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.
Science, Research, Policy and Society
The New York Academy of Sciences’ archive encapsulates the history and development of natural science, technology and modern biomedical sciences, and documents anti-intellectualist sentiments towards scientists.
The archive includes chronicles of efforts by governments and corporations to influence research into the exploitation of natural resources, labor conditions, and the environmental and economic impacts of mining, drilling, industrial waste and pollution.
Some of the collections contain 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 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, can be found in this archive.
- Caribbean Studies
- Civil/Human Rights
- Climate Science
- Education in the Sciences
- Environmental Studies
- Medical Research
- Natural History
- Natural Sciences
- North American Studies
Primary Source Materials
- Administrative Records
- Case Studies
- Gray Literature
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.
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.
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.