The American Academy of Arts and Sciences: Background information when reading Of Arms and Artists

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Of Arms and Artists

The American Revolution Through Painters' Eyes

by Paul Staiti

Of Arms and Artists by Paul Staiti X
Of Arms and Artists by Paul Staiti
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2016, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2017, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Emily-Jane Hills Orford

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Print Review

Of Arms and Artists: The American Revolution Through Painters' Eyes focuses on the ideal of a country-in-making and how the arts helped educate and manipulate its political leanings. In this drive for perfection, there was a need, once the Revolution was a success, to continue the young country's unique standing in the world by establishing higher institutions of learning and study, including the now very prominent and highly revered, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

John Adams The American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge Massachusetts, is one of the oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers in the United States of America. Founded in 1780, with John Adams (1735-1826) as one of its founding members, the American Academy has championed "scholarship, civil dialogue, and useful knowledge."

As Paul Staiti points out in Of Arms and Artists, what Adams ultimately wanted for art in America was "to simultaneously record history with exactitude and promote American virtue with timeless sentiment." While Adams's ideals might appear lofty enough to be unattainable, the ulterior founding principles of the American Academy were, and remain today, both influential and progressive. "From its beginnings, the Academy has engaged in the critical questions of the day. It has brought together the nation's and the world's most distinguished citizens to address social and intellectual issues of common concern and, above all, to develop ways to translate knowledge into action. Since 1780, Academy members have included both those who discover and advance knowledge and those who apply knowledge to the problems of society. Working together, they have established a legacy of leadership that continues to produce reflective, independent, and pragmatic studies that inform public policy and lead to constructive action."

In the early years, Academy members included distinguished people such as the founding fathers: John Adams (as already mentioned), George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and many more. The roster, which includes more than 250 Nobel Laureates, has grown over time; new members are nominated—and voted in— by existing members. Past presidents, scientists and artists of note who have made a significant contribution to their field of study, are all part of the Academy.

The Academy spreads its philosophy by its published literature and also through multiple projects it underwrites in four broad fields: The Humanities, Arts and Education; Science, Engineering and Technology; Global Security and International Affairs; and American Institutions for the Public Good.

Each of these disciplines conducts multiple research projects. For example, the ARISE (Advancing Research in Science and Engineering) project, as part of the Science, Engineering and Technology branch "addressed two issues central to the vitality of America's research enterprise: 1) the support of early-career investigators; and 2) the encouragement of high-risk, high-reward research."

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences continues to influence both the academic and the political world in the United States as well as around the world, by insisting on excellence in all that it does, all that it teaches and all that it studies.

Portrait of John Adams by John Trumbull

This article was originally published in October 2016, and has been updated for the September 2017 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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