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Miller simulates origin of life from inert chemicals NSB Chair Barnard - NSF Director Waterman
The National Science Board - A History in Highlights, 1950-2000
Table of Contents | Preface | Acknowledgements | Former Members | Exec Secretaries/Officers | Timeline

A Political Director?

It was an imposing group that gathered at the White House on December 12, 1950. Though President Truman had not yet arrived, Steelman opened the meeting. Board members elected Conant as chairman and Charles Dollard of Carnegie Corporation of New York as vice chairman. The NSF Act mandated an executive committee, of which Detlev W. Bronk was elected chairman. Bronk, a biologist, was president of Johns Hopkins University and of the National Academy of Sciences.

Members at this first meeting had heard rumors that Truman had offered the post of the Foundation's Director to someone they considered less than qualified for the job: Frank P. Graham, a lame-duck U.S. Senator and former history professor. According to later accounts, Truman showed up and asked what they had been talking about. Someone replied that they'd been wondering what qualifications Truman thought were appropriate for the Foundation's Director.

Truman answered, "There's only one criterion. He must get along with me." Thus continued the tension of how much the White House would control a Foundation explicitly endowed by Congress with its own independent governing Board.

By law, the President was required to seek the Board's advice before making a formal nomination. Board protests eventually caused Graham to withdraw from consideration. At the Board's fourth meeting in March 1951, a telegram from Truman announced he would nominate Alan T. Waterman, former Yale physicist and chief scientist of the ONR, as Director. Waterman had been on the Board's list of candidates for Director, and his nomination was greeted "with audible relief " by the members.

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