Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/421

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EARLY in the fifteenth century scholars on the continent of Europe began to discuss questions in little companies out of which grew what are now known as academies of science. At first these societies were made up of thoughtful men who met to compare their ideas on questions and discoveries which were exciting universal interest. The Academia Pontaniana in Naples was organized in 1433; the Academia Platonica in Florence in 1474. The proceedings in these academies were for the most part open to the public, and the work accomplished through them became the means of the formation of the academies of science, which, in most of the capitals of Europe, have filled so prominent a place the past century and have done so much to utilize and spread abroad historical, philosophical and scientific knowledge.

The history and the work of one of these academies, that in Vienna, will, it is believed, be of interest.

A private academy, the Literaria Sodalitas Danubia, started in Ofen in 1490 by Konrad Pickle, a Frenchman known as Celtes, was moved to Vienna in 1497, where it received into its membership philosophers, jurists, doctors of medicine and privy councillors. Its prime object was declared to be to broaden out 'the Humanism' of the time. It continued to prosper while Celtes was its directing spirit, but after his death in 1508 its influence gradually declined.

Early in the eighteenth century Leibnitz was anxious that an academy should be established in the Austrian capital, similar to the one which in 1700 he had persuaded the King of Prussia to organize in Berlin.

The central position of Vienna, the prestige of the Austrian government and the low estate into which universities all over Europe had fallen led him to visit the city and seek aid from those in authority in carrying out his project. Although his plans received favorable attention, wars with the Turks, opposition from Roman Catholics, especially from the Jesuits, and the difficulty of obtaining means for the support of an academy prevented their execution. Still Leibnitz persisted in urging his plans, and on his fifth visit in 1712 began to be confident that the greatly needed academy would soon be organized. His death the following year led to the abandonment of the project for the time. A Leipzig professor, by the name of Gottsched, in 1749