The Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1959 on the initiative of Ghana’s first president, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Its aim is generally to promote the pursuit, advancement and dissemination of knowledge in all branches of the sciences and the humanities.
The Academy began as an Academy of Learning in 1959; two years after Ghana had attained independence from colonial rule. It started with 20 foundation members, including the President himself, who was the Chairman. The foundation members were chosen on the basis of recommendations by a small working party. At the time it was established, the Academy was the first in Black Africa.
On 21 November 1959 the Governor General, the Earl of Listowell, signed an instrument of incorporation. On 27th November 1959, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the Great Hall of the University College of Ghana, formally inaugurated the Academy. Prince Philip became the first President of the Academy, and Dr Nkrumah its Chairman. Since Dr Nkrumah was also the Head of State, meetings of the Academy were held in the Flagstaff House. A temporary office near the Ghana Law School was used for purely administrative work.
After the establishment of the Academy in 1959 a small working party was set up to consider possible members for fellowship. On the basis of their recommendations, the following twenty people were selected as foundation members: These were largely scholars from the country’s university colleges in Legon and Kumasi, but also included distinguished lawyers, judges, medical doctors, and research scientists:
- Hon. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Prime Minister of Ghana (Chairman)
- E.A. Boateng, Senior Lecturer in Geography, University College of Ghana (Secretary)
- Justice W.B. Van Lare, Justice of Appeal (Treasurer)
- Lady Barbara Jackson, Economist and Author
- Sir Arku Korsah, Chief Justice of Ghana
- J.B. Danquah, Barrister-at-Law
- R.H. Stoughton, Principal, University College of Ghana
- F.G.T. Torto, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, University College of Technology
- K. Twum-Barima, Head of the Faculty of Agriculture, Kumasi College of Technology
- R.W.H. Wright, Professor of Physics, University College of Ghana
- Geoffrey Bing, Attorney-General
- Silas Dodu, Physician Specialist, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare
- W.E. Duncanson, Principal, Kumasi College of Technology
- J.A. K. Quartey, Lecturer in Chemistry, University College of Ghana
- J. Lamb, Director, West African Cocoa Research Institute, Tafo
- Susan Ofori-Atta, Medical Officer, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare
- A.A. Kwapong, Lecturer in Classics, University College of Ghana
- A. Chapman, Headmaster, Achimota School, Achimota
- A.C. Ackah, Formerly Headmaster, Ghana College, Cape Coast
- J.H. Kwabena Nketia, Research Fellow, University College of Ghana
On the second anniversary of the Academy in 1961, the Academy’s name was changed from the Ghana Academy of Learning to the Ghana Academy of Sciences. This was in view of a feeling that the original name gave the mistaken impression of the Academy’s exclusive interest in the abstract pursuit of knowledge. The Duke of Edinburgh, whose office as President was about to expire, was appointed Patron and the first honorary fellow of the Academy, while Dr Kwame Nkrumah was appointed President as well as Chairman. The Academy’s first Honorary Secretary was Mr E. A. Boateng, then a senior lecturer in the Geography Department of the University College of Ghana, and the first treasurer was Mr Justice W. B. Van Lare, a Justice of the Appeal Court.
At the time of the Academy’s establishment, there already existed a National Research Council which was responsible for research of an applied nature related to national development. In 1963, it was decided that the Academy should absorb the National Research Council. This enabled the Academy to be responsible for the work of ten or so research institutes and four units and projects, which were formerly under the research council.
In 1966, after Dr Nkrumah was overthrown, the Academy underwent a thorough reappraisal. A committee, chaired by Sir John Cockcroft, a British physicist, was formed to review the role and structure of the Academy. The committee proposed that the Academy be split into two: (a) an Academy of Arts and Sciences operating as a strictly learned society, and (b) a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research concerned with applied research related to national needs. The addition of the word ‘Arts’ to the new name was intended to underline the fact that the Academy was concerned not only with the sciences, but also with the humanities and the fine arts.
The Academy today is strictly a learned society and performs essentially the same functions as those initially assigned in 1959.