The Romanian Academy was founded on 1/13 April 1866 under the name of the Romanian Literary Society. Thus was achieved one of the main projects in the program of modernization adopted after the 1859 Union of the two Romanian Principalities, Wallachia and Moldavia, the nucleus of present-day Romania. Academies in the older sense – meaning schools of higher learning – had existed in these principalities since the 16th century. The most active and long-lasting were the academies of the princedom instituted in Bucharest (around 1689) and Iasi (in 1707) which trained the Christian intellectual elite in South Eastern Europe and the Near East and would become the first universities in Romania in the 19th century. However, in order to further its modernization, Romanian society needed a different kind of academy, after the model of Western Europe’s academies: an institution that would gather the preeminent personalities of the nation’s intellectual life as a group of reflection and action toward the general progress through science and culture. At first, this idea took the form of learned societies with literary and more generally cultural goals, such as those started locally in Brasov (1821), Bucharest (1844), Sibiu (1861), Cernauti (1862). Their success encouraged the notion of a central institution to promote literary and scientific creation, animate the traditions of world literature, and compile an exhaustive dictionary of Romanian literature. This was the institution founded in 1866, which would begin its activity the following year, under the name of Societatea Academica Româna (The Romanian Academic Society). The newly founded institution was from the very beginning a national, encyclopedic and active society. Why national? Because it was representative of culture not only on the territory of what was then Romania but also on territories under foreign domination by the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian Empires. Hence, the 21 founding members were scholars and literati not only from Wallachia and Moldavia, but also from Transylvania, Banat, Maramures, Bukovine, Bessarabia (today the Republic of Moldavia) and the Balkan Peninsula. In 1879, through a special law, the Romanian Academic Society was promulgated a national institution with the name of Academia Româna – The Romanian Academy, a “moral and independent entity in all of its undertakings of whatever nature.” The Academy was encyclopedic because its preoccupations embraced all domains of the arts, letters, and sciences. The Code of bylaws of 1867 established three sections: philology-literature (also including the plastic arts), history-archeology and natural sciences. New sections were added later on, in accordance with the general progress of science. Finally, the Romanian Academy was not conceived by its founders only as a forum of national recognition but as an active center of scientific research and literary and artistic creation. In the 134 years since its inception, the Academy has crossed both luminous and somber periods, has known both success and defeat, and throughout all has enjoyed the admiration of the nation, the respect of scholarly circles worlwide, and the generosity of many donors who have thus ensured, next to government funding, the necessary resources for the activity and development of a scientific center of such breadth. Conversely, the Academy has also tasted the humiliations of political enslavement and marginalization imposed by the totalitarian communist regime. During the longest part of its activity, the Academy achieved the goals set by its founders, and succeeded in being the main forum of reflection and intellectual creation, both literary and artistic, of the Romanian people. The kings of the country were the honorary presidents and protectors of the Academy; its acting and associate members were the most representative personalities in sciences, arts, and letters in Romania; its honorary members were important figures of national and international repute, tied through research, contribution and affection to the realities of Romania. Its prestige and tireless work in the service of sciences and of the nation had earned it the authority to proclaim “immortals.” The quality of academician was synonymous with absolute intellectual preeminence in modern Romanian society. The members of the Academy promoted scientific, cultural and social progress. Educated in the great intellectual centers of Western Europe, they were — by their training, activity and relationships – determined and determining agents of modernization in Romania. They organized research centers in diverse domains; they wrote and published works of reference in Romanian or European scientific literature; they founded and endowed museums and libraries; they provided the solutions to national problems in economy, technology, medicine or education; finally, through courses and theoretical as well as practical guidance, they trained young scholars which would rise to both national and international fame, illustrating excellence both as scientists and as university professors. The development of each domain of activity in the program of the Romanian Academy coincides with the very history of modern and contemporary Romanian culture.