The 18th century was a time when significant interest was held in different forms of sciences, in Sweden as well as in most other European countries. During that century a number of academies outside the universities were formed to further the sciences. While universities mainly devoted themselves to classical education the academies endeavoured to encourage the sciences more linked to promoting the development of society and commerce.
The Royal Academy of Sciences was founded in 1739, thereby introducing an era when Swedish scientists achieved leading positions within different fields of science in Europe. Within its charter The Royal Academy of Science encompassed a number of fields related to the military and the navy. For example, we can study theses written during the 1740s dealing with the use of gunpowder, mortars, shipyards and the navy. When Admiral Augustin Ehrensvärd, who was President of the Royal Academy of Sciences, stood down as President in September 1743, he emphasised that it was “high time for the Academy to think about the endeavours of war.” He specifically emphasized the importance of the mathematical sciences for furthering the art of war. A more scientific approach had had an impact on the art of war as early as in the 17th century – first and foremost as regards artillery and fortifications where mathematics and physics were given a prime role.
The predecessor of today’s Royal Academy of War Sciences, the Society of the Swedish Military, was founded on 12 November 1796. The initiator was the then Army Captain, later Lieutenant General, G W af Tibell, who, together with a few at the “Royal War Academy at Carlberg serving Officers and Lectors” founded the Society. The aim of the society was to create a forum for developing and spreading knowledge about the sciences of importance for the development of the art of war as regards land warfare and to stimulate the officers to further themselves in these matters. From the start, the Society consisted of four departments; the departments of tactics, artillery, fortification and mathematics. In 1804 the Society established a department of naval affairs, thus the remit of the Academy encompassed all branches of defence.
On 2 May 1805, “King Gustavus Adolphus IV graciously bestowed upon the Society the name of The Royal Academy of War Sciences.” The Academy held a strong position in the Swedish society of those days. Proof of this is that the Duke of Södermanland Karl (later King Karl XIII) in connection with the revolution of 1809 in a letter to the Academy required of the Academy and its Members loyalty and obedience to his person. Since 2 May 1805, the King is the patron of the Academy.
Over the years, the Academy has played a varying role in the Swedish defence community. The development since the first meetings of the Society of the Swedish Military to the firm position of the Royal Academy of War Sciences encompasses a number of important events and circumstances. The first two decades were crucial. The Society, and, subsequently, the Academy experienced two periods of crisis; the first at the turn of the century 1800, the second during the war of 1808-1809. Karl Johan XIV devoted a great interest in the Academy and made a number of arrangements during his reign (1818–1844) to support and develop the Academy. Since then, the Medals of the Academy bear his portrait.
Among its Members the Academy has, over the years, counted high-ranking military and naval officers as well as civilians who have all had, and have, a great impact on the development and administration of Swedish society. Civilian members have often been politicians and scientists and later also leading representatives of industry and commerce. There are a number of historically well-known persons in the Member List who have served in the Academy as Presidents, Secretaries, Editors or debaters. Persons from other countries are from time to time called upon as members of the Academy.
Over time, the Royal Academy of War Sciences has been a forum for studying and debating questions of importance to the defence and the security of the realm. The Academy has always been at pains to convey information on the development of the defence of Sweden.