The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters (Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab) was founded in Copenhagen on 13 November 1742 by King Christian VI when the King assembled a group of experts to catalogue his collection of medals. From this rather narrow field of interest, The Royal Academy soon covered antiquities more generally, as well as mathematics, physics, and natural history. Today it embraces all branches of science and scholarship and has about 250 national and 250 international members.

In 1745, The Royal Academy produced its first publication and has continued its publishing activities without interruption ever since. In 1761, The Royal Academy initiated a complete survey of Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein by the method of triangulation, resulting in 24 accurate maps of the region. During this time, The Royal Academy convened in offices provided by the king and adopted its first charter in 1776. From 1838 onwards the Academy met in buildings in Copenhagen that are now home to the National Museum of Denmark. In 1866 the Academy was reorganized into two classes, with mathematics and natural sciences in one class and humanities and social sciences in the other, but to this day they continue to hold joint meetings. Biweekly throughout each semester, the members will meet and listen to lectures from both classes. 

In 1899, The Royal Academy and The Carlsberg Foundation moved into shared headquarters in a neo-renaissance mansion designed by Vilhelm Petersen on Dantes Plads in central Copenhagen.

The Royal Academy was created with the purpose, as stated in article 1 of the charter: “of strengthening the position of science in Denmark, in particular promoting basic scientific research and interdisciplinary understanding. These objectives are to be achieved through meetings, the publication of scientific papers, advisory activities, and communication, as well as by participating in international cooperation”.

Today, The Royal Academy also organizes many public lectures with local scientists and prominent international researchers within the natural sciences as well as the humanities and social sciences, and The Royal Academy also conducts and houses many symposiums.