About the Academy
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, founded in 1857, is a non-governmental, nationwide body which embraces all fields of learning. Its main purpose is to support the advancement of science and scholarship in Norway.
The Academy has Norwegian and foreign members, as well as honorary members. A seat becomes vacant on the death of the holder or when a member has reached the age of 70. Only members of the Academy are entitled to propose candidates for membership, which is based solely on the candidates' scientific achievements. The members are divided into two sections; Mathematics and Natural Sciences and Humanities and Social Sciences. Each section is divided into eight groups.
The General Meeting is the supreme body of the Academy. The board of the Academy consists of its President, Secretary General and Vice-President together with the chairman,
vice-chairman and secretary of the two sections.
The Secretary General is responsible for the administration of the Academy and can delegate the responsibility for the daily tasks to an executive officer. Major items of business shall be put before the board for decision.
From left: Vice-President Nils Chr. Stenseth, President Kirsti Strøm Bull and Secretary General Øivind Andersen. Photo: Eirik Furu Baardsen
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters receives an annual basic financial support from the Norwegian Parliament. In addition, the Academy receives contributions from the Niels Henrik Abel Memorial Fund, Statoil, the Nansen Foundation and the Ministry of Education and Research The Academy has also financial resources from its foundations, earmarked for specific purposes.
The Academy acts as a national contact body both within the individual scientific disciplines and between these, and represents Norwegian science vis-à-vis foreign academies and other international scientific organizations. The Academy ensures the performance of the tasks by initiating and supporting research, organizing meetings and international conferences, publishing scientific writings and appointing representatives to national and international bodies. Each year, the Academy normally organizes 12 meetings with topics covering the various academic fields. The meetings are open to the public. Since 1985 the Academy has cooperated with Statoil on the VISTA program which covers petroleum related basic research.
The Abel Prize for excellent scientific work in mathematics is awarded every year, and the prize money is 6 million Norwegian crowns. The Niels Henrik Abel Memorial Fund was initiated by the Norwegian Parliament in 2002 and consists of 200 million crowns. The revenue is given to The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters which is given the responsibility for the selection of the prize winner and the Abel Prize events.
The Hungarian mathematician Endre Szemerédi was awarded the Abel Prize in 2012. Photo: Scanpix.
The Academy has also been given the responsibility for The Kavli Prize in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience, which was awarded for the first time in 2008. The Kavli Prize was established in 2005 and is a partnership between the Kavli Foundation in the US, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. The Kavli Prize for each of the three scientific prizes consists of 1 million dollar and is awarded every two years. The Kavli Prize laureates receive a gold medal and a diploma in addition to the prize money.
Cornelia Isabella Bargmann, Winfried Denk and Ann Martin Graybiel recieves the Kavliprize in Neuroscience from H.M King Harald in 2012. Right: The Masters of Ceremonies Alan Alda and Åse Kleveland. Bottom: The 2012 Kavli Prize Science Forum. Photo: Scanpix
The Academy's house - a brief history
The Academy's house was build by Minister Hans Rasmus Astrup (1831-1898). The house on Drammensveien was finished in 1887 and the architect was the well known Herman Major Backer.
Hans Rasmus Astrup was born near Molde on the west coast of Norway and was as a young man sent to Kristiansund to learn the trade with dried cod for export. The company very soon sent him as "cargadør" (responsible for the cargo of a ship) to Spain, where he quickly started his own business in Barcelona. Here he became a successful businessman, trading not only with fish but with timber as well.
In 1864 he moved the company and his family to Sweden where he continued his business in Stockholm and as time went by became very wealthy. Astrup's home in Stockholm was an important meeting place for Norwegians where they gathered to discuss politics and especially the Union with Sweden. In 1885, Hans Rasmus Astrup became the Minister of Labor in the Norwegian Government.
Hans Rasmus Astrup had strong emotional ties to Norway, and in 1885 he sold his business in Stockholm. At this time he was probably the wealthiest person in Norway, and he soon bought the property on Drammensveien in order to build a magnificent Villa or Palace. The house was built to be the home for his family as well as to serve as a house to entertain prominent people.
Astrup died in 1898, and in 1911 two of his daughters, Ebba and Elisabeth, sold the property to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for a symbolic amount of money, which had been collected among some of the well-to-do citizens in Kristiania (now Oslo).