Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and letters

The Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (Norwegian: Det Kongelige Norske Videnskabers Selskab, DKNVS) is a learned society based in Trondheim, Norway.


DKNVS was founded in 1760 by bishop of Nidaros Johan Ernst Gunnerus, headmaster at the Trondheim Cathedral School Gerhard Schøning and Councillor of State Peter Frederik Suhm under the name Det Trondhiemske Selskab (the Trondheim Society). From 1761 it published academic papers in a series titled Skrifter. It was the northernmost learned society in the world, and was established in a time when Norway did not have universities or colleges.[1][2]

It received the royal affirmation of its statutes on 17 July 1767,[3] and was given its present name at a ceremony on 29 January 1788, the king's birthday.[4] In 1771, when Johann Friedrich Struensee took over the de facto rule of Denmark-Norway, Johan Ernst Gunnerus was summoned to Copenhagen, where he was given the mission to establish a university in Norway. Gunnerus did not suggest that the university be established in Trondhjem, but in southern Christianssand (Kristiansand), due to its proximity to Jutland. If this happened, he would have the Society of Sciences and Letters moved to Christianssand, to correspond with the new university. However, the plan was never carried out. Struensee's reign ended in 1772, but he reportedly dismissed the plan before this.[1] (Kristiansand got its university in 2007.[5])

The society was housed in the premises of Trondheim Cathedral School until 1866, when it acquired its own localities.[4] Since 1903 its main task was to run a museum. In 1926 there was a split in which the museum became a separate entity, receiving the assets of the learned society. Also in 1926, another publication series Det Kongelige Norske Videnskabers Selskab Forhandlinger was inaugurated.[4] Ownership of the museum was transferred to the University of Trondheim in 1968,[6] today the Norwegian University of Science and Technology,[3] but DKNVS re-received some assets in a 1984 reorganization, and now controls these assets through the foundation DKNVSS.[6]

A history of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters was written in 1960 by Hans Midbøe, and released in two volumes.[7]


The board of directors consists of seven people, five men and two women. It is led by praeses Steinar Supphellen and vice-praeses Kristian Fossheim. Other board members are Hanna Mustaparta, Britt Dale, Ola Dale, Joar Grimsbu and Asbjørn Moen. The daily administration is led by a secretary-general; Kristian Overskaug.[8] The board is responsible for awarding the Gunnerus Medal[9] for academic achievement.[10] The medal was inaugurated in 1927.[3]

Before 1815, the sitting King held the title of praeses, while the highest-ranked non-royal member was vice praeses. In the tradition of Gunnerus the bishop, the latter post was filled by clerics until 1820, when Christian Krohg took the seat. From 1815 the King holds the title of "protector". Today King Harald V of Norway is protector of the society.[4]

Members of the learned society are divided into two divisions, Letters and Sciences. In 2005 there were 470 members, of whom 134 were foreign.[3] This is a marked increase from 1996, when it had 399 members, of whom 94 were foreign.[4]


The society awards the following prizes

1. The Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters annual prize for young researchers (funded by IK Lykkes Fund)

2. The Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters scientific annual prize

3. Gunnerus Sustainability Award

Heads of the society

This is a list of the heads of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters:[4]

Protector (praeses until 1815)
Praeses (vice praeses until 1815)


External links

  • Official website
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