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The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is an organization that promotes cooperation between scientists, defends scientific freedom, encourages scientific responsibility and supports scientific education for the betterment of all humanity. It is the world's largest general scientific society. The AAAS is also the publisher of the well-known scientific journal Science.


William Redfield, First President

The American Association for the Advancement of Science was created on September 20, 1848 in Pennsylvania. It was a reformation of the Association of American Geologists and Naturalists. The society chose William Cox Redfield as their first president because he had proposed the most comprehensive plans for the organization. According to the first constitution [1] which was agreed to at the September 20th meeting, the goal of the society was to promote scientific dialogue in order to allow for greater scientific collaboration. By doing so the association aimed use resources to conduct science with increased efficiency and allow for scientific progress at a greater rate. The association also sought to increase the resources available to the scientific community through active advocacy of science.

There were only 87 members when the AAAS was formed. As a member of the new scientific body, Matthew Fontaine Maury, USN was one of those who attended the first 1848 meeting.

At a meeting held on Friday afternoon, September 22, 1848, Redfield presided, and Matthew Fontaine Maury gave a full scientific report on his Wind and Current Charts. Maury stated that hundreds of ship navigators were now sending to the United States Naval Observatory abstract logs of their voyages. With pride he added, “Never before was such a corps of observers known.” But, he pointed out to his fellow scientists, his critical need was for more "simultaneous observations."

"The work," Maury stated, "is not exclusively for the benefit of any nation or age." The minutes of the A.A.A.S. meeting reveal that because of the universality of this "view on the subject, it was suggested whether the states of Christendom might not be induced to cooperate with their Navies in the undertaking; at least so far as to cause abstracts of their log-books and sea journals to be furnished to Matthew F. Maury, USN, at the Naval Observatory at Washington."

William Barton Rogers, professor at the University of Virginia and later founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offered a resolution: "Resolved that a Committee of five be appointed to address a memorial to the Secretary of the Navy, requesting his further aid in procuring for Matthew Maury the use of the observations of European and other foreign navigators, for the extension and perfecting of his charts of winds and currents." The resolution was adopted and, in addition to Rogers, the following members of the Association were appointed to the committee, Professor Joseph Henry of Washington, Professor Benjamin Peirce of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Professor James H. Coffin of Easton, Pennsylvania, Professor Stephen Alexander of Princeton, New Jersey. This was scientific cooperation, and Maury went back to Washington with great hopes for the future.

By 1860 membership increased to over 2000. But the course of American history, however, intervened to prevent the continued growth of the AAAS. The AAAS became dormant during the American Civil War after their August 1861 meeting in Nashville, Tennessee was postponed indefinitely just after the outbreak of the first major engagement of the war at First Battle of Bull Run. The AAAS was not, however, to become a casualty of the war. In 1866, Frederick Barnard presided over the first meeting of the resurrected AAAS at a meeting in New York.

Following the reformation of the AAAS, the group once again experienced a period of growth. The growth, however, was not unlimited as peace brought with it the expansion of other scientific-oriented groups. The AAAS's focus on the unification of many fields of science under a single organization still yielded some novelty. A large subset of all new science organizations that were founded to promote a single discipline. For example, American Chemical Society, founded in 1876, promotes chemistry. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was, however, founded by the United States Congress in 1863 which provided an alternative multidisciplinary sciences organization. Unlike the NAS, which elects members, the AAAS permitted all people regardless of scientific credentials to join. The AAAS did, however, institute a policy of granting the title of "Fellow of the AAAS" to well-respected scientists within the organization.


The most recent Constitution of the AAAS which was enacted on January 1, 1973 establishes that the governance of the AAAS is accomplished through four entities:


Individuals elected to the presidency of the AAAS hold a three-year term in a unique way. The first year is spent as President-elect, the second as President and the third as Chairperson of the Board of Directors. In accordance with the convention followed by the AAAS, presidents are referenced by the year in which they left office.

The current president of the American Association for 2006 is Gilbert Omenn of the University of Michigan. Omenn became President in February of 2005 and will become Chairman of the Board of Directors in 2006. His successor is President-elect John Holdren of Harvard University who will take office in February of 2006 to become the 2007 president of the AAAS.

The AAAS has historically been led by some important scientists such as biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Asa Gray or chemist Glenn Seaborg, the discoverer of plutonium. The following is a brief list of some of the most notable scientists ever to hold the presidency of the AAAS.

Notable Presidents of the AAAS, 1848-2005
Year President Year President
2000 Stephen Jay Gould 1929 Robert A. Millikan
1990 Richard C. Atkinson 1927 Arthur Amos Noyes
1972 Glenn T. Seaborg 1887 Samuel P. Langley
1942 Arthur H. Compton 1886 Edward S. Morse
1934 Edward L. Thorndike 1877 Simon Newcomb
1931 Franz Boas 1871 Asa Gray

A complete list of presidents is also available.

Administrative Officers

There are three classifications of high-level administrative officials that execute the basic, daily functions of the AAAS. These are the Executive Officer, the Treasurer and than each of the AAAS's section secretaries.

Sections of the AAAS

The AAAS has 24 "sections" with each section being responsible for a particular concern of the AAAS. There are sections for agriculture, anthropology, astronomy, atmospheric science, biological science, chemistry, dentistry, education, engineering, general interest in science and engineering, geology and geography, the history and philosophy of science, technology, computer science, linguistics, mathematics, medical science, neuroscience, pharmaceutical science, physics, psychology, social and political science, the social impact of science and engineering, and statistics.

The Council

The Council is composed of the members of the Board of Directors, the retiring section chairmen and elected delegates. Among the elected delegates there are always at least two members from the National Academy of Sciences and one from each region of the country. The President of the AAAS serves as the Chairperson of the Council. Members server the Council for a term of three years.

The council meets annually to discuss matters of importance to the AAAS. They have the power to review all activities of the Association, elect new Fellow, adopt resolutions, propose amendments to the Association's constitution and bylaws, create new scientific sections, and organize and aid local chapters of the AAAS.

The Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is composed of a Chairperson, the President and President-Elect along with eight elected Directors, the Executive Officer of the Association and up to two additional Directors appointed by elected officers. Members of the Board of Directors serve a 4-year term except for Directors appointed by elected officers, who serve 3-year terms instead.

The current Chairperson of the Board of Directors, who will serve from February 2005 to February 2006, is Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who is now the Chairperson of the Board of Directors. The Chairperson of the Board of Directors is always the immediate past-president of the Association.

The Board of Directors has a variety of powers and responsibilities. It is charged with the administration of all Association funds, publication of a budget, appointment of administrators, proposition of amendments and determination the time and place of meetings of the national Association. The Board may also speak publicly on behalf of the Association. The Board must also regularly correspond with the Council to discuss their actions.

See also

External links

Not to be confused with

de:American Association for the Advancement of Science

fr:American Association for the Advancement of Science it:American Association for the Advancement of Science

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