Founded in 1603 by Federico Cesi, it was the first academy of sciences to persist in Italy and a locus for the incipient scientific revolution. The academy was named after the lynx, an animal whose sharp vision symbolizes the observational prowess required by science. It was revived in the 1870s to become the national academy of Italy, encompassing both literature and science among its concerns.
In 1986, the Academy was placed under a statute that says it shall be composed of 540 members, of whom 180 are ordinary Italian members, 180 are foreigners, and 180 are Italian corresponding members. The members are divided into two classes: one for mathematical, physical, and natural sciences; the other for moral, historical, and philological sciences.
In 2001, the natural sciences were re-divided into five categories: mathematics, mechanics and applications; astronomy, geodesy, geophysics and applications; physics, chemistry and applications; geology, paleontology, mineralogy and applications; and biological sciences and applications. At the same time, the moral sciences were divided into seven categories: philology and linguistics; archeology; criticism of art and of poetry; history, historical geography, and anthropology; philosophical science; juridical science; social and political science.