The National Institute of Social Sciences has a rich history stretching back more than100 years of recognizing the highest level of accomplishment and, more recently, of supporting research.
The National Institute had its origins in the American Social Science Association that had given birth to the major professional social science organizations that still today represent historians, economists, political scientists, and sociologists. The ASSA grew out of the awakening perceptions off social needs as Reconstruction began after the Civil War. In October 1865, on a call by the Massachusetts Board of Charities, a meeting of some 300 public-spirited citizens, chaired by Governor John A. Andrew, established the ASSA “to plan measures of public improvement.”
The ASSA was modeled on the British Social Science Association, founded in 1856, which had been organized into four departments: health, education, jurisprudence, and finance. A fifth department, social economy, was added nine years later.
During the life of the ASSA, dedicated lay interest in matters of social concern evolved in to academically-based professionalization leading to the ASSA fostering the birth of the American Historical Association (1884), the American Economic Association (1885), the American Political Science Association (1903), and the American Sociological Association (1905). Other such groups were born in the fertile social environment created by the ASSA.
In 1898, the ASSA created the National Institute of Arts and Letters, modeled after the Institut de France. (In time, it changed its name into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.) On January 28 1899, the ASSA was “constituted a corporation” by an Act of Congress, and, in 1912, the National Institute of Social Sciences was created as a "department" of the ASSA. Subsequently, the National Institute emerged as an independent organization, and in 1926, by an Act of Congress, assumed the ASSA corporate charter, "for the purpose of promoting studies and researches in the social sciences."
Former ASSA leaders, including James B. Angell, president of the University of Michigan, Daniel Cott Gilman, the first president of the Johns Hopkins University, and Andrew D. White, the first president of Cornell, were among the National Institute's early leaders.
This is the National Institute its members carry on today, as a not-for-profit, nonpartisan honor society and issues discussion group. Since 1913, the National Institute has presented its Gold Honor Medals to a small group of Americans--and occasionally others--who have made the highest contribution to the improvement of American--and often the world--society.
Our honorees have come from the social sciences, law, government, education, philanthropy, the arts, medicine, science, and industry. Our membership is composed of men and women who have contributed to these fields of endeavor, either through volunteerism or the dedication of time and resources.
In recent years, members have contributed to our Seed Grant Program that supports top graduate students in the social sciences during the final years of their research.
The American nation has been challenged year by year since its founding. The National Institute is proud of its role of recognizing those in every field who have helped meet these challenges with insight, creativity, and persistence.