In 1973, the Academy instituted the office of “president” – an individual who would link the Academy’s two divisions and serve as its figurehead.
All of science and scholarship
The Academy has long consisted of two divisions: members belong either to the Humanities and Social Sciences Division or the Science Division. Together, the two divisions cover all of science and scholarship:
- The Humanities and Social Sciences Division covers linguistics and literature, the humanities, law, history, behavioural sciences and social sciences.
- The Science Division covers mathematics and physics, life sciences and technical sciences.
The two divisions have always operated independently of each other (except during the annual Joint Meeting or in the event of cross-disciplinary theme meetings); each has its own chairperson.
Mediator and figurehead
Hendrik Casimir, a renowned physicist and for many years the director of the Philips Physics Laboratory, became the Academy’s first president in 1973. Casimir had gained fame for predicting in 1948 that two uncharged metallic plates placed a few micrometers apart in a vacuum would nevertheless be attracted to each other, based on quantum field theory. The Casimir effect was later demonstrated experimentally.
The office of president
The president of the Academy serves a three-year term and is appointed alternately from the ranks of the Humanities and Social Sciences Division and the Science Division. The current president is geneticist and physician Hans Clevers. He succeeded physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf, who served from 2008 to 2012.