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Introduction Michael J. O'Brien and R. Lee Lyman The creation of the National Research Council (NRC) in 1916 reflected a growing concern that the United States was ill-prepared to enter a war into which it was inexorably being pulled. The council's express purpose was to assist the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which had been signed into existence by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, in advancing the cause of knowledge and advising the federal government on matters of science and technology. From its inception, the NAS had undertaken a wide variety of studies for different branches of government, but by the second decade of the twentieth century it was obvious that the body was too small to deal effectively with the exponential growth of science and technology taking place not only in the United States but also in Europe and Russia. Members of the NAS, including the outspoken astrophysicist George E. Hale, who served as the organization's foreign secretary, saw this scientific and technological explosion as a potential threat to the security of the United States. At Hale's instigation, members urged President Woodrow Wilson to create a body that could broaden the scope of the NAS and coordinate efforts among government, industrial, and educational organizations to strengthen not only national defense but the security of American industry as well (Cochrane 1978; Hale 1916, 1919). Hale was made the first chairman of the newly created council, which drew its membership from universities, private research institutions, and various branches of government. Mter the war, the NRC was made a permanent body when President Wilson signed Executive Order No. 2859 on May II, 1918. This was how Vernon L. Kellogg, permanent secretary of the NRC, saw the charter of the organization: The council is neither a large operating scientific laboratory nor a repository of large funds to be given away to scattered scientific workers or institutions. It is rather an organization which, while clearly recognizing the unique value of individual work, hopes especially to help bring together scattered work and workers and to assist in coordinating in some measure scientific attack in America on large problems in any and all lines of scientific activity, especially, perhaps, on those problems which depend for successful solution on the cooperation of several or many workers and laboratories, either within the realms of a single science or representing different realms in which various parts of a single problem may lie. It particularly intends not to duplicate or in the slightest degree to interfere with work already under way; to such work it only hopes to offer encouragement and support where needed and possible to be given. It hopes to help maintain the morale of devoted isolated investigators and to stimulate renewed effort among groups willing but halted by obstacles. (NRC 1921:6) Until 1943 the NRC was divided into two broad sections, one concerned with relationships with the government and other bodies, and the second representing specific scientific disciplines. Each section was subdivided into divisions, with the membership composed of representatives of scientific societies and various government departments. One division on the scientific side of the house was the Division of Anthropology and Psychology, which during its lifetime oversaw the creation of 55 committees , each charged with specific tasks dictated by members of the division's executive board. As one might expect given the diversity of subject matter subsumed under the broad rubric of anthropology and psychology, the committees were diverse in terms of purpose. For example, a Committee on Accurate Publicity for Anthropology was established in 1928, a Committee on Pelvic Structure in 1926, a Committee on Psychology of Highway in 1922, and a Committee on Vestibular Research in 1921. There was even a proposal in 1919 to create a Committee on Morality, but that idea was soon abandoned. For modern students attending their first American Anthropological Association meeting and feeling that the discipline has lost its focus, it might be comforting to know that things were not completely different in the 1920S. 2 SETTING THE AGENDA FOR AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY The Committee on State Archaeological Surveys One of the first committees created within the Division of Anthropology and Psychology was the Committee on State Archaeological Surveys (CSAS) in 1920. Clark Wissler (Figure I), curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and chairman of the Division of Anthropology and Psychology, reported on the formation of the committee: A committee was appointed to encourage and assist...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780817313531
Related ISBN
9780817310844
MARC Record
OCLC
772460338
Pages
386
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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