academy Greek Akademeia, Akademia a public grove and gymnasium near Athens where Plato taught, a derivative of Akademos, a legendary Attic hero after whom the grove and gymnasium were named
A society of learned individuals organized to advance art, science, literature, music, or some other cultural or intellectual area of endeavor.
At the close of the European Middle Ages, academies began to be formed in Italy, first for the study of classical and then of Italian literature. One of the earliest was the Platonic Academy, founded in Florence in 1442. Literary academies sprang up all over Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries; the most famous of these was the Crusca Academy.
The Academie Francaise, which would become Europe's best-known literary academy, began in 1635. The Royal Spanish Academy was founded in 1713 to preserve the Spanish language, and it published a landmark Spanish dictionary for that purpose.
Academies of science began to appear in the 16th century, and academies of fine arts, music, social sciences, medicine, mining, and agriculture were formed from the 18th century on. Most European countries now have at least one academy or learned society that is sponsored by or otherwise connected with the state.
The United States, like Great Britain, Canada, and other English-speaking countries, has no state-established academies of science or literature, a fact reflective of English beliefs that culture should basically be a matter for private initiative. The first learned society in what would become the United States was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 and called the American Philosophical Society. The rival American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1779, and the National Academy of Sciences was founded in Washington, D.C., in 1863.