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The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a corporation in the United Statesmarker whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine."

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.



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, Massachusettsmarker (circa 1850s).

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 Smithsonianmarker.

Agassiz was to come to Washington at government 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."

During the last hours of the session, when the Senate was immersed in the rush of last minute business before its adjournment, Senator Wilson introduced the bill. Without examining it or debating its provisions, both the Senate and House approved it, and President Lincoln signed it.

Although hailed as a great step forward in government recognition of the role of science in American civilization, the National Academy of Sciences at the time created enormous ill-feelings among scientists, whether or not they were named as incorporators. Later, Agassiz admitted that they had “started on the wrong track.”

The Act states:

The National Academy did not solve the problems facing a nation in Civil War as the Lazzaroni had hoped, nor did it centralize American scientific efforts.

Recent history

As of spring 2009, the National Academy of Sciences included about 2,100 members and 380 foreign associates. It employed about 1,100 staff in 2005. The current members annually elect new members for life. Election to membership is one of the highest honors (however, not as high as a Nobel Prize) that can be accorded to a scientist and recognizes scientists who have made distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Nearly 200 members have won a Nobel Prize.

The National Academy of Sciences is a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU). The ICSU Advisory Committee, which is in the Research Council's Office of International Affairs, facilitates participation of members in international scientific unions and is a liaison for U.S. national committees for the individual scientific unions. Although there is no formal relationship with state and local academies of science, there often is informal dialogue.

The National Academy of Sciences meets annually in Washington, D.C.marker, documented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scholarly journal of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academies Press is the publisher for the National Academies, and makes 3600+ publications available for free reading on its website.

Presidents of the National Academy of Sciences

The President is the elected head of the Academy. An Academy member is elected by a majority vote of the membership to serve in this position for a term to be determined by the governing Council, not to exceed six years, and may be re-elected for a second term. The Academy has had twenty-one presidents since its foundation. The current president is atmospheric chemist, Ralph J. Cicerone of the University of California, Irvinemarker.


Joint declaration on global warming

In 2005 the national science academies of the G8 nations (including the National Academy of Sciences) plus science academies of Brazilmarker, Chinamarker and Indiamarker (three of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the developing world) signed a statement on the global response to climate change. The statement stresses that the scientific understanding of climate change had become sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action.


The Academy gives a number of different awards:

See also


External links

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