Tuesday, April 14, 2009

National Academies Historic Documents Available

According to an April 10, 2009 press release, the National Academies completed "the first phase of a partnership with Google to digitize the library's collection of reports from 1863 to 1997, making them available – free, searchable, and in full text – through Google Book Search." Plans are to have the entire collection of nearly 11,000 reports digitized by 2011.

The press release describes the following available reports:

  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 1 (1863–1894). This was the first NAS publication series, and it includes information about the Academy's early work for the government on topics such as how to prevent compass deviation which sent iron warships off course, whether the metric system of weights and measures should be adopted, and how the new U.S. Geological Service should be organized.
  • Investigation of the Scientific and Economic Relations of the Sorghum Sugar Industry (1882). This report was the Academy's first self-initiated study, produced by the first committee to include non-Academy members.
  • Proposed U.S. Program for the International Geophysical Year, 1957-1958. American participation in the International Geophysical Year – a historic, worldwide scientific effort that investigated the workings of the Earth and saw the launch of the first satellites – was guided and coordinated by a committee of the Academy.
  • The Polar Regions and Climatic Change (1984) Changes in Earth's polar regions are widely covered in the news today, but the Academies have been studying this phenomenon for more than 20 years.

The National Academies is made up of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council. Although private nonprofit institutions, they operate under a congressional charter to provide science, technology, and health policy advice to the nation. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln "signed into being" the National Academy of Science to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" when asked by any department of the government. Expansions included the National Research Council in 1916, the National Academy of Engineering in 1964, and the Institute of Medicine in 1970.