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A Timeline of NSF History

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


1980 - January 14: "3-2-1 Contact" premiers. Funded as part of NSF's Public Understanding of Science program, "3-2-1 Contact" made science and mathematics interesting to middle-school students, especially targeting girls and minorities.

1980 - September 23: John B. Slaughter confirmed by the Senate as director of NSF. (Slaughter biography)

1981 - January 29: NSF announces the establishment of CSNET, a computer-based communications network and a major step along the path to the Internet. (NSFNET Special Report)

1981 - March 8: In a major reorganization, NSF establishes a directorate for engineering, giving new emphasis to engineering research.

1981 - March 10: President Ronald Reagan's Fiscal Year 1982 budget includes major reductions for education funding for NSF. As a result, all funding except for graduate fellowships are discontinued.

1982 - June 21: NSF-funded researchers announce the discovery of the oldest known hominids. The approximately 4-million-year-old specimens were of Australopithecus afarensis, whose best known member is "Lucy."

1982 - November 3: Edward A. Knapp becomes director of NSF. (Knapp biography)

1983 - October 19: The first Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching (PAESMT) are presented in a White House ceremony. NSF worked with the Department of Education in the selection of these outstanding teachers from across the country.

1984 - April: NSF issues a program announcement for Engineering Research Centers (ERCs), university-based, cross-disciplinary research centers that combine innovative research, relevant engineering education and supportive links to industry. The ERCs become showcases of interdisciplinary research which is responsive to national needs.

1984 - August 6: Erich Bloch confirmed by the Senate as director of NSF. (Bloch biography)

1984 - September: NSF issues a program announcement to encourage collaborative research between chemists and biologists, focusing on the chemistry of life.

1984 - November 5: In a special effort to encourage the development of new instrumentation for interdisciplinary research, NSF provides over $700,000 in grants for the development of concepts or prototypes.

1985 - February 25: NSF announces funding for National Advanced Scientific Computing Centers.

1986 - December 1: NSF announces a new program, Research Experiences for Undergraduates, to enhance undergraduate research experiences and ensure an adequate supply of scientists and engineers for the future.

1987 - January 2: To augment biotechnological research, NSF announces the Biological Centers program, which will support the revolution in the life sciences that is resulting in commercial products.

1987 - January 29: A major effort is launched to upgrade science education in grades kindergarten through twelve.

1987 - June 25: The Science and Technology Centers program, an effort to encourage technological transfer and innovative approaches to interdisciplinary problems, while supporting basic research and education, is established.

1987 - November 24: NSF announces the awarding of the NSFNET Cooperative Agreement to Merit, IBM and MCI. With additional support from the State of Michigan, the cooperative agreement will result in the building of a new, high-speed NSFNET backbone, the foundation for the INTERNET.

1988 - September 1: NSF provides almost $6 million to improve agriculturally important plants through genetic research. This award is part of a cooperative program involving NSF, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Energy, to encourage research in plant science.

1988 - October 31: President Reagan signs the NSF Authorization Act of 1988, thereby authorizing the doubling of the NSF budget over the next five years.

1989 - June 1: Jaime Escalante, the Los Angeles high school math teacher whose pioneering efforts to get inner-city minority students interested in mathematics and science was the subject of the feature film Stand and Deliver, receives NSF support to expand his work. In 1987, NSF provided funding for the public television version of the film.

1989 - August 14: To encourage potentially transformative or multidisciplinary research, and to provide a mechanism for funding urgent research, NSF establishes Small Grants for Exploratory Research.