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The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a private, non-profit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. The National Academy of Sciences was chartered by Congress in 1863 as an honorific society. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters.
Members and foreign associates of the Academy are elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research; election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer. The Academy membership is comprised of approximately 2,000 members and 300 foreign associates, of whom more than 180 have won Nobel Prizes.
The Academy is governed by a Council comprised of twelve members (councilors) and five officers, elected from among the Academy membership. The Council is responsible to the membership for the activities undertaken by the organization and for the corporate management of the National Academy of Sciences, a corporation created by Act of Congress that also includes the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) http://www.larryblakeley.com/web_knowledge_providers/national_academy_engineering.htm
the Institute of Medicine (IOM) http://www.larryblakeley.com/web_knowledge_providers/institute_medicine.htm
and the National Research Council (NRC) http://www.larryblakeley.com/web_knowledge_providers/national_research_council.htm
Collectively, these organizations are called the National Academies http://www.larryblakeley.com/web_knowledge_providers/national_academies.htm
The NAS has delegated the governance of the National Research Council to the NRC Governing Board, which includes members of the Councils of the NAS, NAE, and IOM.
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was signed into being by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1863, at the height of the Civil War. As mandated in its Act of Incorporation, the NAS has, since 1863, served to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government. Scientific issues would become even more contentious and complex in the years following the war. To keep pace with the growing roles that science and technology would play in public life, the institution that was founded in 1863 eventually expanded to include the National Research Council in 1916, the National Academy of Engineering in 1964, and the Institute of Medicine in 1970. Collectively, the four organizations are known as the National Academies. Since 1863, the nation's leaders have often turned to the National Academies for advice on the scientific and technological issues that frequently pervade policy decisions. The Academies and the Institute are honorific societies that elect new members to their ranks each year. The Institute of Medicine also conducts policy studies on health issues, but the bulk of the institution's science policy and technical work is conducted by its operating arm, the National Research Council, created expressly for this purpose. These non-profit organizations provide a public service by working outside the framework of government to ensure independent advice on matters of science, technology, and medicine. They enlist committees of the nation's top scientists, engineers, and other experts--all of whom volunteer their time to study specific concerns. The results of their deliberations have inspired some of America's most significant and lasting efforts to improve the health, education, and welfare of the population. The Academy's service to government has become so essential that Congress and the White House have issued legislation and executive orders over the years that reaffirm its unique role. For more information, visit the Archives Web site.