The tradition of making endowments to the Serbian Academy of Sciences and arts is very rich and can be traced back to the very beginnings of the Academy. The first endowment was created already in 1889 through a donation made by Jovan Marinković, “president of ministries, ambassador to foreign lands and honorary member of the Serbian Royal Academy.” The endowment bore the name of his son, Nikola. J. Marinković, and was established with the intention to award prizes for “exceptional poetic writings imbued with moral and patriotic sentiments, written in pure Serbian and characterized by their beautiful composition and content.” The following year the Endowment awarded the prize to the writers Lazar K. Lazarević and Simo Matavulj.
In 1913, the Academy had thirteen endowments and five funds. The financial means at their disposal represented a substantial source for funding the Academy’s activities. The period between the two World Wars saw endowment-making flourish in Serbia, as 46 of the existing 65 funds and endowments were established. The increase in the number of endowments testified to the Academy’s reputation in society, among its most diverse ranks. In addition to Academy members, the donors also included ministers, professors, lawyers, merchants, civil servants and peasants. Their donations were evidence of their trust in the work of the Academy and its goals for the future.
The majority of the donors bequeathed their property to the Academy wishing to assist it not only in its immediate work, but also in its goals and in financing and rewarding scientific and artistic work. Other objectives related to creating funds, foundations and endowments were to issue and award Academy publications, finance scientific research projects, award prizes in literature and help writers, award prizes for works published outside the Academy, erect schools and housing for teachers, award prizes to best pupils and students, erect monuments to prominent figures in the fields of science and art, promote various fields of science, etc.
Owing to economic crises, monetary and securities devaluations, and the nationalization of the immovable property of the foundations and endowments after World War II, many of them were left without the funds necessary to fulfill their objectives and therefore stopped operating. Currently active within the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts are five funds, two foundations and one endowment, but their number is expected to grow. The Academy has always nurtured deepest respect for endowment-making. For this reason and in order that the noble act of the donors may not fall into oblivion among the future generations, the names of all the Academy’s benefactors and endowment-makers since its foundation have been inscribed in the hall of the Academy Palace.