Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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During the Cold War that ensued after World War II, when the United States and the Soviet Union competed in the "arms race" in scientific development and in space exploration, a movement emerged to improve science education for America's youth. In August 1955 the nonprofit Frontiers of Science Foundation of Oklahoma, Incorporated, was chartered by Oklahoma business, industrial, and professional leaders, to promote a program of science education in schools and to develop scientific research laboratories in the private sector and in higher education. A half-million dollars in donations came immediately from 150 contributors around the state. Dr. Robert MacVicar, a biological chemist and dean of the Graduate School at Oklahoma State University, took a leadership role. The first officers included Dean A. McGee, chair, Edward K. Gaylord, vice chair, James E. Webb, president (later director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration), and Dr. James G. Harlow, executive vice president.

One of the foundation's first actions was to contract with Scientific Research Associates of Chicago to give sixty thousand ninth through twelfth graders the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. The testing would identify students with scientific ability. The Oklahoma Curriculum Improvement Commission cosponsored that effort. In addition, in May 1956 the foundation hosted the National Science Fair in Oklahoma City. That year it also enabled telecourses for mathematics and physics for high school students in the Oklahoma City area and cosponsored, with the chamber of commerce and National Air Foundation, the National Aircraft Show in Oklahoma City. In 1957 the foundation held an international symposium on science, industry, and education, during which Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered a nationwide address on the importance of science education for the future security of the United States. By 1959 the organization had received National Science Foundation funding for a community action program in which five chapters of Frontiers of Science were formed in five regions of the state. From 1958 and for more than two decades the Frontiers of Science Foundation sponsored an annual science lecture for young people. The first was titled "Frontiers of the Space Age." From 1956 the foundation, in cooperation with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, has sponsored Fleming Scholarships for high school and college students.

By the 1970s enrollment in Oklahoma's public school science and math classes had increased by 125 percent and 100 percent, respectively, and the state ranked second in sending the most contestants to the International Science and Engineering Fair, held in Oklahoma again in 1975. The Frontiers of Science Foundation continued to function into the twenty-first century. Its by-laws call for it to be dissolved on November 16, 2007, the centennial of Oklahoma statehood.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Clayton Anderson, "Frontiers of Science," Oklahoma Today 6 (January 1956). "Frontiers of Science," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Ed Montgomery, "The Last Frontier," Oklahoma's Orbit, Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 12 November 1967. Oklahoma Almanac, 1957-1958 (Norman: Oklahoma Almanac, Inc., 1957).

Dianna Everett

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