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The National Science Board - A History in Highlights, 1950-2000
Table of Contents | Preface | Acknowledgements | Former Members | Exec Secretaries/Officers | Timeline

THE 1950'S


When World War II ended in September 1945, scientists in the United States were regarded with respect and awe for the seeming miracles-penicillin, radar, the just-revealed atomic bomb-that transformed civilization. Senior scientists and engineers who had managed wartime research called for a new agency to make federal patronage of research permanent. The Truman Administration agreed that the United States needed new knowledge to meet the mortal challenge of the new Cold War.

Beakers But the hoped-for single science agency never developed. By the time the National Science Foundation (NSF) came into being with the first National Science Board meeting in December 1950, the government had other important research sponsors, notably the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). In the 1950s, the Foundation grew cautiously in the shadow of larger research agencies; Board and Director sidestepped the national policy role assigned to them by law. By 1957, when the Sputnik crisis convinced Americans that the Soviets were winning the Cold War, the Foundation had gained enough stature to warrant a major expansion.

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