AINA History

Historical Comments 
By Carl Benson, Chair of the AINA U.S. Corporation

Ignorance of Arctic conditions hurt both Canada and the U.S. during World War II. This stimulated scientists from both countries to meet during the war to address these problems. They launched the AINA in Montreal, Quebec, during 1945, dedicated to advancement of knowledge about the arctic by means of research and publication.

Dr. A.L. Washburn, Director of AINA in 1946, responded to a request for advice from the, then new, U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) about establishing a research laboratory in the Arctic. An enthusiastic response encouraged the formation of the Arctic Research Laboratory at Barrow, Alaska, in 1947; later, the laboratory was renamed the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL).

For years AINA, ONR, and NARL worked closely together. The AINA served as a granting agency for ONR to fund academic research in the arctic until the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) was established in 1955. After NSF was created and research institutes began appearing within universities across the continent, the grant-handling function of AINA decreased because university research institutes dealt directly with NSF and other federal funding agencies.

In 1977 the AINA ceased operating with a single Board of Governors. A Board of Directors was selected for the Canadian Corporation, the headquarters of which are located in Calgary, Alberta; and a Board of Governors was selected for the U.S. Corporation, the headquarters of which were moved to Washington, D.C., then to Fairbanks, Alaska. However, there is still only one Arctic Institute of North America, and the Chair of each board is an ex-officio member of the other board.

A more detailed history of AINA was published in Arctic Volume 19, No. 1, March 1966.