The idea of founding an international association for exploring major concerns of humanity in a nongovernmental context grew out of many conversations that took place among leading scientists and intellectuals in the years following World War II. Prominent among this group were people such as Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer who had played a part in the development of the atomic bomb and were deeply concerned about how it and other scientific advances might be used – or misused.
This informal project took a major step forward in 1956, when a meeting – The First International Conference on Science and Human Welfare – was held in Washington, D. C. The organizers were two American scientists: Richard Montgomery Field of Princeton, who had worked for many years as chairman of an international committee on the social values of science; and John A. Fleming, former President of the International Council of Scientific Unions. At the end of the conference, participants agreed to take steps toward the formation of a World Academy, and elected an International Preparatory Committee for that purpose. Its members were: (from France) Pierre Chouard, George Laclavére and G. Le Lionnaise; (from the United Kingdom) Ritchie Calder, H. Munro Fox and Joseph Needham; and (from the United States) Robert Oppenheimer.
The Academy was formally founded (and its first officers elected) in 1960. They were: as President, Lord John Boyd Orr of Scotland; as Vice Presidents, Hermann Joseph Muller of the United States and Hugo Ostvald of Sweden; and, as Secretary General, Hugo Boyko of Israel. They published the following statement:
The appeal of the International Conference on Science and Human Welfare has been realized – THE WORLD ACADEMY OF ART AND SCIENCE has been established.
This urgently needed forum has been created for distinguished scientists and scholars to discuss the vital problems of mankind, independent of political boundaries or limits – whether spiritual or physical; a forum where these problems will be discussed objectively, scientifically, globally and free from vested interested or regional attachments.
The World Academy of Art and Science will function as an informal “world university” at the highest scientific and ethical level, in which deep human understanding and the fullest sense of responsibility will meet.
The structure of the Academy and its goal are laid down in the first volume of its publications, Science and the Future of Mankind, now in press.
The basic idea which led to the founding of the Academy stems from the following considerations:
This is the fundamental aim of the World Academy: to rediscover the language of mutual understanding. It will work in close collaboration with the institutions of the United Nations. It will look for the true enemies of peace, and try to fight them:
These enemies are hunger and sickness, waste and destruction; the archenemies intolerance and ignorance, resignation and fear.
In international meetings and conferences, represented by group or nation, the intrinsic merits of the questions discussed have too often to be subordinated to considerations of national prestige or group interests. The World Academy has no pre-established tasks to fulfill and no vested interests to serve. It is free to attack problems in the broad interests of mankind, and to seek solutions leading to hope, happiness and peace.
With the help of science and the support of all cultural and constructive forces of mankind, the World Academy will be able to dedicate itself to its objective – the aim of serving as an impartial and nonpolitical adviser, complementing other organizations, in this difficult transition period, and contributing in leading mankind to an era of true progress, true human welfare, and true happiness.
Supported by the confidence and trust of a great number of spiritual leaders of mankind, we herewith declare the World Academy of Art and Science founded.
For the Charter Members
December 24, 1960
This list contained the names of four Nobel Laureates (Lord Boyd Orr, Prof. Muller, Lord Russell, and Prof. Urey) as well as those of several men who had played leading roles in shaping the major postwar international organizations: Prof. Needham had been a co-founder of UNESCO, Lord Boyd Orr the first Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and Dr. Chisholm the first Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Also mentioned were the names of four “Posthumous Charter Members” – Albert Einstein, John A. Fleming, Sir Ian Clunies Ross and Homer Le Roy Schantz – who had died before they could sign the founding manifesto.