United States National Academy of Sciences

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The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

The National Academy of Sciences is part of the National Academies, which also includes:

The group holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code.

Contents

Overview

Origin

The Act of Incorporation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1863, created the National Academy of Sciences and named 50 charter members. Many of the original NAS came from the so-called Scientific Lazzaroni, an informal network of mostly physical scientists working in the vicinity of Cambridge, Massachusetts (circa 1850s).[1]

In 1863, enlisting the support of Alexander Dallas Bache and Charles Henry Davis, a professional astronomer recently recalled from the Navy to Washington to head the Bureau of Navigation, Louis Agassiz and Benjamin Peirce planned the steps whereby the National Academy of Sciences was to be established. Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts was to name Agassiz to the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian.

Agassiz was to come to Washington at the government's expense to plan the organization with the others. So it was done, bypassing Joseph Henry, who had already made known his reluctance to have a bill for such an academy presented to Congress in the belief that such a resolution would be "opposed as something at variance with our democratic institutions;" (Henry nevertheless soon became the second NAS President). Agassiz, Davis, Peirce, Benjamin Gould, and Senator Wilson met at Bache's house and "hurriedly wrote the bill incorporating the Academy, including in it the name of fifty incorporators."[2]

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