Moments in Academy History

A Selection of Highlights from the History
of the National Academy of Sciences, 1863-2005

by Frederick Seitz

This work relates selected events in the history of the National Academy of Sciences focusing on the terms of the various presidents, from the first, Alexander D. Bache—the great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin—to the most recent, Ralph J. Cicerone. In its early days, the Academy was fostered by the Smithsonian Institution to support the cultivation of science in the United States. In its current state, the Academy can be regarded as an almost independent organization representative of the basic and applied sciences, including engineering, and medicine. Special attention is given to roles played by the Academy and Academy members in three great wars, as well as side developments made possible through wartime ventures and advances in technology.

Founding

The Academy's charter was introduced to Congress by the well-established Senator Henry Wilson from Massachusetts. It was passed by Congress and signed by President Lincoln in March of 1863, near the end of the second year following the start of the Civil War in April of 1861. The charter requested the members to serve the government on scientific and related technical problems without personal remuneration apart from out-of-pocket expenses such as cost of travel, housing accommodations and the like. It had no truly official home at the time, and in that sense was essentially a paper organization.

Terms of Presidents of the National Academy of Sciences
Featured in the Accompanying Historical Highlights

 Alexander Dallas Bache
1863-1867
 Joseph Henry
1868-1878
 William Barton Rogers
1879-1882
 Othniel Charles Marsh
1883-1895
 Wolcott Gibbs
1895-1900
 Alexander Agassiz
1901-1907
 Ira Remsen
1907-1913
             
       
 William Henry Welch
1913-1917
 Charles Doolittle Walcott
1917-1923
 Albert Abraham Michelson
1923-1927
 Thomas Hunt Morgan
1927-1931
 William Wallace Campbell
1931-1935
 Frank Rattray Lillie
1935-1939
 Frank Barton Jewett
1939-1947
             
       
Alfred Newton Richards
1947-1950
Detlev Wulf Bronk
1950-1962
Frederick Seitz
1962-1969
Philip Handler
1969-1981
Frank Press
1981-1993
Bruce Alberts
1993-2005
Ralph J. Cicerone
2005-present
             

Acknowledgements | Appendix A: Source of Photographs | Appendix B: Officers of the National Academy | Notes

A Selection of Highlights from the History of the National Academy of Sciences, 1863-2005 by Frederick Seitz, published by Rowman and Littlefield, appears by permission of the publisher. This material is protected by copyright.  All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher for permission to copy, distribute or reprint.

This book is also available for purchase online from Rowman and Littlefield.

Online publication of this material was made possible through the generous support of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation. 

 

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