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The Academy came into being on March 3, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a bill that had passed both houses of Congress late in the previous month. According to this Act of Incorporation, the Academy, a private, independent, self-governing institution, would
whenever called upon by any department of the Government, investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art, the actual expense of such investigations, examinations, experiments, and reports to be paid from appropriations which may be made for the purpose, but the Academy shall receive no compensation whatever for any services to the Government of the United States.

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