About: History & Archives
150 Years of Advancing Science: A History of AAAS
Change and Continuity: 1971 to the Present
The 1969 Boston meeting saw the election of AAAS's first woman president, Mina Rees, a mathematician from the City University of New York. Of the 28 AAAS presidents elected since Rees, one-third (nine) have been women. In 1989, physicist Walter Massey became the first African American scientist to serve as the Association's president.
In the 1970s, the Association began to develop a major interest in encouraging underrepresented groups to enter scientific careers. A Committee on Opportunities in Science was formed and AAAS assumed a leadership role in the scientific community in efforts to encourage participation in science by women, people of color, and disabled persons.
Long before passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, AAAS was the first organization to make its meetings fully accessible. At the 1976 Boston meeting, Margaret Mead's presidential address was translated into sign language. The Association began to require such renovations as wider doorways, reconfigured bathrooms, and entrance ramps at hotels where meetings were held. Barrier Free Meetings, published by AAAS in 1976, has served as a textbook for hundreds of other organizations that wish to provide full access to their own meetings.
More recent efforts have engaged community groups in providing science education for girls and persons of color. The AAAS Black Churches initiative has worked with over 3,500 churches to incorporate hands-on science, mathematics, technology, and health activities into their non-religious educational programs. Proyecto Futuro/Project Future is designed to strengthen science, math, and technology education for Hispanic youth. Another such effort, the Girls and Science programs, developed for the Girl Scout Councils of North and South Dakota and Minnesota, provides training for adult women leaders of girl-serving groups and teachers.
AAAS's most ambitious science education effort to date is Project 2061. Launched in 1985, Project 2061 is a long-term effort to reform science, mathematics, and technology education at the kindergarten through 12th grade levels to ensure science literacy for all Americans. The project is helping to shape the national agenda while working directly with state and local education leaders as well as teachers to develop, test, and implement new curricula. When Project 2061 began in 1985, Halley's Comet was visible from earth. The project takes its name 2061 from the year in which the comet will return.
The Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology (formerly the Scientific Manpower Commission), a participating organization of AAAS, was founded in 1953 to collect and disseminate information about human resources for science and technology in the United States. The Commission publishes CPST Comments eight times a year, as well as special reports on subjects such as salaries for scientists and engineers and the job market for new Ph.D.s.