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.

Joining the 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.

Revision of the Statutes and By-Laws

In 1965 the General Assembly met in Tokyo. Again the Statutes and By-Laws had to be revised: because a separate International Union of Pharmacology had been formed, an article referring to the Section on Pharmacology in the IUPS had to be deleted. The office of (immediate) Past President was abolished, and the President could thereafter serve for a maximum of two (consecutive) three year terms. 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 and 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 that time East Germany, Iran, Norway, South Africa and Venezuela became 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).

‘The Logic of Life’

The 1977 Congress in Paris was the first to be organized by scientific theme with the two most recent themes being “The Logic of Life” in Glasgow and “Integrative Physiology: From Molecules to Humans” In St. Petersburg. In turn, at the 1980 congress in Budapest, the concept of an International Scientific Program Committee to help in the preparation of future congresses was approved. Such an ISPC is currently composed of six members from the host country along with twelve international members representing the various fields of specialization in Physiology. These ISPCs have played very useful roles in preparing the congresses in Sydney (1983), Vancouver (1986), Helsinki (1989), Glasgow (1993), St. Petersburg (1997), Christchurch (2001) and San Diego (2005) and will certainly be a vital part of the one in Kyoto (2009).

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 Scientific Program Committee. They have also prepared and published books related to the specific fields. It was decided by the IUPS council in 2001 to reorganize what had become a rather long list of commissions, some more active than others, into a more compact and efficient group composed of eight commissions each composed of between two and five Sections. In addition, the commissions formerly dealing with Education and the Physiome became Committees rather than commissions so as to have a better interactive role with all of the commissions. In 2005 it was decided to merge two of the commissions into one and to add a new topic, thus maintaining eight commissions.

Cooperation with the American Physiological Society

The IUPS in cooperation with the American Physiological Society began publishing News in Physiological Sciences in February 1986. Its major objective is to present numerous short articles covering a broad spectrum of specialties so as to help physiologists remain current with numerous fields of interest. The name of the journal was changed to Physiology in 2004. In an effort to help physiologists throughout the developing world, free subscriptions have been offered to a number of libraries in the developing world over the years.