|Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Jacques Cousteau|
Michael Edwards is the first "immortal" - as the academy's 40 members are known – to be born in Britain and whose first language is English since Cardinal Richelieu, chief minister to King Louis XIII, founded the body in 1635.
Its aim was to "fix the French language, giving it rules, rendering it pure and comprehensible by all".
Former luminaries include Voltaire, Victor Hugo, the undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau, and the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. Present members include the former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and the former president of the European Parliament, Simone Veil.
A much-admired poet in both the French and English languages, Mr Edwards is a professor at the Collège de France, France's most prestigious academic institution.
A series of lectures he gave on "the genius of English poetry" was just re-broadcast on France Culture, the country's high-brow arts radio station.
A former holder of the chairs of English and French at Warwick University, he has lectured and written on Shakespeare in French and on Racine in English. He is married to a Frenchwoman and holds dual nationality.
This was his third attempt to join the immortals after two near misses as the famously finicky members failed to reach a majority. It would have been his last, as new membership rules bar new entrants over the age of 75, in an apparent attempt to spruce up what is sometimes mockingly called the world's most select old people's club.
Before his second, attempt, Mr Edwards had said: "To be elected would be the ultimate honour". "It would be the last tick in the box to prove that, after all these years, I have been accepted as being French, even though I may remain very proud to be British," he said.
Membership is for life - unless it is revoked for misconduct - and new members only elected when a post is freed up by a death of their predecessor.
Members are expected to wear the official uniform of the "académicien" - a green habit, with a long black coat and black-feathered cocked hat embroidered with golden-green leafy motifs, together with black trousers.
To sit beneath the gilded dome of the Institut de France on the Left Bank, he beat five French candidates, including the former head of French state radio, for seat number 31, formerly occupied by French writer Jean Dutourd.
The academy is famous for its tireless battle against "Anglo-Saxon" invasions of French, offering Gallic equivalents to Anglicisms, such as courriel instead of email.
Mr Edwards agrees wholeheartedly with its mission.
He recently told The Independent: "This is a moment of crisis for French and it makes sense, I believe, for the academy to choose someone who comes from, as it were, the opposite camp but has become a champion of the special importance and beauty of the French language."
He believes defending the French language is about preserving intellectual diversity, which is akin to preserving ecological diversity.
He said: "French philosophers and scientists are increasingly writing in English in order to be published worldwide. But if they write in English, they will cease to think in the characteristic way the French think. A whole treasure of the mind will be lost."