An Important Anniversary

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Science  12 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6129, pp. 119
DOI: 10.1126/science.1238209

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One hundred fifty years ago, on 22 April 1863, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) held its first meeting. The founding of the academy was but one of an impressive array of federal actions that would prepare the United States of America for a bright future. During the dark days of 1862 and 1863, mired in a bloody and intense Civil War, Congress passed, and President Lincoln signed, the Morrill Act, creating a system of Land Grant Colleges. The Act greatly enhanced access to higher education for Americans and promoted scientific and technical research in the coming generations. In the same period, Congress authorized the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, and President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Only a few months later, President Lincoln and Congress took another major step to advance the young nation by creating NAS, a bold way to elevate American science and to incorporate science into the U.S. future. This was a remarkable set of government actions during very tough times.