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Today the fellowship comprises four categories: Honorary Fellows, Regularly Elected Fellows, Specially Elected Fellows and Foreign Fellows. The initial fellowship was selected by a committee headed by the Principal of McGill University, Sir John William Dawson, and by the former Premier of Quebec, Pierre J.O. Chauveau, who served respectively as the first two Presidents of the Society. This founding cohort of Fellows included Sir Sandford Fleming, the originator of the world system of Standard Time, and Sir William Osler, one of the greatest physicians of his day. Since 1882, new Fellows have been nominated and elected by their peers who are themselves Fellows of the Society. Over 3,700 scholars and artists have been inducted into to the fellowship over the past hundred and thirty years.

While the early fellowship was drawn primarily from Quebec and Ontario, since that time its geographic reach has expanded to include scholars and artists drawn from every region of Canada.

Approximately 20 per cent of the fellowship indicates French as their first language. Most Fellows hold, or have held, positions in Canadian universities, although many are primarily affiliated with research institutes, government agencies, or private sector laboratories and think tanks. Today the By-laws provide that up to 111 nominees may be elected each year. In addition to Regularly Elected Fellows, the Society also inducts up to seven Specially Elected Fellows per year for contributions to the objectives of the Society other than by scholarship and research.

Annually, the Society also elects up to four Foreign Fellows who, at the time of their election, are neither residents nor citizens of Canada and who, by their exceptionally distinguished intellectual accomplishments in the arts, humanities and sciences, have helped promote the object of the Society in ways that have clear relevance for Canadian society. Finally, the By-laws envisage the election by the Council of the Society of up to two Honorary Fellows upon recommendation of the President during each presidential term.


The RSC consists of three bilingual Academies embracing a broad range of scholarly disciplines and artistic fields.

The Academy of the Arts and Humanities
There are three Divisions of the Academy of the Arts and Humanities: an Anglophone Division (1) - Humanities; a Francophone division (2) - Lettres et sciences humaines; and a bilingual Division for the Arts (3) - embracing architecture, creative writing, and the arts.

The Academy of Social Sciences
There are two Divisions of the Academy of Social Sciences: an Anglophone Division (4) - Social Sciences; and a Francophone Division (5) - Sciences sociales.

The Academy of Science
There are five Divisions of The Academy of Science: Applied Sciences and Engineering (6); Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (7); Biological Sciences (8); Medical Sciences (9); and Mathematical and Physical Sciences (10). Each Division of Academy III comprises of both English-speaking and French-speaking Fellows.