Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

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Harry S. Truman

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Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  120. Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Creating the National Science Foundation  
May 10, 1950

I HAVE today signed S. 247, an act creating the National Science Foundation.

The Foundation will be an independent agency, in the executive branch of the Government, headed by a National Science Board and a Director. It will be the function of the Foundation to develop a national policy for the promotion of basic research and education in the sciences. The Foundation will initiate and support basic research in the physical, biological, engineering, and other sciences. It will also grant scholarships and graduate fellowships in the sciences, and in other ways encourage scientific progress in this country.

The establishment of the National Science Foundation is a major landmark in the history of science in the United States. Its establishment climaxes 5 years of effort on the part of the executive branch, the Congress, and leading private citizens. Three months after I assumed the Presidency in 1945, I received a report from Dr. Vannevar Bush and his colleagues, entitled "Science, the Endless Frontier." That report recommended the creation of an agency, such as the National Science Foundation, to promote the development of new scientific knowledge and new scientific talent. It was assumed at that time that the world was close to an enduring peace. The Foundation was to be an instrument in promoting reconstruction, and in maintaining our wartime momentum in scientific progress.

The fact that the world has not found postwar security in no way lessens the need for the National Science Foundation. On the contrary, it underscores this need.

We have come to know that our ability to survive and grow as a Nation depends to a very large degree upon our scientific progress. Moreover, it is not enough simply to keep abreast of the rest of the world in scientific matters. We must maintain our leadership. The National Science Foundation will stimulate basic research and education in nearly every branch of science, and thereby add to the supply of knowledge which is indispensable to our continued growth, prosperity, and security.

During the period that the National Science Foundation has been under consideration, there has never been any significant disagreement concerning the objective to be sought. Some differences of opinion have arisen concerning the means which should be employed in carrying the program forward. I was obliged to disapprove a bill which was passed by the 80th Congress in 1947, because it contained features which were undesirable from the standpoint of public policy and unworkable from the standpoint of administration. However, on that occasion I expressed my deep regret at the necessity of disapproving the bill, and I urged reconsideration by the Congress.

The present measure has satisfactorily met the objections which I expressed to the earlier bill. I appreciate the fact that members of both parties in the Senate and in the House of Representatives have worked unselfishly to reconcile divergent views concerning the organization of the Foundation and its relationship to the executive and legislative branches of the Government.

The Nation's strength is being tested today on many fronts. The National Science Foundation faces a great challenge to advance basic scientific research and to develop a national research policy. Its work should have the complete support of the American people.

NOTE: As enacted, S. 247 is Public Law 507, 81st Congress (64 Stat. 149).

The report, "Science, the Endless Frontier" (Government Printing Office, 1945) was prepared at the request of President Roosevelt and was submitted to President Truman by Dr. Vannevar Bush, Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development. The report was reissued in 1960 by the National Science Foundation as pan of the observance of its 10th anniversary.
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.