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News Release 10-074

National Science Foundation Commemorates 60th Anniversary

Activities and video project highlight the agency's past accomplishments and future directions

National Science Foundation 60th anniversary logo

President Truman signed the law creating the National Science Foundation on May 10, 1950.

May 4, 2010

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation began its commemoration of its 60th anniversary today with a special presentation of anniversary-related activities and multimedia projects to the National Science Board. The activities highlight NSF's 60 years of service to the nation while looking forward to the scientific and technological challenges that still lie ahead.

On May 10, 1950, in a private train car stopped in Pocatello, Idaho, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Science Foundation Act formally into law, creating the National Science Foundation and its guiding body, the National Science Board. Created as an independent government agency that funds basic research in all fields of science and engineering, NSF support soon became a part of countless scientific innovations and the work of 187 Nobel Prize recipients.

"The occasion of NSF's 60th anniversary is an opportunity to take a brief moment from our current day-to-day projects and reflect on what we've accomplished and what lies ahead," said NSF Director Arden L. Bement.

Each year, NSF receives over 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. The agency's funding reaches all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. NSF is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly. Although the agency's workforce totals about 1,700, it's estimated that more than 200,000 people, including academic and small business researchers, graduate students and teachers at all levels, are involved in NSF programs and activities nationwide.

Among the items presented to the NSB in honor of the 60th anniversary was a collection of 60 important discoveries and innovations that NSF played a crucial role in creating. The so-called "Sensational 60" covers a wide range of scientific disciplines and specialties, and includes technologies such as functional MRI scanners in hospitals and the Google search engine, as well as research areas such as the theory of dark matter and efforts to understand what happened the moments after the big bang. All of the Sensational 60 items are described at a new website.

Other anniversary materials available online include a special report on the agency's history, complete with an interactive timeline. The agency has also produced an interactive feature which includes video interviews with several of the agency's past directors on the agency's future mission and challenges.

In his formal budget request to Congress this past February, President Obama laid out some of those future challenges, including transforming our nation's energy systems, improving scientific education and training and understanding global climate change.

"We have made many contributions to the pursuit of scientific discovery and to America's social and economic well being," Bement stated, "and we look forward to our continuing work advancing and supporting creative ideas and innovative approaches to research and learning."


Media Contacts
Dana W. Cruikshank, NSF, (703) 292-7738, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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