In one form or another the units of what now make up the National Academies have been supplying advice to Congress since 1863, when Congress chartered the National Academy of Sciences to "whenever called upon by any department of the Government, investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art." This charter was signed by President Lincoln during the height of the U.S. Civil War, and the president was the first to call upon the academy for advice. This first request was to help design a compass that would work in ironclad warships.