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1952—NSF made its first awards in this year. Among some 100 awards, two could be identified as ocean related. These included a one-year grant of $4,700 to Dr. Robert Ginsberg at the University of Miami for studies on the "Geological Role of Certain Blue-Green Algae." Dr. Ginsberg is still an active faculty member at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences of the University of Miami and still submits proposals to NSF. He also graced the assembly with his presence at this symposium.

1953—The Earth Sciences Program was established within the MPES. This was to be the ancestral home of all the nonbiological ocean sciences (chemistry, physics, geology and geophysics). Support for biological oceanography can be traced to multiple origins, spreading across all the BMS programs, although most predominantly from the Developmental, Environmental and Systematic Biology Program. The Foundation made about 5 awards related to ocean sciences out of a total of about 175.

The original NSF Act of 1950 contained a limitation of $15 million that could be appropriated annually to the NSF. This budgetary limit was removed by amendment of the original act on August 8, 1953. This was a very important change as reflected by the fact that the fiscal year 1999 budget stands at $3.7 billion, and the budget for the Ocean Sciences Division alone is now $215 million.


The National Academy of Sciences asked NSF to seek funds for and administer the U.S. component of the ICSU (International Council of Scientific Unions) International Geophysical Year (IGY) program.

1955—NSF took up the IGY challenge and was appropriated $2 million for fiscal year 1955. The Office for the International Geophysical Year was established within the Office of the Director, in response to the provision of funds by Congress for this first major interdisciplinary program that NSF was entrusted to administer.

1957—The NSF appropriation grew to $37 million in fiscal year 1956, much of which was not expended until fiscal year 1957. In that fiscal year, some $15 million was expended for IGY, compared to a total of about $20 million for all other research projects and facilities support. In oceanography-related fields, NSF awarded about $1.25 million to several programs, which included the Deep Current Program, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans ($786,000), Pacific and Atlantic Ocean Island Observatories ($223,000), CO2 Analysis and Radiochemistry of Sea Water ($174,000), and Arctic Oceanography and Sea Ice ($51,000). By comparison, the Earth Science Program, which was responsible for funding nearly all of nonbiological oceanography, expended about $165,000, mostly on ocean-related geology and geophysics, as estimated by reading grant titles from the fiscal year 1957 annual report. A further $331,000 in IGY funds in oceanography would be awarded in fiscal year 1958.

Beyond the Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Oceanography (NASCO) was established to formulate recommendations concerning long-range national policy for the development of oceanography, to encourage basic research in the marine sciences, and to provide advice to government agencies on various oceanographic problems. The evolution of this important committee over the subsequent 42 years can be followed up to the present-day Ocean Studies Board, which organized and hosted the symposium that forms the basis of the present volume.

On May 1, 1957, NSF reported back to Congress, as requested, regarding the desirability of constructing and equipping a geophysical institute in the Territory of Hawaii. The report was positive but carried the provision that Congress should appropriate the full cost rather than it being a part of the Foundation's regular budget.

1958—On August 4, 1958, the Office of IGY was redesignated as the Office of Special International Programs and established the U.S. Antarctic Research Program. This office eventually evolved into the Office of Polar Programs, a separate NSF entity that would also begin to fund oceanography, often in joint ventures with the Ocean Sciences Division (formed in 1975) up to the present time.

1959—Beyond NSF, but within the federal government, the Interagency Committee on Oceanography (ICO) was set up by the newly formed Federal Council for Science and Technology, as the first attempt to recognize this fledgling scientific discipline, aspects of which were on the agendas of several agencies at the time. The ICO was charged to develop a National Oceanographic Program, which included reviewing activities and plans of individual agencies, coordinating budget planning, and considerations of special problems important in advancing oceanography. The initial goals of the ICO were to introduce, as fast as possible, more ships, facilities, and manpower. This goal was, in the words of Harve Carlson, NSF division director of Biological and Medical Sciences and ICO chairman in 1965, "impressively met." The National Academy of Sciences published the NASCO report Oceanography 1960-1970 (NAS, 1959).


Within the Division of Biological and Medical Sciences, a Biological Facilities Program was established in 1959. This program was to be very influential in the subsequent development of biological oceanography, marine biology, and the beginning of the academic fleet. This history is addressed by Mary Johrde in her contribution to this volume.

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