Skip to main content

Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences records

Call Number: MS 1373

Scope and Contents

The records of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences include its constitution, minutes of meetings, financial records, correspondence, exchange agreements and publications arrangements. The records also contain data gathered during the early nineteenth century on weather, population, health and geography.

Although the records of the Academy were formally donated to the University Library in 1992, a trunk of its early records was first deposited in the Rare Book Room of the Library in 1938. In 1992, the Academy added material up to the 1980s and indicated its intention to continue to do so in the future.

The records are arranged in four series: I. General Records, 1799-1986; II. Membership, 1870-1983; III. Publications, 1871-1984; and Subject Files, 1800-1949. Oversize materials for all series are arranged at the end of the records.

Series I, GENERAL RECORDS, contains correspondence, record books, and other papers beginning with the formation of the Academy. The series includes the Academy's charter, constitution and by-laws, financial accounts, and records of meetings.

The correspondence files date from 1799 to 1985. The nineteenth century correspondence contains discussions of the mission and the constitution of the Academy, the assignment of tasks for collecting data and descriptions of findings. There are acknowledgements of learned institutions receiving copies of a medal struck by the Academy to celebrate the New Haven bicentennial and of publications of the Academy, acceptances by individuals to membership when associated with other Academy business, and obituary notices. There is little correspondence for the last three decades.

The correspondence of the twentieth century is largely routine dealing with authors interested in publication, arrangements for meetings, and invitations to speakers. Correspondence with other learned societies about meetings and celebrations is included under "Academic Societies."

Record books (folders 121-128) contain minutes of the Academy and council meetings, membership lists and financial records. These books are varied rather than consistent in arrangement. Each book may contain one or more of these types of records. Although the record book covering 1881 to 1949 mentions a volume titled "Council 1872-1881" and the intention of continuing those minutes on page 375 of the same volume, no notes are found there. There is some mention of the Publication Committee in 1886. The available volume of the Publication Committee's minutes begins in 1907. From November 13, 1944, the meetings are designated as those of the council. The discussions include policy matters as well as publications. For 1970 there is an additional folder of minutes from Publication Committee meetings (folder 172). Council meetings are recorded in a volume dated 1872-1881 (folder 123) and in a volume dated 1907-1965 (folder 76) as well as in loose files (folders 77-79) from 1965 through 1986.

Financial records start with a cash book dated 1799-1899 with an additional folder from 1840 to 1985. A treasurer's book lists members' contributions made between 1799 and 1825. Records from the Yale University Treasurer's Office spanning 1908-1938 show income and expenditures for each fiscal year.

Details of meetings are described not only in the record books but also in the folders labeled "Notices, correspondence, etc." dated 1965-1986. Records of special meetings, such as the thousandth meeting in 1949 and the centennial anniversary in 1899, are in separate folders.

Series II, MEMBERSHIP, includes lists and registers of members. Additional membership information is available in the record books of GENERAL RECORDS. There are many routine letters of acceptance, resignation and declination. The files of "Correspondence, lists, notes" contain membership lists, membership totals, and address lists.

Series III, PUBLICATIONS, contains correspondence concerning individual publications as well as correspondence with dealers, printers and distributors. Records for individual publications (roughly ten per cent of the total publications) are filed under the name of the author, followed by the initial of the publication (T for Transactions, M for Memoirs) and the volume number in Roman numerals. Information available about the exchange of Academy publications for those of other academic societies from 1916-1983 is arranged chronologically. Some publications inventory lists from 1851 to 1984 are included.

Series IV, SUBJECT FILES, contains data collected by academy members in the early to mid-nineteenth century. The data include meteorological registers of New Haven and Washington, D.C., census data, bills of mortality for various cities, statistical data on New Haven and New London, observations on meteors and on the variation of the magnetic needle. From 1800 to 1830, barometric readings plus notes were recorded for every day. The minutes intimate that recordings were also made between 1830 and 1840 but these are lacking. The project was resumed from 1840 to 1852.

The series also contains other observations, including a folder of papers, given by the Reverend D. A. Sherman in 1829, of work by various investigators on the exploration of old fortifications and burial grounds in Tennessee and near the Mississippi River, a nineteenth century paper by Robert Stevenson on centripetal force and a folder of various papers by Noah Webster Jr., circa 1780, discussing St. Vitus Dance, maize and other corn, a light phenomenon similar to the Aurora Borealis, and customs and language of the Sandwich Islands. The Miscellaneous file contains thoughts on the nature and origin of knowledge, chemical experiments regarding the coloring principle of Prussian blue, a discussion of inherited characteristics and an essay on evaporation.


  • 1799-1987


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1992.


Arranged in four series: I. General Records, 1799-1986. II. Membership, 1870-1983. III. Publications, 1871-1984. Subject Files, 1800-1949.


8.5 Linear Feet (21 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The records consist of minutes of meetings, financial records, correspondence, exchange agreements, and publications arrangements which document the founding and continuous activities of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences. The records also contain data gathered by the academy, during the early nineteenth century, on weather, population, health, and geography.

Biographical / Historical

The Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1799 in New Haven. The goal of the academy is to represent the arts, the humanities, and the sciences in the state through its meetings and publications. It publishes Memoirs and Transactions. The academy continues to hold several meetings a year at various academic institutions around the state.

The constitution of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences declares that "The object of this Academy is to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest and happiness of a free and virtuous people." Over the years it has been the goal of the Academy to represent the arts, the humanities and the sciences in Connecticut through its meetings and publications.

In 1779, the year after Ezra Stiles became president of Yale College, he proposed the founding of a learned society in Connecticut that would embrace the purposes of the American Philosophical Society which had been established by Benjamin Franklin in 1769. Stiles discussed the project with Benjamin Guild of Harvard who, with his associates, founded the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1780, but a Connecticut society was politically untimely and would not come to fruition until 1799, four years after Timothy Dwight had succeeded Stiles as president of Yale College.

One of the first activities of the Academy was to issue a statewide circular in January 1800 requesting comprehensive information for a proposed "Statistical Account of Towns and Parishes in the State of Connecticut." This was Timothy Dwight's idea, and he produced a masterful pamphlet on the statistics of New Haven which was published by the Academy in 1811. Materials on other towns continued to be received until 1827, but the project was never completed and nothing more was ever published. Meteorology also commanded the attention of the Academy from its earliest days. In 1800, the Academy began recording meteorological observations for New Haven, a practice that it would support for more than fifty years.

From 1810 to 1816 the Academy published 25 papers in the first volume of its new journal, Memoirs. In 1818, the Academy abandoned publication of Memoirs when Benjamin Silliman the elder inaugurated the new American Journal of Science, which provided a frequent and regular medium of publication. However, the Academy later found that it had available a considerable amount of material which was not deemed suitable for publication in the American Journal of Science. Thus Transactions, a new series of publications, was inaugurated in 1866. The early issues of the Transactions also listed officers and members of committees as well as additions to the Academy library by gift and exchange at the beginning of each volume.

Silliman served as president of the Academy from 1836 to 1847. During this time the Academy became intellectually and emotionally involved with the dramatic affair of the Spanish slave ship Amistad and its mutinous captives. While the captives were awaiting trial in the New Haven jail in 1839, one of the Academy members, Josiah Willard Gibbs the elder, used his knowledge of philology and his resourcefulness to develop a means of conversing with the Africans so that their side of the story could be told. The Africans were eventually freed by the U.S. Supreme Court and were repatriated in 1841 - the only such captives ever to escape permanent servitude and to return home.

After Silliman's presidency there followed a period of decline, and the Academy sold its library and voted to deposit unpublished manuscripts of the statistical accounts in the Connecticut Historical Society. Although attendance at meetings decreased, important scientific advances were presented at meetings and the best of the communications did appear in print to reach a wider audience. The third volume of the Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences gave the world the study by Josiah Willard Gibbs the younger, "On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances" (October 1875-May 1876 and May 1877-July 1878) which provided the basis for physical chemistry. After an enthusiastic celebration of the Academy's centennial in 1899, the attendance again declined, but the Transactions continued to appear at the rate of a volume or two every two or three years.

In the nineteenth century, the meetings and publications had been primarily concerned with the natural and physical sciences. An agreement between the Academy and Yale in 1906 brought financial aid for increased publication and encouraged the Academy to widen its range of interests; papers were subsequently presented on history, economics, philosophy, linguistics, and belle-lettres in addition to continuing communications in biology, geology, chemistry, physics and engineering.

After George Eaton became secretary of the Academy in 1907, publication of the Transactions was accelerated and in 1910 the Memoirs of the Academy reappeared, this time in quarto form for major illustrated works. Eaton added editorial work to his other duties and continued in office until 1946, a remarkable record of devoted service sustaining a steady tradition through two wars and many academic changes.

In addition to Memoirs and Transactions, the Academy undertook a special publication, "A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050-1500" edited by John Edwin Wells (1916). The manual became a standard reference tool and continues to be supplemented.

The Academy was able to distribute its publications more widely through an agreement with the Yale University Library. The Library gave the Academy an annual subvention for publications which the Library used in its exchange program with other institutions. This support continues. By 1973 the Academy's library was given to Yale University.

In 1954 the Academy joined with the Connecticut Science Teachers' Association to sponsor an annual High School Sciences Talent Search in Connecticut. This project took place during the long and dedicated service of Dorothea Rudnick as secretary of the Academy. She took office at the 978th meeting in October, 1946 and served as secretary through September, 1986.

The Academy was always intimately associated with Yale and for the first 150 years its meetings were held at a variety of locations in New Haven. Thus its active members were only those living within a convenient distance of New Haven who could attend meetings and cast their vote. In the early 1950s, the council discussed the desirability of encouraging more participation from other institutions in Connecticut, and in 1952 the Academy convened a meeting at Storrs to welcome new members from the University of Connecticut. On the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the Academy in 1974 a meeting was held at Wesleyan University; Southern Connecticut State University was added in 1984 and Trinity College in 1991.

For additional details on the history of the Academy up to 1949, consult the Rollin G. Osterweis "Sesquicentennial History of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences" in its Transactions, volume 38, pages 103-149 upon which this summary is based.

Guide to the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences Records
Under Revision
compiled by Bella Z. Berson
March 1993
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)


Sterling Memorial Library
Room 147
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours