Skip to main content
Email Print Share

A Timeline of NSF History

NSF History by Decade: 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s


1960 - March 15: Kitt Peak National Observatory is dedicated.

1960 - June 20: NSF and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research sign a contract to launch the National Center for Atmospheric Research, an interdisciplinary, intellectual focal point, and research-planning and research-operations center, to ensure that the necessary tools and technology are available to the scientific community to understand the behavior of the atmosphere and the global environment.

1960 - September: The first permanent NSF office overseas is established in Tokyo.

1961 - March: The first deep-sea drilling operation is carried out as part of Project Mohole. Although this controversial program to explore deep into the earth's crust was eventually prematurely terminated, it laid the foundation for later, more successful drilling operations.

1962 - September: President John F. Kennedy designates NSF as the agency responsible for coordinating United States government involvement in the International Years of the Quiet Sun (IYQS). An outgrowth of the International Geophysical Year, IYQS is a cooperative effort of more than sixty nations to coordinate geophysical observations during 1964-1965.

1963 - July 1: Leland J. Haworth becomes the second director of NSF. (Haworth Biography)

1964 - July 1: The Division of Engineering is established, signaling the intent of NSF to provide more support for that field. Previously, engineering had been part of the Division of Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences.

1965 - November 19: In recognition of the increasing concerns about the deterioration of the environment, NSF creates a Division of Environmental Sciences to provide funding for research on the physical environment, including the impact of pollutants.

1966 - October 15: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Public Law 89-688, the National Sea Grant College and Program Act, which authorizes NSF to establish programs aiding in the development of the nation's marine resources.

1967 - April 14: President Johnson and Chilean President Eduardo Frei Montalva jointly announce that a four-meter telescope, jointly funded by NSF and the Ford Foundation, would be built at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. This is the first time the NSF and a major private American foundation have collaborated to fund a major scientific instrument.

1967 - October: The College Science Improvement Program is established to assist predominantly undergraduate institutions to upgrade their science teaching.

1968 - July 18: Public Law 90-407, legislation amending the NSF authorization act, is signed by President Johnson. Among other changes, this legislation explicitly authorizes support of applied research and the social sciences.

1969 - April 22: The Ecosystem Analysis Program is established to oversee awards in ecosystem ecology, including the International Biological Program, an effort to develop accurate predictions about the consequences of human or natural perturbations to the ecosystem.

1969 - July 14: William David McElroy becomes the third director of NSF. (McElroy Biography) There is controversy surrounding the naming of Haworth's successor because the first choice, Franklin Long, was rejected by President Richard M. Nixon because of Long's opposition to the Administrations' antiballistic missile system.

1969 - October 1: The Department of Defense transfers ownership of Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to NSF. The observatory was initially constructed with funds supplied to Cornell University by the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Return to Top