The National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.
The Academy is the American equivalent of the Royal Society of London; that is, it consists of a relatively small number of scientists of established reputation. Election to the Academy is a signal honour and rarely takes place before the age of fifty years. It follows that many able and active scientists do not belong to the Academy, and, to this extent, it is not representative of American science as, a whole.
“The Academy was originally set up by Congress more than eighty years ago, to be the official adviser to Government in matters of science, to provide machinery which would assure to Government at all times the best that American science and technology had to give, and to provide a completely unbiased and uninfluenced source of information whenever needed by Government. That was the basis on which the Academy was incorporated by Congress in 1863, and it served until the time of World War I substantially as it was intended, that is, wholly as an Academy.”1
As a result of the growth of science and technology, the Academy created a National Research Council, “not only to supplement and strengthen the Academy in its advice to Government, but… to assist American science and technology in all fields… to the full fruition of the nation's capacities.”2 The Council has a broader mandate than the academy, of which it is the principal operating agency, and its function is broadly, “to stimulate research in the mathematical, physical, and biological sciences to formulate comprehensive projects of research; and to promote active co-operation in research.”3
The Academy, with its unique foster-child, is superbly housed on the magnificent Constitution Avenue overlooking Potomac Park and the beautiful Lincoln Memorial.4
[Footnote] 1 Dr. Frank B. Jewett, President, National Academy of Sciences, Bull. Nat. Research Council, No. 114 (Sept., 1946), pp. 1–2.
[Footnote] 2 Ibid., p. 2.
[Footnote] 3 Ross G. Harrison, Chairman, National Research Council, ibid., p. 4.
[Footnote] 4 It is surely time that the Royal Society of New Zealand should be housed in a manner, and with resources, adequate to the rôle it should play in the scientific and cultural life of the Dominion.