International Biological Congresses

International Biological Congresses


The first international biological congresses were called by national academies and scientific centers or societies at the turn of the 20th century. One of the first scientific unions—The International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS)—was founded in 1919; its tasks include the organization of most congresses, conferences, and symposia in biology. The offices of the union’s sections as a rule fulfill the functions of permanent committees of the international biological congresses and conduct congresses jointly with the organizational committees of the countries invited to participate.

The number of participants in the first international biological congresses did not exceed 100–200 persons; but today, several thousand persons gather at the major congresses. Such previously “monolithic” sciences as zoology, botany, and microbiology are further being subdivided into separate branches. Worldwide practice in the development of scientific activity showed the advisability of organizing symposia dealing with a limited range of problems. However, there is no question as to the advantages of persons of different specialties meeting at international congresses.

Biophysical congresses The First Congress of Biophysi-cists was convened in 1961 in Stockholm, Sweden, on the initiative of the International Union of Experimental and Theoretical Physics. The agenda included vital problems of the molecular bases of replication of viruses, membrane biophysics, the mathematical modeling of biophysical phenomena, and new methods used in biophysics (laser technology and others). The International Union of Pure and Applied Biophysics was formed and it decided to convene congresses once every three years. The second congress met in Vienna, Austria, in 1966 and the third congress in Cambridge, Mass., USA in 1969.

Biochemical congresses The First Congress of Biochemists (1949) established the International Union of Biochemistry, which decided to convene congresses once every three years. At the congress, special attention was given to vitamin B12—its physical and chemical properties, methods for its production, and its use in medicine and animal husbandry. The fourth congress was devoted to the problems of the biochemistry of insects in relation to the development of chemical means for controlling agricultural pests. The interrelationships of structure and biochemical functions were discussed at the fifth congress. The sixth congress centered its attention on the problem of the biosynthesis of protein and the role of nucleic acids in this process. The scientific program of the seventh congress included the fundamental aspects of theoretical and experimental biochemistry. There have been eight congresses: in 1949 (Cambridge, England), 1952 (Paris), 1955 (Brussels), 1958 (Vienna), 1961 (Moscow), 1964 (New York), 1967 (Tokyo), and 1970 (Switzerland).

Botanical congresses Botanical congresses have been meeting since 1900. The president of the tenth congress, Professor H. Godwin of Great Britain, emphasized the special importance of the preservation of nature and of the activity of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in his address “On the Importance of the Botanist in Human Life.” The congress hailed the decision of the botanists to participate actively in the investigations of the International Biological Program. It was considered beneficial to organize the work of congresses in the form of symposia on the vital problems of botanical science. It was decided to convene congresses once every four to six years. There have been 11 congresses: in 1900 (Paris), 1905 (Vienna), 1910 (Brussels), 1926 (Ithaca, N. Y., USA), 1930 (Cambridge, England), 1935 (Amsterdam), 1950 (Stockholm), 1954 (Paris), 1959 (Montreal), 1964 (Edinburgh, Scotland), and 1969 (Seattle, USA).

Genetic congresses Genetic congresses evolved from two conferences (congresses) on hybridization held in 1899 and 1902. Only the third International Conference was called a genetic conference. It summed up the study of principles of heredity based on the discoveries of the Czech researcher G. Mendel. At the fifth congress, H. J. Muller of the USA discussed the artificial creation of mutations and S. S. Chet-verikov of the USSR discussed the genetic structure of wild species. At the fifth through 11th congresses, Soviet genetics was represented weakly and one-sidedly. Soviet geneticists were most active at the 12th congress with a total of 88 speeches on major trends in genetics. The Permanent Committee of the Genetics Section of the IUBS organizes and conducts genetic congresses. There have been 12 congresses: in 1899 (London), 1902 (New York), 1906 (London), 1911 (Paris), 1927 (Berlin), 1932 (Ithaca, N. Y., USA), 1939(Edinburgh, Scotland), 1948 (Stockholm), 1953 (Bellagio, Italy), 1958 (Montreal), 1963 (The Hague, Netherlands), and 1968 (Tokyo).

Zoological congresses Zoologists of the world have been convoking international congresses since 1889. The fifteenth congress was marked by the 100th anniversary of Darwin’s address on the origin of species by natural selection and the 200th anniversary of the publication of Systema naturae by C. Linnaeus. The Soviet scientist E. N. Pavlovskii was one of 20 zoologists in the world to receive the Wallace-Darwin medal. At this same congress, the Soviet zoologist A. V. Ivanov announced the discovery of a new group of marine invertebrates—pogonofora—and discussed their taxonomy. There have been 16 congresses: in 1889 (Paris), 1892 (Moscow), 1895 (Leiden, Netherlands), 1898 (Cambridge, England), 1901 (Berlin), 1904 (Bern, Switzerland), 1907 (Boston, USA), 1910(Graz, Austria), 1913 (Monaco), 1927 (Budapest), 1930 (Padua, Italy), 1935 (Lisbon), 1948 (Paris), 1953 (Copenhagen), 1958 (London), 1963 (Washington, D.C.).

Limnological congresses The International Association of Theoretical and Applied Limnology has been organizing congresses on limnology (study of fresh water) once every two to three years since 1922. These congresses have discussed such problems as water pollution and measures for its prevention, biological analysis of water, the study of water organisms (indicators of the degree of pollution), the prevention of “water famine” resulting from the rapidly increasing needs of industry and of the national economy as a whole for fresh water, the management of the fishing industry on lakes, and sanitation hydrobiology. There have been 17 congresses: in 1922 (Kiel, Germany), 1923 (Innsbruck, Austria), 1925 (Leningrad), 1927 (Rome), 1930 (Budapest), 1932 (Amsterdam), 1934 (Belgrade), 1937 (Paris), 1939 (Lund, Sweden), 1948 (Zurich, Switzerland), 1950 (Brussels), 1953 (London), 1956 (Helsinki), 1959 (Vienna), 1963 (Washington, D. C), 1965 (Warsaw), and 1968 (Jerusalem).

Microbiological congresses Until 1930, problems in microbiology were discussed at international congresses on hygiene and demography. The First Congress on Microbiology was held in 1930 on the initiative of the International Association of Microbiological Societies, which performed the duties of the section of microbiology of the IUBS. The rapid development of microbiology and its increased importance led to the establishment of an independent division of microbiology within the framework of the IUBS.

The Ninth Congress of Microbiologists showed that the separate branches of microbiology—virology, immunology, industrial microbiology, medical microbiology, and others—had increased so much in their importance and volume of material that future congresses on individual branches of microbiology were justified. Congresses are convened once every four years. There have been ten congresses in all: in 1930 (Paris), 1936 (London), 1939 (New York), 1947 (Copenhagen), 1950 (Rio de Janeiro), 1953 (Rome), 1958 (Stockholm), 1962 (Montreal), 1966 (Moscow), and 1970 (Mexico).

Ornithological congresses The ornithologists of the world met for the first time in 1884. Congresses were convened irregularly until 1930, when, after the establishment of the International Ornithological Committee, they were convened once every four years. The decision on holding a congress is made jointly with the ornithological section of the IUBS. The first congresses of ornithologists were devoted mainly to ornithological studies and, to a lesser extent, to bird preservation. The problem of protecting birds is closely allied to the problems of protection from birds (ensuring the safety of airplanes in flight, frightening birds away from airports, and so forth). There is successful cooperation between ornithology and a new branch of biology—bionics. There have been 15 congresses: in 1884 (Vienna), 1891 (Budapest), 1900 (Paris), 1905 (London), 1910 (Berlin), 1926 (Copenhagen), 1930 (Amsterdam), 1934 (Oxford, England), 1938 (Rouen, France), 1950 (Uppsala, Sweden), 1954 (Basel, Switzerland), 1958 (Helsinki), 1962 (Ithaca, N. Y., USA), 1966 (Oxford, England), and 1970 (The Hague, Netherlands).

Protozoological congresses The First International Congress of Protozoologists was held in Prague in 1961 on the initiative of the Academy of Sciences of Czechoslovakia and the Society of Protozoologists of the USA. The International Protozoological Committee was established at the second congress in 1965 in London for the purpose of the organizational unification of protozoologists of all countries. Protozoology has been represented officially in the IUBS by the section of protozoology since 1967. The third congress, held in 1969 in Leningrad, was devoted to the problems of the genetics, physiology, and ecology of protozoa.

Physiological congresses The Physiological Society in London was the first to convene congresses of physiologists. At the first congress, held in 1889 in Basel, a permanent committee of physiological international congresses was established, and it was decided to convene congresses once every three years. The International Union of Physiological Sciences was created in 1953; one of its tasks is to organize congresses. At the fifteenth congress, the union’s president, Soviet scientist I. P. Pavlov, was chosen unanimously the “most eminent physiologist in the world.” Problems discussed at the congresses cover all areas of physiology. There have been 24 congresses: in 1889 (Basel, Switzerland), 1892 (Liege, Belgium), 1895 (Bern, Switzerland), 1898 (Cambridge, England), 1901 (Turin, Italy), 1904 (Brussels), 1907 (Heidelberg, Germany), 1910 (Vienna), 1913 (Groningen, Netherlands), 1920 (Paris), 1923 (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1926 (Stockholm), 1929 (Boston, USA), 1932 (Rome), 1935 (Moscow-Leningrad), 1938 (Zurich, Switzerland), 1947 (Oxford, England), 1950 (Copenhagen), 1953 (Montreal), 1956 (Brussels), 1959 (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1962 (Leiden, the Netherlands), 1965 (Tokyo), and 1968 (Washington, D.C.).

Photobiological congresses The First International Congress on Light was established in 1929 in Paris on the initiative of the International Light Committee. It was attended by biologists, physicians, and physicists. The International Committee of Photobiology was established in 1951 and has been part of the IUBS since 1955. Its task is to unite scientists interested in the study of the effects of light on living organisms, the process of conversion of solar energy in biological systems, processes of photoperiodism in plants and animals, and so forth. The Fourth Congress on Light is considered to be the First International Congress on Photobiology. The third congress was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Danish scientist N. Finsen, who won the Nobel Prize for the study of the biological effects of ultraviolet radiation and the introduction into medical practice of ultraviolet therapy for some diseases. The significance of photobiological investigations particularly increased after man’s advance outside the earth’s atmosphere into areas of active radiation. The development of antiradiation protective measures became especially important. The fourth congress devoted much time to photobiological processes in plant organisms and the mechanisms of the effects of radiating energy. The problem of microradiation of cells was discussed in connection with the 50th anniversary of the use of “radiation injection” of cell organelles, proposed by the Russian scientist S. S. Chakhotin in 1914. The fifth congress included discussions of the problem of discovering the mechanisms of photobiological processes with the help of research at the level of molecular biology. Five congresses have been held: in 1954 (Amsterdam), 1957 (Turin, Italy), 1960 (Copenhagen), 1964 (Oxford, England), and 1968 (Hanover, N. H., USA).

Embryological congresses and conferences The congresses have been conducted since 1949 by the Society of Developmental Biology, which constitutes the section of embryology of the IUBS. The Fifth Congress on Embryology was primarily devoted to the problem of organogenesis. The center of attention at the sixth congress was problems of nuclear-plasma relationships in development. In 1971 it was decided to conduct embryological conferences and congresses, in turns, every two years. Six congresses have been held: in 1949 (Bern, Switzerland), 1952 (Utrecht, Netherlands), 1956 (Providence, R. I., USA), 1960 (Pallanza, Italy), 1964 (Baltimore, Md., USA), 1968 (Paris).

International embryological conferences have been conducted since 1953 by the editorial board of the international magazine Journal of Embryology and Experimental Morphology. There have been nine conferences: in 1953 (Brussels), 1955 (Brussels), 1957 (Cambridge, England), 1959 (Paris), 1961 (London), 1963 (Helsinki), 1965 (London), 1967 (Bern, Switzerland), and 1969 (Moscow).

Entomological congresses The Permanent Committee of the International Congress of Entomology under the entomology section of the IUBS organizes the entomological congresses. The First Congress of Entomologists was convened in 1910. After this, the congresses were convened irregularly. They have been conducted once every four years since 1956. The vast significance of insects in human life and in nature was demonstrated at the thirteenth congress. Much attention was given to problems in the biological struggle against pests and the problems of chemical and radiation sterilization of harmful insects were discussed. The effects of pesticides on plants and animals and the important problems of the struggle with insect disease carriers dangerous to man and animals were also discussed. Thirteen congresses have been convened: in 1910 (Brussels), 1912 (Oxford, England), 1925 (Zurich, Switzerland), 1927 (Ithaca, N. Y., USA), 1932 (Paris), 1935 (Madrid), 1939 (Berlin), 1950 (Stockholm), 1951 (Amsterdam), 1956 (Montreal), 1960 (Vienna), 1964 (London), and 1968 (Moscow).


Franklin, K. J. “A Short History of the International Congresses of Physiologists.” Annals of Science, 1938, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 241–335. (Bibliography.)
History of the International Congresses of Physiological Sciences, 1889–1968. Edited by Wallace O. Fenn. Baltimore, 1968.


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