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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 quest for new frontiers over the last half of the 20th century has increased our Nation's prosperity, created vast new areas of economic activity, and improved the quality of our lives. The systematic pursuit and exploitation of new knowledge, through small steps and transcendent leaps, has built a solid foundation for the future. Through its stewardship of the National Science Foundation and its advice to the President and Congress on science and engineering policy, the National Science Board has been a vital contributor to the astounding progress in science and technology we have witnessed during the past 50 years.

The Board was established by an Act of Congress in 1950 to serve as the independent governing board of the National Science Foundation. The framers of the 1950 Act insisted that the Foundation be run by those who understood science firsthand. The National Science Board consists of twenty-four men and women and the Director of the National Science Foundation-eminent scientists, engineers, and educators -who guide the work of the government's fundamental science and engineering research agency. This diverse, rotating cast of members from large and small academic institutions, various disciplines and regions of the country, foundations, and private industry provide their time and expertise to ensure that America's investment in the future remains strong.

On the occasion of the National Science Board's fiftieth anniversary, we celebrate an institution that has helped chart a course toward and through some of the world's most challenging advances in knowledge. This brochure, a "history in highlights," offers snapshots of key moments chosen for their national impact and for the insight they provide on the values and principles that guide the inner workings of the Board in its governance of the National Science Foundation and in its national policy role.

The relationship between the Board and the Foundation is distinct among government research agencies. Indeed, the Board's second Chair, Chester Barnard, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, used to refer to the Board as "this peculiar organization." The singular partnership between the Board and the Foundation has been largely responsible for creating in the United States what is the world's most vibrant and fruitful research environment.

If in the 20th century science and technology moved toward center stage, in the 21st century they will command it. Our quality of life will depend in large measure on our Nation's ability to generate new wealth, safeguard the health of our planet, and create opportunities for enlightenment and individual development. The contributions of research and education in science and engineering make possible advances in all these areas.

As we embark on a new century where research has become global and the need for cooperation and innovation has never been greater, we pause to remember the many distinguished men and women who have contributed so much to the Board's and Foundation's success and honor their work. We hope these highlights from the history of the National Science Board illuminate not just where science has been, but also the principles of excellence, independence, and public service that will enable us to meet the grand challenges ahead.

Eamon M. Kelly, Chair
National Science Board

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