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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine
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Membership Frequently Asked Questions

How many members are there in the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Medicine?

Each organization elects new members at their annual meetings. Current membership information is maintained by each institution:

National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Engineering
National Academy of Medicine

How are members selected?

In all three organizations, elections of new members take place annually, and new members are nominated and voted on by existing members. The number of new members elected is established either by the bylaws or the council of each organization. 

What does membership entail?

Election to membership is one of the highest honors that a scientist, engineer, or medical professional can receive. Although no formal duties are involved, members of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering are invited to participate in the governance and advisory activities. Accepting election to the National Academy of Medicine presupposes a willingness to serve on study committees.

Members of all three organizations are encouraged to serve on study committees.

What role do foreign associates have? Are they honorary members or do they contribute to the work of the organizations?

Foreign associates are elected by the same standards that apply to regular members. However, these members do not vote during the election of new members or other deliberations of the Academies.

Are there annual meetings?

Each organization holds an annual meeting in Washington, D.C., which includes sessions devoted to business and to scientific and technological issues.

Are members paid?
No. A very few members assume full-time positions within the Academies and receive salaries (nor are their institutions reimbursed for the time that they devote to Academy work). Membership and participation in Academy activities are voluntary. Reimbursement of travel costs and subsistence support is the only compensation provided.

Who was the first woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences?

Florence Rena Sabin (1871-1953), elected in 1925, was the first woman member of the NAS. A physician as well as a scientific investigator, Sabin was noted for her discovery of the origin and processes of the lymphatic system and for her work on tuberculosis.

Who was the first African-American elected to the National Academy of Sciences?

David Blackwell (1919-2010) was the first African-American elected member of the NAS. Born in Centralia, Ill. Blackwell was a mathematician and chaired the University of California, Berkeley's Department of Statistics until his retirement. He published more than 80 papers.

Who was the youngest scientist elected to the National Academy of Sciences?

Edward C. Pickering (1846-1919), only 26 at the time of his election in 1873, is the youngest person elected to the NAS. Pickering was an astronomer whose work in stellar photometry, stellar photography, and stellar spectrum photography won him the NAS prestigious Draper medal in 1888.