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History of the National Academies
 

The National Academy of Sciences was born in the travail of the Civil War. The Act of Incorporation, signed by President Lincoln on March 3, 1863, established service to the nation as its dominant purpose. The act also named 50 charter members.

Over the years, the National Academy of Sciences has broadened its services to the government. During World War I it became apparent that the limited membership -- then numbering only about 150 -- could not keep up with the volume of requests for advice regarding military preparedness. In 1916 the Academy established the National Research Council at the request of President Wilson to recruit specialists from the larger scientific and technological communities to participate in that work.

Recognizing the value of scientific advice to the nation in times of peace as well as war, Wilson issued an executive order at the close of World War I asking the Academy of perpetuate the National Research Council. Subsequent executive orders, by President Eisenhower in 1956 and President Bush in 1993, have affirmed the importance of the National Research Council and further broadened its charter.

Under the authority of its charter, the National Academy of Sciences established the National Academy of Engineering in 1964 and the Institute of Medicine in 1970, which became the National Academy of Medicine in 2015. Much like the National Academy of Sciences, each of these organizations consists of members elected by peers in recognition of distinguished achievement in their respective fields. The National Academy of Sciences includes about 2,100 members, the National Academy of Engineering about 2,000, and the National Academy of Medicine about 1,600. All three organizations also elect foreign associates.
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