Do You Know Your ECS History?

ECS at 115

The Electrochemical Society was founded 115 years ago as the American Electrochemical Society. That’s based on the inaugural meeting held April 3-5, 1902 in Philadelphia, PA. Twenty papers were presented and recorded in Transactions of the American Electrochemical Society, Vol. 1, No. 1.

You could say the Society was born out of the indifference of what was known at the time as the Council of the American Chemical Society. Around this time, ACS took no action on a proposal to form an electrochemical section or division. That led Joseph Richards, the first president of the Society, to write in the inaugural Transactions:

“The day is past, we all acknowledge, when one man, even be he Newton, can know all that is to be known … the day is passing when any one society can even cover satisfactorily the whole field of any one science …”

Meeting for organization

And so in November of 1901 about 30 engineers, chemists, and scientists were invited by letter to attend “the meeting for organization” where they would create an organization:

“Its functions should be those of bringing electrochemists into personal contact with each other; of disseminating among them all the information known to, and which can be spared by, their co-workers; to stimulate original thought in these lines by mutual interchange of experience, and by papers and discussions; to stimulate electrochemical work all over the world by publishing the news of what is being done here in America.”

They decided from the start to “hold only a few meetings each year” in different cities; that “annual dues shall not exceed $5.00;” and that the membership committee would promise to secure at least 75 members to start.

From there they sent a letter to all members of the American Chemistry Society, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, “… and also to such persons, — engineers, chemists and metallurgists as were known to the committee to be interested in the development of electrochemistry.”

Finding the first members

The pitch was simple. The products of electrochemical industries in the United States amount to $100,000,000 per year in 1901. The scientists and engineers interested in electrochemistry are distributed among half a dozen societies and have “no common medium for communications.” That “suggested the formation of an American Electrochemical Society.”

There were 353 founding members, 52 of whom attended the first meeting in 1902 where they voted down the motion to write the word electrochemical with a hyphen and a capital C (Electro-Chemical), but only by a 21 to 29 vote.

They published 1,000 copies of that first Transactions less than four months after the meeting. Each member got a free copy. Others paid $3.00. Colleges, libraries, other societies and journals paid $2.00 for a cloth bound copy.

Discussions about papers published too

In the early days the papers were published along with an edited discussion about each. For years it was required that a completed paper, suitable for preprinting, be submitted before the meeting, so attendees could come to your presentation armed with questions.

“American” was dropped from the Society’s name in 1930. The Journal of The Electrochemical Society debuted in 1948, incorporating Society news and other information of interest to the members along with the research papers. That first issue only contained three technical papers. The original Transactions and the printed discussions about the papers presented at meetings was discontinued in 1950.

The Electronics Division came into its own in the late 1950s as solid state science, neglected at first by other societies, found a home with ECS.

Continuing to build

After 115 years you could say not much has changed as the purpose of ECS is exactly as stated in 1902. And electrochemistry and solid state science are still the center of industry and invention, now focused on renewable energy, communications, health care, clean water, climate change, and improving our infrastructure.
We need to continue to build on our rich history.

You can support the next generation of scientists, our lively and substantive meeting programs, and ECS’s initiative to Free the Science that aims to make our high quality, peer-reviewed research freely available to everyone. Show your pride during this 115th anniversary year by making a donation of $115 today.

Donate

PS: Learn more about ECS’s Free the Science campaign.

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