The Royal Irish Academy is Ireland’s premier learned body.
It was founded in 1785 by James Caulfield, who was the First Earl of Charlemont, and who was its first president. This year the Royal Irish Academy is 230 years old. Its royal charter, which was granted in 1786, declared its aims to be the promotion and investigation of the sciences, polite literature, and antiquities, as well as the encouragement of discussion and debate between scholars of diverse backgrounds and interests.
The early Academy was concerned with providing an opportunity for the development of antiquarian studies. It was the first Irish society which successfully balanced the requirements of the sciences and the humanities.
From the outset, the Academy’s Council was composed of eleven members who represented the scientific disciplines and ten members who represented the humanities, led by a president.
The presidency rotates between a representative of the sciences and of the humanities on a three-yearly basis. At the annual general meeting, members elect the president, officers and members of the Council who oversee the Academy’s business.
In March 2014, Professor Mary Daly was elected as the first female President of the Royal Irish Academy. She is the 55th President in its 230-year history. Professor Daly is one of Ireland’s most prominent senior historians and is a member of the Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations. She is emeritus professor of history at UCD and served for seven years as Principal of UCD College of Arts and Celtic Studies; she has also held visiting positions at Harvard and Boston College.