History of the Iowa Academy of Science

                                                Charles Edwin Bessey

                                               Charles Edwin Bessey

The first regular annual meeting of the Academy convened in the natural history room of the State University at Iowa City on June 23, 1876, with President C. E. Bessey presiding. President Bessey presented "A Preliminary Catalogue of Lichens of Iowa". His list of twenty-six species, collected principally in central Iowa, included, it was believed, about one-fifth of the lichens of the State. He also presented "A Catalogue of the Orthoptera of Iowa", including thirty-nine species found in central and southeastern Iowa. Dr. Farnsworth read a paper on "Mounds and Mound Builders" in which he presented the view that the mound builders were identical in race with the North American Indians. His evidence was based upon resemblances of anatomical structure and the modes of burial of the mound builders and the Indians.

                                           Dr. Gustavus Detlef Hinrichs

                                          Dr. Gustavus Detlef Hinrichs

Dr. Hinrichs presented maps and diagrams of the severe hail storm in Iowa, on April 12, 1876.* Dr. Calvin described seven new species of Paleozoic fossils found in Howard and Floyd counties. He also presented a paper, entitled "Notes on a Probable New Species of Fossil Elephant", from the modified drift near West Union. "The Deposits of the Chemung Group in Iowa" was also discussed by Dr. Calvin. F. M. Witter read a paper on the land and fresh water shells found near Muscatine, of which he had determined fifty-two species. W. C. Preston discussed "Thermic Wind Rose for Iowa City", showing the relation between wind and temperature, as deduced from three years' observation at the State University of Iowa.

Two other papers, one by Dr. Bessey on "The colors of Iowa Wild Flowers", and one by Professor Hinrichs on "The Constitution of Water from the Deep Lying Rocks of Iowa", concluded the program.

From The Iowa Academy of Science by Jacob A. Swisher, July 1931. State Historical Society of Iowa.

These excerpts from the 1931 history of the Iowa Academy of Science illustrate the early role of the Academy to foster camaraderie between Iowa scientists and to provide a venue for the disemination of locally relevant scientific research.

The Academy continued to hold meetings until sometime between 1882 and 1884. No meetings were held between 1884 and 1887. A standing rule of the Academy at the time was that members who did not attend a meeting for two cosecutive years were stricken from the membership list. So the Academy effectively ceased to exist.

A renewed interest in 1887 revived and reorganized the Iowa Academy of Science. Charter members of the new Iowa Academy of Science were Samuel Calvin, T. H. Macbride, L. W. Andrews, Herbert Osborn, R. E. Call, J. E. Todd, B. D. Halsted, F. M. Witter, and H. W. Parker. Herbert Osborn, the new president made the following statement about the challenges faced by the new Academy:

"In the founding of this Society we have recognized the existence of problems in our State demanding scientific invesigation. We have recognized, too, the well known principle of advantage in organzed effort, the added stimulus and benefit accruing to associated work. We find the field broad and the work waiting great. We find our numbers small and frequently broken into by removals of our members to more remunerative or attractive fields of labor. We find much that might discourage, but we may look with profit to what has been here accomplished under conditions possibly more discouraging than ours."

The Iowa Academy of Science has, from its founding, made an impact on the practical scientific research taking place in the State of Iowa. Academy Members called for a Geological Survey of Iowa at the first Annual Meeting of the new Academy. In 1892, the Iowa legislature established the survey, which continues to serve the State to this day.

Membership had grown to 43 by 1890. Recognizing the importance of recording scientific achievements in Iowa, the Iowa General Assembly began funding the Proceedings of the Iowa Academy of Science in 1892.

Prior to 1894, only research scientists were allowed membership in the Academy. That year, new rules created three types of membership. Fellows were Iowans actively engaged in scientific pursuets. Any Iowan interested in promoting science could become an Associate Member and a scientific researcher outside of Iowa could become a Corresponding Fellow. The new membership fee was $3 and annual dues were $1.

By 1900 the Academy had grown to more than 150 members. Between 1887 and 1900 Academy members presented 350 scientific papers. The topics of these papers varied greatly from Iowas natural gas, water, coal, clay, aluminum, oil and other resources to species inventories, medical issues, and agrucultural studies. The majority of Academy papers were rightly focused on scientific research that related to pracitical issues effecting the lives and livelyhoods of Iowans.

In the early 1900's the Academy continued to grow. The number of papers presented in Academy meetings outgrew the page limitations of the Proceedings. Some papers were abstracted and others completely omited. In 1915, the Iowa General Assembly removed the page restrictions and the Proceedings grew in size through the 1950s.

Life membership was added in 1911. The corresponding fellows category was removed and honorary fellowships were established in the next decade. The first six honorary fellows were J. C. Arthur, Thomas H. Macbride, Herbert Osborn, J. E. Todd, William Trelease, and J. A. Udden.It is at this time that the Academy began to recognize the death of members by publishing notices in the Proceedings.

The Academy celebrated its 25th aniversery in 1912 and dedicated much of that years Proceedings to relfecting upon the accomplishments of the various scientific fields. Papers included Twenty-five Years of Botany in Iowa, History of Geology in Iowa for the Last Twenty-five Years, The Progress of Physics in Iowa in the Quarter Century, and The Progress of Zoology in Iowa during the Last Twenty-five Years.

In 1919, the Iowa Academy of Science reached 350 members, making it the largest State Academy in the US. By this time the Academy had begun presenting papers by scientific field. There were 60 botanists, 30 chemists, 40 geologists, 18 mathematicians, 12 physicians, 30 physicists, 60 zoologists, and 100 unclassified members.

In 1920, a committe of the Academy reported on the need for conservation in the state. They endorsed a policy to create plant and game perserves in rough lands and along riparian areas and to encourage the purchase of land for State and county parks.

Several Iowa scientist organized a trip to the Fugi Islands and New Zealand in 1922, which resulted in several Academy papers related to the trip.

The Academy had grown to more than 600 members by 1928 and from 1921 to 1928 1174 papers were presented at Academy meetings. Of these, 736 were published in the Proceedings of the Iowa Academy of Science. Many of the papers not published in the Proceedings were published in other Journals. Almost half of the papers were in Chemistry, Botany, or Physics. The Academy continued to support and advise the State Geological Survey and to present research related to the conservation of Iowa resources, issues effecting agricultural production, and many other issues important to Iowans.

Today, the Academy includes more than 650 members. Each member can join up to four of the Academy's 12 sections. The Academy continues to hold Annual Meetings drawing between 375 and 450 participants and involving more than 100 scientific presentation each year. The Academy publishes the Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science, a peer reviewed and indexed journal. The Academy manages the Iowa Science Foundation which provides $40,000 in research funds each year. Education programs include the state sponsorship of Project WET and the GLOBE Program and the development of the IAS National Wildlife Refuge Audio Series.

Affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the American Junior Academy of Sciences (AJAS), the National Association of Biology teachers (NABT), the Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC). 

The Iowa Academy of Science is a 501c(3) non-profit. Donations to the Academy are tax deductable. 

* On October 1, 1875 the Iowa Weather Service began taking observations. Organized by Professor Gustavus Hinrichs at the University of Iowa with 60 initial weather observers, the functions of this agency are now largely maintained by the State Climatologist Office. Iowa possesses the oldest continuously operating state weather program in the nation.

Click here to learn more about Professor Hinrichs in this article published by NOAA noting the first use of the term "Derecho."