 revolution which unsuccessfully attempted to unite Wallachia and Moldavia. He became a professor at the Academia Mihăileană in Iasi (which is now the University of Iasi). After the union of Wallachia and Moldavia in 1859 he became the first prime minister of Romania. He served four times as President of the Romanian Academy, serving in 1876-1882, 1884-1887, 1890-1893, and 1894-1895. He is considered by many to be the first Romanian economist.

The article [2] states:-
During the longest part of its activity, the Academy achieved the goals set by its founders, and succeeded in being the main forum of reflection and intellectual creation, both literary and artistic, of the Romanian people. The kings of the country were the honorary presidents and protectors of the Academy; its acting and associate members were the most representative personalities in sciences, arts, and letters in Romania; its honorary members were important figures of national and international repute, tied through research, contribution and affection to the realities of Romania. Its prestige and tireless work in the service of sciences and of the nation had earned it the authority to proclaim "immortals." The quality of academician was synonymous with absolute intellectual pre-eminence in modern Romanian society. The members of the Academy promoted scientific, cultural and social progress. Educated in the great intellectual centres of Western Europe, they were - by their training, activity and relationships - determined and determining agents of modernization in Romania. They organized research centres in diverse domains; they wrote and published works of reference in Romanian or European scientific literature; they founded and endowed museums and libraries; they provided the solutions to national problems in economy, technology, medicine or education; finally, through courses and theoretical as well as practical guidance, they trained young scholars which would rise to both national and international fame, illustrating excellence both as scientists and as university professors. The development of each domain of activity in the program of the Romanian Academy, summarized in the pages of this book, coincides with the very history of modern and contemporary Romanian culture.
The role played by the Romanian Academy during World War I, which led to the creation of Greater Romania, were described in a meeting of the Romanian Academy in November 2016 to remember the centenary of the entry of Romania into World War I. The President of the Academy, Ionel-Valentin Vlad, said [6]:-
The Romanian Academy was, both by its composition and its objectives, the cultural depositary of the unquenchable ancient longing for the union of all the Romanians. Both by its composition and by activities conducted over the years related to the great moments of the Romanians' fight for national unity, the Romanian Academy has proved that it personifies the culture and the ideal of the entire Romanian nation before and beyond the borders.
During World War II, Romania was forced to cede territory to the Soviet Union in 1940, then in 1941 joined Germany in an attempt to recover that territory. In 1944 the Red Army entered Romania which changed sides and declared war on Germany. At this stage Michael I remained king. During this period an Institute with the name "The Institute of Mathematical Sciences" was founded on 22 December 1945 and it was formally recognised in 1946. It was set up with the aim of:-
... promoting scientific research in mathematical sciences, through communications, talks, publications, congresses, and other means proper to this aim.
There were twenty mathematicians involved in the founding of this Institute, some of whom have biographies in the archive such as Gheorghe Mihoc, Grigore Moisil, Dimitrie Pompeiu, Petre Sergescu, Simion Stoilow, and Gheorghe Vrănceanu.

In 1947 king Michael I was forced to abdicate by the Communist regime and Romania was declared a People's Republic. Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej as General Secretary of the Communist Party became the leader of Romania. This move to a Communist People's Republic had major consequences for the Romanian Academy. On the one hand the new leaders saw that the Academy was vital for the economic and technological development of the country but, on the other hand, they needed to do away with any ideas of independence and bring it under the direction of the Romanian Communist Party. Consequently, on 9 June 1948, a law was passed making the Romanian Academy the 'Academy of the People's Republic of Romania'. This law, which modelled the Academy on the USSR Academy of Sciences, [2]:-
... reorganized it into 6 sections and 25 subsections, and gave priority to the exact and applied sciences, placing the socio-human sciences last in rank of importance. On this occasion, more than 90 acting, associate and honorary members were expelled from the Academy, since they were deemed unfit to the new cultural orientations and hostile to the communist regime, on the strength of their ideas, works and political convictions. Purges of this sort were extended to the staff of the Academy's institutes. At the same time, the assets of the Academy were nationalized, and the institution became in all respects enslaved to the state. Later on, the Academy was to be parted from many of its various possessions, often without even a minimum of legal formality, as its collections of documents, coins, archaeological finds and artworks were being abusively shipped to other state institutions.
The much changed Academy set up many research institutes, one of the first being the "Institute of Mathematics of the Academy of the People's Republic of Romania" in 1949. This Institute was based on "The Institute of Mathematical Sciences" which had been established in 1945. Dimitrie Pompeiu was named as the director of the Institute with Simion Stoilow as deputy director. Pompeiu, however, was unwell so although he remained as director until his death in 1954, the Institute was run from the beginning by Stoilow. After Pompeiu died in 1954, Stoilow became the director, holding that position until 1961.

The way that the Academy operated in the first couple of decades under communist control is described in [2]:-
In the first two decades of the communist regime, the Academy and its scientific network grew considerably, from 7 research facilities with nearly 400 scientific collaborators in 1948 to 56 institutes or centres with about 2,500 employees in 1966. Their activity was checked both scientifically, to ensure conformity with the research plans drawn and followed up by the Academy's sections and by the boards of the institutes, and politically, this time to ensure that the ideological priorities and the correlation with the major interests of the society, which science was supposed to serve, were always safeguarded. However, the main preoccupation of the Academy's scientists was to be constantly in touch, beyond or despite these limitations, with worldwide science, by keeping informed, corresponding professionally, and participating in international meetings held abroad. Every domain of scientific research progressed during this time; yet every advancement was obtained not only with effort and devotion, but also with daring and at personal risk for those involved. During that time, there existed not only laureates of the state science prizes, but also scientists publicly exposed for ideological errors, "cosmopolitanism," etc.
As seen from this quote, the Academy flourished during these two decades, although the scientists were carefully monitored for producing work compatible with the communist regime. Things changed however, beginning in 1969. In that year the Council of Ministers decided to remove all twelve medical institutes of the Academy and put them under the control of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Further institutes were lost in 1970 and in 1974 the Romanian Academy had its byelaws changed so that it was under the control of the National Council for Science and Technology. All its remaining institutes, including the Institute of Mathematics, were taken away from the Academy and distributed to other organisations. In fact in 1973 the Institute of Mathematics was taken away from the Academy and became part of the Ministry of Education. In April 1975 the Romanian President, Nicolae Ceauescu, closed down the Institute of Mathematics. Ceauescu had run the State Council since 1967 but when the position of President of Romania was created in 1974, Ceauescu assumed that role and was then able to rule by decree. This enabled him to decree that the Institute of Mathematics be closed.

Although the Romanian Academy was now a shadow of its former existence, nevertheless it continued to operate until the end of the Communist period. A Revolution in 1989 saw Ceaușescu executed on 25 December 1989 and Ion Iliescu became President. There followed several years of unrest but these had little impact on the Academy which was restored to its original status with a law passed on 5 January 1990. Its name was restored to its pre-communist version of 'Romanian Academy' and it recovered its position of authority which had been stripped away. This law made the Academy [2]:-
... the highest scientific authority in the country, bringing together the worthiest personalities in science, technology, education, culture and art in Romania, as representing the creative spirituality of the nation.
New byelaws, adopted on 2 February 1990 came into immediate effect. The Academy could once again elect its own members, a right which had been denied it since 1974. The Institutes which had been closed down or moved to the control of other organisations were reopened as Academy Institutes. For example, the Institute of Mathematics was refounded in 1990 with Gheorghe Gussi as its director.

The Academy's description of its current position is given in [1] which begins as follows:-
According to its code of bylaws, the Romanian Academy, Romania's highest cultural forum, has several main objectives: cultivation of the national language and literature, study of the national history, research into major scientific domains, and promotion of democratic and ethical principles of free communication of ideas in Romanian sciences, arts and letters. The Romanian Academy is incorporated and functions autonomously. Its activity is financed by the state, as well as by donations, legacies and other funds earmarked for the accomplishment of academic goals. The Academy administers its assets independently. There are 181 acting members (academicians and associate members), a number established by law; all members of the Academy are elected for life. Eligibility criteria include Romanian citizenship and outstanding performance in a scientific, artistic or literary domain. Candidates for associate membership can be up to 65 years old and can become full members any time after that. The Academy also has 135 honorary members who are both Romanian and foreign citizens of great intellectual value; their number is established by the General Assembly. Age is not a criterion for eligibility as an honorary member.
The President of the Section of Mathematical Sciences of the Romanian Academy is Romulus Cristescu (born Ploiesti, Romania, 1928) who was elected to the Academy in 1990. His mathematical research is mostly in the area of topological ordered vector spaces. Cristescu is also the honorary President of the Academy's Institute of Mathematics. The President of the Institute of Mathematics is Viorel Barbu (born Deleni, Vaslui, Romania, 1941) who has been a full member of the Academy since 1991. He was Vice-President of the Romanian Academy from 1998 to 2002 and President of the Iasi Branch of the Romanian Academy since 2001. His mathematical research is in the area of calculus of variations and optimisation also making substantial contributions to partial differential equations, probability theory and stochastic processes.

Visit the society website.

References (show)

  1. Academy today, Romanian Academy.
  2. A brief history, Romanian Academy.
  3. History, Simion Stoilow Institute of Mathematics of the Romanian Academy.
  4. Presentation, Simion Stoilow Institute of Mathematics of the Romanian Academy.
  5. Romanian Academy website.
  6. Romanian Academy hosts solemn session to celebrate the December 1, 1918 Greater Union, nineoclock (28 November 2016).
  7. Simion Stoilow Institute of Mathematics of the Romanian Academy website.

Last Updated September 2018