Academy of Sciences - National Research Council
National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was the first of the National Academies
to be established. The
1863 session of Congress directed that "the Academy shall,
whenever called upon by any department of the Government,
investigate, examine, experiment, and report on any subject of
science or art…"
first request to come before the newly formed NAS was from Salmon
P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, who asked for a study on the
"uniformity of weights, measures, and coins, considered in
relation to domestic and international commerce."
An important recommendation among the findings of the
committee was the consensus that the United States should adopt
the metric system of weights and measures.
of the next three requests dealt with the capabilities of the
Union Naval Fleet. The
Academy was called to study; (1) ways to protect the bottoms of
its "new" iron-hulled ships from corrosion and other
salt water damage and (2) ways to compensate for the magnetic
compass deviation caused by the "new" iron ships. While the state of technology
did not allow a conclusive solution to salt water corrosion,
sixteen months after the request, the Committee oversaw the
compensation of compasses on twenty-seven Union ships.
the last half of the 20th century, the National Academy of
Sciences was a key player in the U.S. space
race, eventually resulting in the first American satellite,
Explorer I, on 31 January 1958.
This was only thirty months after the Eisenhower
Administration announced the U.S. goal of placing a satellite into
Earth orbit during the proclaimed International Geophysical Year (IGY),
a period from July 1957 through December 1958.
One member of the NAS Technical Panel on the Earth
Satellite Program was James Van Allen of the University of
Iowa. Data from this satellite led to the most important IGY discovery
-- the belts of radiation that encircle the Earth,
subsequently named the Van Allen Belts.
the years, the NAS has undertaken numerous tasks and projects, but
since 1916, the activities of the NAS have been directed by its
operating arm, the National Research Council.
National Research Council (NRC) carries out most of the studies
done by the NAS as well as the National Academy of Engineering (NAE)
and the Institute of Medicine (IOM).
The NRC "guides the acceptance of subjects for study
by the institution, their examination by a committee of
volunteers, and institutional review and approval of the
committee's report". The
basic mission of the NRC is to provide most of the service
undertaken by the NAS and NAE. Issues
relating to public health are addressed by the Institute of
The NRC subjects all work, from project proposals to finished products,
critical review by a body of peers highly knowledgeable in the
subject matter." This
prevents the committee from taking a narrow view of a problem or
failing to fully consider or properly document data pertinent to
the issue. The NRC
directs most of its programs through the following Divisions:
and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE)
and Life Studies (DELS)
and Physical Sciences (DEPS)
and Global Affairs (PGA)
of Medicine (IOM)
Research Board (TRB)
and wastewater professionals will find recently
completed and in-process projects by the Division of Earth and
Life Studies (DELS) particularly interesting. Among the many recent
studies coming from this board is the published report WATERSHED MANAGEMENT FOR POTABLE WATER SUPPLY,
ASSESSING THE NEW YORK CITY STRATEGY. In order to browse comprehensive information available from the National Academies,
including the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of
Engineering, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research
Council, use the following hyperlink