On March 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Act creating the National Academy of Sciences. Throughout its history, the Academy has promoted excellence in science through the election of its members and original research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and has provided independent, authoritative advice on matters related to science, engineering, and medicine—leaving a lasting impact on science, the nation, and the world. This year, we celebrate our 150th anniversary with a range of activities that focus not only on the history of the NAS but also in large part on the story of science itself and its role in building and shaping our country and establishing its place in the world.
Editorial in PNAS by NAS President Ralph Cicerone
On the occasion of the Academy's 150th anniversary, NAS President Ralph Cicerone discusses the missions and work of the Academy and not only its historical significance but also its value in the future. Read this editorial online, that was featured in the March 19 print edition of PNAS. PNAS Editorial »
More Anniversary Highlights »
The Founding of the Academy: March 3, 1863
Despite the contentious times in which they lived, President Lincoln and Congressional leaders recognized the value of science and the importance of an independent, nonprofit organization that could advise the government on scientific and technical matters. Learn more about the events that led to the formation of a science academy for America and the leaders that made it possible. Read More »
Image: This 1924 mural by Albert Herter imagines a scene with President Abraham Lincoln signing the National Academy of Sciences charter in the presence of its founders on March 3, 1863. The mural hangs in the Academy's Board Room.
Featured Video: Murray Gell-Mann
on beauty and truth in physics
Murray Gell-Mann brings visibility to a crucial aspect of our existence that we can't actually see: elemental particles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics for introducing quarks, one of two fundamental ingredients for all matter in the universe. Dr. Gell-Mann was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1960; he was 30 years old.
PNAS Classic: Barbara McClintock
and the discovery of jumping genes
For much of the 20th century, genes were considered to be stable entities arranged in an orderly linear pattern on chromosomes, like beads on a string. In the late 1940s, Barbara McClintock challenged existing concepts of what genes were capable of when she discovered that some genes could be mobile. Her studies of chromosome breakage in maize led her to discover a chromosome-breaking locus that could change its position within a chromosome. McClintock went on to discover other such mobile elements, now known as transposons. She also found that depending on where they inserted into a chromosome these mobile elements could reversibly alter the expression of other genes. She summarized her data on the first transposable elements she discovered, Ac and Ds, in a 1950 PNAS Classic Article, “The origin and behavior of mutable loci in maize.” Image: Barbara McClintock at her laboratory desk, 1971. Photo by Ross Meuer. Courtesy of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Archives.
Climate Change: Information and resources
from the Academies
The risks posed by climate change indicate a pressing need for action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare for adapting to its impacts. A website from the Academies provides links to reports, videos, and other resources.
National Academies Press:
More than 4,000 titles available online
The National Academies Press (NAP) publishes the reports of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council. NAP publishes more than 200 books each year on a wide range of topics in science, engineering, and medicine, providing authoritative information on important matters in science and health policy. NAP offers more than 4,000 titles online as PDFs, which may be downloaded in full or by chapter.
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- Browse Special Collections
Discover the best collections of books that the National Academies Press has to offer in selected subject areas. Handpicked by NAP staff, these are the most current and relevant resources. Search inside each book or search across all the titles in each collection to learn more about key issues in science, engineering and medicine.