The New York Academy of Sciences

Explore 200 Years of Scientific Discovery

The New York Academy of Sciences, founded in 1817 as the Lyceum of Natural History in the City of New York, is dedicated to driving innovative solutions to society’s challenges by advancing scientific research, education and policy.

Throughout its history, the Academy has brought together extraordinary people working at the frontiers of discovery and thought, including Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Margaret Mead and Thomas Edison. Collectively, Academy members and continue to make important contributions to solving societal problems.

Today, with more than 20,000 members across 100 countries and a President’s Council with 36 Nobel Laureates, the Academy and its global network are tackling some of the world’s most pressing concerns, from global malnutrition to improving access to STEM education in underserved communities.

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The Sciences Photo files-Scientists-Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein, Creator, et al., Photograph Collection. Source: The New York Academy of Sciences

Medical research, botanical sciences, natural history, climate science—and more

The New York Academy of Sciences’ archive uniquely encapsulates the history and development of natural science, technology and modern biomedical sciences.

The archive’s unique, never-before-digitized materials range from correspondence, manuscripts and photographs to fieldwork, maps, and documentation of research projects by Academy members.

The collections include files from the Academy’s influential mid-twentieth century Committee on the Human Rights of Scientists and records from many seminal Academy scientific events––including a 1946 landmark conference on the development of antibiotics, a groundbreaking 1965 conference on the biological effects of asbestos, and the world’s first conference on AIDS in 1984.

The content includes field notes, records and maps from the Academy’s three-decade scientific survey of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, still considered one of the most complete, multidisciplinary, scientific descriptions of any tropical area ever performed.

Jones, L. R, August 18, 1902. L. R. Jones, Nathaniel Lord Britton Records, August 18, 1902. Source: The New York Academy of Sciences.

Subjects Covered

  • Botany
  • Caribbean Studies
  • Chemistry
  • Civil/Human Rights
  • Climate Science
  • Ecology
  • Education in the Sciences
  • Environmental Studies
  • Forestry
  • Geosciences
  • Medical Research
  • Natural History
  • Natural Sciences
  • North American Studies

Primary Source Materials

  • Administrative Records
  • Case Studies
  • Correspondence
  • Data
  • Fieldwork
  • Gray Literature
  • Illustrations
  • Manuscripts
  • Maps
  • Pamphlets
  • Periodicals
  • Photographs
  • Reports

Highlights

  • Somalia, 1985-1993, Kevin Kelly, Carol Corillon, et al., Records of the Committee on the Human Rights of Scientists, 1985-1993.

    The Committee on the Human Rights of Scientists

    Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov gained fame for the design of thermonuclear weapons, but later, questioning the moral and political implications of his early work, became an activist for disarmament, peace and human rights, and was exiled.

    Cuban economist Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello co-authored a paper entitled, The Homeland Belongs to All, which shed light on Cuba’s human rights situation. She and her co-authors were arrested, detained and sentenced to prison.

    Chinese astrophysicist Fang Lizhi was stripped of his job and professional memberships and exiled because of his human rights activism, which inspired the pro-democracy student movement in the 1980s, and the protests at Tiananmen Square.

    All were released with the help of the New York Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Human Rights. Created in 1978, the Committee has supported scientists, health professionals, engineers and educators who were imprisoned, exiled, and deprived of their rights. This archive contains numerous files and materials documenting these efforts.

  • Sediment Contamination, 1999-2002 Michael Wood, Richard Bopp, et al., Records of the Harbor Project, Box 17, Folder 2, 1999-2002.

    The Harbor Project and the Impact of Industrial Pollution

    The Hudson River was once known as “the Rhine of the U.S.,” until years of pollution and industrial waste took their collective tolls. In response, the New York Academy of Science sponsored The Harbor Project, a massive undertaking to address pollution, industrial waste, and their impact on aquatic life.

    Four Academy scientists, Susan Boehme, Marta Panero, Lisa Rodenburg and Sandra Valle, oversaw the Project, which assessed pollutants in the New York/New Jersey Harbor Watershed between 1998 and 2001. The team identified the sources of contaminations, ranging from sewer overflow to the disposal of industrial waste, and their effect on the ecology, the harbor and the Hudson River itself.

    The final report had a significant impact on the use of industrial chemicals worldwide. This archive includes the records of the Project.

  • Photograph (portrait), May 2, 1915. Nathaniel Lord Britton Records, May 2 1915. Source: The New York Academy of Sciences

    Nathaniel Lord Britton and the New York Botanical Garden

    American botanist and taxonomist Nathaniel Lord Britton was born in Staten Island, New York, in 1859, and started teaching botany and geology at Columbia University after college.

    Britton’s life took a turn when he met botanist and bryologist Elizabeth Gertrude Knight. They fell in love, married in 1885 and became lifelong collaborators—both in life and in botanical research.

    In 1888, the couple traveled to England to perform research at Kew Gardens, an expansive botanic garden and herbarium. Inspired by it, the Brittons presented the idea for what would become the New York Botanical Garden. With the Botanical Club, they spearheaded the fundraising, often naming plants after wealthy contributors to secure their support.

    Britton became director of the Garden, founded its public education and horticulture programs, directed botanical research, and built alliances with the scientific organizations nationwide.

What People Are Saying

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  • “The search functions in Wiley Digital Archives are particularly good for the type of research I do. I can cross-reference my current inventories of Livingstone’s mentions of the word “women” very quickly, and the horizontality of the search process enables me to happen upon other works of interest that I might not have found otherwise. The malleability of this search function, in combination with the quality of the Wiley’s OCR, has facilitated fast, comprehensive data access—and underscores the value that these records can bring to the understanding of the socio-cultural makeup of exploration.“

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    Ph.D. Candidate—History of Science and Medicine Program

    Yale University

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