The first International Congress of Physiological Sciences

In an effort to promote physiology, encourage the interchange of ideas, and afford physiologists the opportunity to know one another personally, the first International Congress of Physiological Sciences was organized in Basel, Switzerland in 1889. Thereafter they were held every three years, and in 1929 an informal, self-perpetuating ‘Permanent Committee’ was organized to carry on this tradition, which it has successfully done ever since with the only interruptions during the two world wars.

First steps toward an International Union

At the Copenhagen meeting in 1950, preliminary arrangements were made for an International Union, and in 1953 at the Montreal meeting the International Union of Physiological Sciences, or IUPS, was launched. The founding member countries were Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, W. Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and USSR. Originally the International Physiological Congresses included biochemists and pharmacologists, but in 1949 the biochemists started their own international congresses as did the pharmacologists shortly thereafter.

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Joining the International Council of Scientific Unions

In 1956 Hungary became a member of the IUPS and Czechoslovakia, India, ALACF (Latin American Association of Physiology), Poland and Rumania joined in 1959. It was also at that time that the IUPS became one of the Scientific Members of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) and as such, it has one representative on their General Committee. The IUPS is also an adhering member of the International Council for the Organization of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) and of the International Council for Laboratory Animal Science (ICLAS).

More member societies join

At the 1962 meeting of the IUPS General Assembly in Leiden, The Netherlands, Finland and Sweden, formerly represented by the Scandinavian Physiological Society, and Chile, formerly represented by ALACF, were elected as individual members along with Bulgaria, China (Taiwan), Egypt, Israel, Turkey and Yugoslavia.

Help for countries where physiology was developing

In 1965 the General Assembly met in Tokyo, the Statutes and By-Laws were revised as the office of (immediate) Past President was abolished, and the President could thereafter serve for a maximum of two (consecutive) three year terms. Importantly, a category of Associate Member of the Union was created to accommodate physiological societies in countries where physiology is not sufficiently developed to justify full membership. In 1965 Denmark, Peru, and South Korea were admitted to full membership.

IUPS gains non-profit status

In 1969, the Union was chartered as a nonprofit corporation in the District of Columbia, USA. This major change was undertaken to enable the Union to function as a responsible legal entity and to enable the maintenance of records in a fixed location independent of the location of the officers. As a part of this change, it had been necessary to again write a new Constitution which was adopted by the General Assembly meeting in Washington, D.C. in 1968. This Constitution defined that members belong to the Union through Adhering Bodies which are either the national scientific society (e.g. National Academy of Science) or a local physiological society. The adhering bodies pay yearly dues. The General Assembly is the deliberative body of the Union responsible for electing a Council and officers, the Council being defined as the legal representative and administrative body of the Union responsive to the advice of the General Assembly in its management of the Union. The Council consists of 15 individuals from different countries, five of whom are Executive Officers. Officers of the Union since 1953 are listed below.

The ranks of the member societies grow

Since the 1970’s, East Germany, Iran, Norway, South Africa, and Venezuela have become members of the Union, along with Brazil, Indonesia, and New Zealand in 1974, Austria in 1977, Nigeria and Portugal in 1980, Ghana, Greece, and Mexico in 1983, and Thailand in 1989. At the 1993 General Assembly, following the political reorganization of some member societies there were a number of new members (Czech Republic, Estonia, Russian, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Ukraine), and Cameroon and Pakistan also joined. In 1997 Belarus, Georgia, and Kazakhstan became Adhering Members, as did Croatia in 2001, and Argentina and Slovakia in 2005. Currently (2012) there are 47 voting member societies. There are also 17 Associate (non-voting) members (Armenia, Cameroon, Croatia, Cuba, Estonia, Georgia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Myanmar, Portugal, Slovakia, and Uruguay), five Regional members (Federation of Asian and Oceanic Physiological Societies, Federation of European Physiological Societies, African Association of Physiological Societies, Latin American Association of Physiological Sciences and Scandinavian Physiological Society), and two Affiliated members (International Society of Nephrology and International Society of Pathophysiology).

Themes and International Programme Committees

The 1977 Congress in Paris was the first to be organized by scientific theme and this has carried on since. At the 1980 congress in Budapest, the concept of an International Scientific Programme Committee (ISPC), to help in the preparation of future congresses was approved. The ISPC was originally composed of six members from the host country along with twelve international members representing the various fields of Physiology. These ISPCs have developed so that local and IUPS designated members can collaborate and help plan the best possible scientific program for each congress. The ISPC will meet in May 2021 to plan the 2022 Congress in Beijing.

The work of the IUPS

In the past 50 years, the Union has activated numerous scientific commissions in various specialized areas of physiology. They have been effective in the generation of symposia and regional meetings as well as providing suggestions to the International Scientific Programme Committee. Over the years the names and activity of the commissions has fluctuated, and the current ones and their members can be found Member Societies. In addition, the commissions formerly dealing with Education and the Physiome became Committees, to have a better interactive role with all of the commissions

News in Physiology Sciences (NIPs) becomes Physiology

The IUPS in cooperation with the American Physiological Society began publishing News in Physiological Sciences in February 1986. Its major objective was to present numerous short articles covering a broad spectrum of physiological specialties so as to help physiologists remain current with numerous fields of interest. The name of the journal was changed to Physiology in 2004. To help physiologists throughout the developing world, free subscriptions have been offered to a number of libraries in the developing world over the years. The success of Physiology can be seen from the rich content it attracts and its prestigious Editorial Board.