Institut de France

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Institut de France

Institut de France (ăNstētü´ də fräNs), cultural institution of the French state. Founded in 1795 by the Directory, it replaced five learned societies that had been suppressed in 1793 by the Convention. These were the French Academy (governing language and literature; founded by Richelieu, granted letters patent 1635); the Académie royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (fine arts; founded 1648 by Charles Le Brun, reorganized 1663 by Colbert); the Académie royale des Inscriptions et Médailles (public inscriptions, medal design, etc.; founded 1663), renamed (1716) the Académie royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres; the Académie royale des Sciences (founded 1666 by Colbert); and the Académie royale d'Architecture (organized 1671 by Colbert). The new organization was called at first Institut national des Sciences et des Arts; the name Académie was not used in the names of the sections because it was considered reactionary. After 1806 the title was changed to Institut de France. Originally the organization was divided into three classes (physical and mathematical sciences, moral and political sciences, literature and fine arts). In 1803 a decree of Napoleon I (a member since 1797) changed the division to four (physical and mathematical sciences, French language and literature, history and ancient literature, and fine arts), suppressing the second class (moral and political sciences) as subversive to the state. In 1816 there was another reorganization, based on the Institut of 1803, and the name Académie was again used in the names of the sections. In 1832, under the influence of Guizot, the second class of the Institut of 1795 was restored as a fifth academy. The Institut de France therefore finally came to be comprised of five academies—the French Academy, the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (history and archaeology), the Académie des Sciences, the Académie des Beaux-Arts, and the Académie des Sciences morales et politiques. Membership in one of the academies does not restrict an individual from being a member of any of the other academies. The academies are self-perpetuating, but the state has the right of veto over their elections. The awards and prizes given by the academies have encouraged endeavor in various fields.

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