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Alexander Agassiz served as President of the National Academy of Sciences from 1901 to 1907. He graduated from Harvard in 1855 and studied engineering and natural history at the Lawrence Scientific School at the same institution. Fascinated with natural history, he chartered many oceanographic and zoological expeditions, making important contributions to systematic zoology especially in the field of echinoderms. In addition, he helped to develop a copper mine in Calumet, Michigan and became the president of the Calumet Mining Company.
During his presidency of the National Academy of Sciences he worked to improve relations between the government and the Academy, rather than promote science within the government. In 1875, with the recommendation of the Academy, the U.S. joined the International Bureau of Weights. There was also expansion within the Academy with the incorporation of non-traditional disciplines and increased international cooperation.