Information and History

 The history of IAPSO dates from the early years of the 20th century

Modern oceanography had its beginnings in the 18th century voyages of James Cook and others which carried scientific observers. Those voyages were followed by oceanographic cruises in the 19th century financed by various governments. Prince Albert I of Monaco had an early interest in the sea and had entered into a naval career as a young man, serving in both the French and Spanish Navies. After seeing the results of the recent voyages of the "Travailleur" and the "Talisman" in an exhibition in the Paris Museum, Prince Albert made a decision in 1884 to devote his time and resources to oceanography. Over the next 30 years he financed the construction or acquisition of a series of four vessels which he used for oceanographic cruises. Prince Albert's initial main collaborator was Baron Jules de Guerne, joined in 1887 by Dr. Jules Richard. Maurice Leger and Paul Portier assisted Prince Albert in developing scientific equipment. John Young Buchanan joined the group as an oceanographer after serving as chemist to the Challenger expedition. Prince Albert's last voyage ended in 1914 with the outbreak of World War I.

Prince Albert I always had a strong interest in international cooperation. In 1900, he had granted his patronage to the establishment of the short-lived International Marine Association which ended meetings after 1904. With the encouragement of Buchanan, he sought to establish a new international organization after the end of the war.

The opportunity for that arose when the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) was established in Brussels, Belgium, on July 28, 1919 during the Constitutive Assembly of the International Research Council (predecessor of the International Council of Scientific Unions which was created in 1931). At the meeting in Brussels, a Section of Physical Oceanography was formed with Prince Albert of Monaco as its first President, Professor Horace Lamb of Great Britain as the Vice President, and Professor G. Magrini of Italy as the Secretary. Prince Albert I also founded a biological oceanography section in the International Union of Biological Sciences.

The first IUGG General Assembly was held in Rome, Italy, in May 1922. Prince Albert died in July of that year, and Vice- Admiral Sir John Perry of Great Britain, elected Vice President in Rome, carried on until the next General Assembly held in Madrid in 1924 where Professor Odon de Buen of Spain was elected President. Vice-Admiral Perry continued as Vice President (he died in 1926). Professor Magrini continued as Secretary. Both de Buen and Magrini were re-elected to their positions at the third IUGG General Assembly held in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1927, where Dr. J. Schmidt of Denmark became Vice President.

At an Assembly in Seville, Spain, in 1929, held separately from IUGG, the Section of Physical Oceanography became the Association of Physical Oceanography. At the fourth IUGG General Assembly held the following year in Stockholm, Sweden, Prof. Martin Knudsen of Denmark was elected President of the Association, Ing. E. Fichot of France became Vice President, and Prof. Rolf Witting of Finland became Secretary. Profs. de Buen and Magrini continued as members of the Association's Executive Committee. At the fifth IUGG General Assembly held in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1933, Knudsen and Fichot were re-elected to their positions and Prof. J. Proudman of Great Britain became Secretary (he would hold that position until 1948). Magrini and de Buen continued on the Executive Committee (Magrini died in 1935).

General Assemblies were held in 1936 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and in September 1939 in Washington, DC. Prof. B. Helland-Hansen became President of the Association in 1936 and held that position until 1946. Due to the disruptions of World War II, the following General Assembly was not held until 1948 when it was in Oslo, Norway. In the meantime, Prof. H. U. Sverdrup became President, continuing in that position until 1951. In 1948 Prof. Proudman became Vice President and Prof H. Mosby of Norway became Secretary. At that General Assembly the Association became the International Association of Physical Oceanography (IAPO).

Prof. Proudman became President of the Association at the General Assembly in Brussels, Belgium in 1951, Professor Sverdrup continued as a member of the Executive Committee, and Prof. Mosby continued as Secretary until being elected President of the Association at the General Assembly in Rome, Italy in 1954. At that time Dr. R. H. Fleming of the United States became Secretary General. Profs. Proudman and Sverdrup continued as members of the Executive Committee (Prof. Sverdrup died in 1957). At the next General Assembly in Toronto, Canada, in 1957, Prof. Mosby continued as President, Prof B. Kullenberg of Sweden became Secretary, and Prof. Proudman continued on the Executive Committee for an additional term.

At the 1960 General Assembly in Helsinki, Finland, Dr. G. Deacon of Great Britain became President, and Prof. Kullenberg continued as Secretary. In 1963, at the General Assembly in Berkeley, United States, Prof. Roger Revelle became President, Prof. Kullenbery became a Vice President, and Prof. I. Hela of Finland became Secretary. After 1963 the interval between IUGG General Assemblies became four years.

In 1967, the IUGG and Association General Assemblies were held in Switzerland, but in different cities, the IUGG meeting in Bern, IAPO became the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Ocean (IAPSO) and met in Sankt Gallen, and other Associations met in Basal and Zurich. Prof. Dietrich of Germany became the IAPSO President, and Dr. A. E. Maxwell of the United States became the Secretary (the Secretariat would remain in the United States from 1967 to 2007). In 1970, IAPSO held its General Assembly in Tokyo, Japan, separately from the IUGG General Assembly held in Moscow, Russia, in 1971, and held oceanographic sessions in conjunction with the IUGG General Assembly.

Successive IAPSO Presidents were Henri Lacombe (France 1970- 1975); Robert W. Stewart (Canada 1975-1979); Devendra Lal (India 1979-1983); Wolfgang Krauss (Germany 1983-1987); James J. O'Brien (United States 1987-1991); Robin D. Muench (United States 1991- 1995); L. Vere Shannon (South Africa 1995-1999, when he continued on the Executive Committee as Past President under revised statutes and by-laws which went into effect that year); Paola Rizzoli (United States/Italy 1999-2003); Shiro Imawaki (Japan 2003-2007); Lawrence A. Mysak (Canada 2007-2011); Eugene G. Morozov (Russian Federation 2011-2015); Denise Smythe-Wright (United Kingdom 2015-2019); Trevor McDougall was elected in 2019. The position of Secretary became Secretary General in 1979. Successive Secretaries/Secretaries General have been Eugene C. LaFond (United States 1970-1987); Robert E. Stevenson (United States 1987-1995); Fred E. Camfield (United States 1995-2007); Johan Rodhe (Sweden 2007-2015) and Stefania Sparnocchia (Italy elected in 2015).

At the General Assembly in Vienna, Austria, in 1991, IAPSO made a minor name change, revising it to the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans.

In 1999, there were revisions to the Statutes and By-Laws to increase the number of members on the Executive Committee, add the Past President as a member of the Executive Committee, and formally create a Nominations Committee.