September 20

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Today in Science

AAAS Is Born

At noon on this day in 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) convened its first meeting in the library of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Eighty-seven members attended.

This general science association was a reorganization and broadening of the Association of American Geologists and Naturalists, whose former membership would contribute ten presidents to their offspring in its first 40 years. Their mission was:

"By periodical and migratory meetings, to promote intercourse between those who are cultivating science in different parts of the United States, to give a stronger and more general impulse, and a more systematic direction to scientific research in our country; and to procure for the labours of scientific men, increased facilities and a wider usefulness."

William C. Redfield, a saddle- and harness-maker who also acted as a meteorologist and geologist, as well as promoting railway and steamship development, was elected the association's first president.

During the first dozen years of AAAS' existence, more than 2,000 people joined its membership rolls, including writer Henry David Thoreau and ex-U.S. President Millard Fillmore. AAAS admitted its first female member—astronomer Maria Mitchell of Massachusetts—two years after its founding.

Science, AAAS' flagship journal, did not become a publication of the association until 1894. The magazine was founded by journalist John Michels with start-up funds from Thomas Edison and first appeared July 3, 1880, but uneven quality and languishing funds (even with an infusion from Alexander Graham Bell) caused it to founder. When Science was published, however, it carried stories from the various associations around the country, including extensive coverage of those emerging from AAAS.

As of 2016, AAAS has more than 120,000 individual and institutional members and 252 affiliates across 91 countries around the world, serving 10 million scientists in fields ranging from plant biology to dentistry. And Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million. Its mission remains to "advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people."

AAAS is home to Science NetLinks and its bounty helps to make our resources as rich and diverse as they are. Here are a few resources from other programs at AAAS:

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