Brief history of the Singapore National Academy of Science

In 1967 the Singapore National Academy of Science (SNAS) coexisted with IPS, SNIC, SMS and SIBiol as a learned society to promote and popularize science and technology in Singapore.  Then, SNAS was responsible for the publication of the SNAS journal, as well as organize the SNAS congress.  Sometime in the mid-seventies, the four societies were integrated into SNAS.  There was a possibility that the individual societies will disappear and their members would become individual members of SNAS under different sections i.e. physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology; or maybe the societies would remain with members having dual membership of their society and SNAS.

Almost ten years later in 1975, an idea was surfaced to Dr Lee Chiaw Meng who was then the Minister for Education, to make SNAS to be a federation of societies.  SNAS will become the professional and academic body for Singapore Scientists.  Officially founded in 1976, SNAS became an umbrella organization with the dual objectives of:

  • promoting the advancement of science and technology in Singapore
  • representing the scientific opinions of its members.

When SNAS was reconstituted, its earlier role was then taken over by the Singapore Association for the Advancement of Science. 

 Currently, its constituent societies are:

  • Institute of Physics Singapore (IPS)
  • Chapter of Clinician Scientists, Academy of Medicine (CCS) - since 2014
  • Singapore Association for the Advancement of Science (SAAS)
  • Singapore Institute of Biology (SIB)
  • Singapore Institute of Statistics (SIS) - since 1980
  • Singapore Mathematical Society (SMS)
  • Singapore National Institute of Chemistry (SNIC)
  • Singapore Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SSBMB) - since 1986
  • Singapore Society for Microbiology (SSMB) - since 1983
  • Science Teachers’ Association of Singapore (STAS)
  • Materials Research Society (MRS) - since 2014 

At formation, there were only six constituent societies, with the others joining only later.

The first President of the Academy in 1976 was Dr Lee Chiaw Meng, who was formerly Minister for Education and Minister for Science & Technology.  The honorary secretary was Prof Louis Chen.

The second President was Prof Ang Kok Peng (1978-1992), who was Member of Parliament for Buona Vista and Head of the Department of Chemistry at the National University of Singapore for a good part of this duration. 

Prof Leo Tan Wee Hin was President from 1993 to 2013. He held various appointments such as Dean of Science at the National Institute of Education, Professor of Biological Sciences at the Nanyang Technological University, Director of the National Institute of Education, Director of Special Projects at the Faculty of Science in the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Professor of Biological Sciences at NUS during his tenure as President. 

The current President, Prof Andrew Wee, assumed office in 2013. He also holds the concurrent appointments of Vice President (University and Global Relations) at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Professor of Physics at NUS Faculty of Science, Director of Surface Science Lab at NUS, Senior Faculty Member at the NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering, and Adjunct Scientist at the Institute of Materials Research & Engineering. 

In 1998, SNAS started to appoint Honorary Fellows of the society.  However, only in 2011 local scientists are being appointed as Fellows of the academy.  More fellows joined the list in 2014 with the intention to increase the number of Fellows by 10 every year, up to 100 living persons.