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The establishment of a national academy of learning had been a subject of interest and discussion in Wales for some years prior to the establishment of The Learned Society of Wales in May 2010.  During the 1990s, a number of senior academics in some of the Welsh universities began raising awareness of the issue and considering proposals for an organisation that could be described as an “intellectual powerhouse” for Wales.  In March 2000, a meeting of some potential members of a Welsh Society was convened.  These included Fellows of the Royal Society, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  There was broad support for establishing a Learned or “Royal” Society for Wales and, in April 2000, the matter was raised with the then First Minister, Rhodri Morgan.  He indicated that “the establishment of a diverse and representative Royal Society for Wales would not be unwelcome”.  Despite this positive initial reception, however, for a variety of reasons no further progress made at that time.

The idea lay dormant until 2008, when it was revived in a wholly spontaneous and voluntary initiative on the part of a group of independent scholars, representing the major academic disciplines.  These scholars established themselves into a Shadow Council for what they decided should become The Learned Society of Wales.  It was decided that the Society should be organised into two main academic sections, one for Science, Technology and Medicine (chaired by Sir John Cadogan CBE DSc FRSE FRSC PLSW FRS) and one for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (chaired by Professor M Wynn Thomas OBE FLSW FBA).

The Shadow Council assumed a path-finding role and, during 2009, identified further scholars of high calibre (almost all of whom were Fellows of the Royal Society or of the British Academy) who, along with the original group became the Society’s Founding Fellows.  Since then the Founding Fellows have worked to establish the Learned Society of Wales on a more formal basis and to enable it to take its place among other national societies and academies.  Sir John Cadogan was elected to be the Society’s Inaugural President in February 2010 and, on 18 May of that year, with the support of the Welsh Assembly Government, the Society was incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee.  The Society was formally launched on 25 May 2010.

The incorporation and Launch are the starting point for a thematic programme of events and activities that will enable the Society to take its place in Welsh and British and world intellectual endeavour.