The Académie française (French Academy) is a learned body founded in 1570, when King Charles IX granted the charter of an "academy of Music and Poetry" to the poet Antoine de Baïf and a musician named Gourville, who named it the Académie française. The Académie functioned informally until February 10, 1635, when Armand-Jean Cardinal Richelieu (minister of Louis XIII) formalised it into a national academy for the literati, and limited the number of its members. In anticipation of this most of the first members were named during 1634.
The Académie is the French official authority on the usages, vocabulary, and grammar of the French language, although its recommendations carry no legal power and are sometimes disregarded even by governmental authorities. It also encourages the use of French worldwide and awards literary prizes.
As French culture and language have come under increasing pressure with the widespread availability of English media, the Académie has tried to prevent the anglicisation of the French language. It is as a direct result of a decision of the Académie that the French word for "computer" is "ordinateur" and that the field of study dealing with computers is known as "informatique."
The Académie has forty seats, and all members are elected to a specific seat for life. They are known as the immortels (immortals) because of the device, À l'immortalité appearing on the seal granted to the Académie by Cardinal Richelieu. Famous current and former immortels include author Victor Hugo, author and director Marcel Pagnol, poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, playwright Eugène Ionesco, anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, and physicist Louis-Victor de Broglie.
The Académie is charged with publishing an official dictionary of the French language. It has done so in 1694, 1718, 1740, 1762, 1798, 1835, 1878, and in 1932-1935. The Académie continues work on the most recent (ninth) edition of the dictionary, of which the first volume (A to Enzyme) appeared in 1992, and the second volume (Éocène to Mappemonde) appeared in 2000.
Current members of the Académie française
Listed by seat
Members listed historically by seat
(this section is under construction)