The Washington Academy of Sciences was incorporated on February 18, 1898. It serves as the federal head of thirty-five affiliated scientific societies in the Washington, D.C., area. Most of the affiliates are local chapters of national organizations; some, however, are independent of any national organization. Each affiliated society selects a delegate to represent that society on the Board of Managers, the governing body of the Academy.
During the 1880s scientists in the Washington area were establishing scientific societies that catered to their needs and interests. As the number of these societies increased, it became obvious that a federation was needed to unite their activities. A Joint Committee of Conference met in 1882 with the union in mind, but the idea was dismissed when the Philosophical Society rejected the plan.
Toward the close of the decade, the desire for a federation was renewed. Thus, in 1888, a Joint Commission was created that served only as an advisory body to the scientific societies; individual societies were not bound to the Commission's decisions. In 1895 the functions of the Joint Commission were enlarged, empowering it to conduct joint meetings, print a Joint Directory of the Scientific Societies of Washington, and act in the interest of all affiliated societies. Resolutions promoting common interests were accepted in 1898, followed by the act of incorporation and bylaws. The incorporators, 14 in number, were designated as the only original members; they adopted the bylaws and elected officers. The Joint Commission held its final meeting on March 22, 1898; the Board of Managers then became the governing body.
Eight scientific societies comprised the original organization of the Washington Academy of Sciences. They were the Anthropological Society of Washington, the Biological Society of Washington, the Chemical Society of Washington, the Entomological Society of Washington, the National Geographical Society, the Geological Society of Washington, the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, and the Philosophical Society of Washington.
The primary function of the Academy is the promotion of science. This is achieved in various activities and publications of the Academy. The Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, and its predecessor, the Proceedings of the Washington Academy of Sciences, are designed to expose scientists, locally and nationally, to current research and studies in the form of scientific papers.
The functions of the Academy are extended to include high school students who manifest an interest and potential for the sciences. A Washington Junior Academy of Sciences exists for talented students. Scientific education is also promoted by the Joint Board on Science Education, which conducts science fairs in public and private schools, presents annual awards to promising high school students as well as to professional scientists for achievements in their research, and by sponsoring grants-in-aid for research.
The membership of the Academy is comprised of two classes--Members and Fellows. One can be accepted as a Member if he or she demonstrates an interest in the sciences and promotes the Academy's activities. A Fellow, on the other hand, must have conducted original research or have made an outstanding contribution to the scientific field.