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Home 9 About 9 History

The International Glaciological Society was originally formed as an amalgamation of two groups. Those interested in the Arctic and Antarctic, represented by James Wordy and those interested in snow represented by Gerald Seligman. Representatives of those two groups met on 11 December 1936 and that is seen as the first ever meeting of the Society. The formal name of this new group was ‘The Association for the Study of Snow and Ice’ although it was often referred to as the ‘Society’ in minutes of its meetings.

The Association for the Study of Snow and Ice

The second meeting of this ‘group’ and the first official meeting of the ‘The Association for the Study of Snow and Ice’ was held at the offices of the Royal Geographical Society on 23 April 1937. Seligman was formally elected as Chairman and Wordy as Vice-Chairman. During the summer of 1937 the first ‘Rule’ (or Constitution) of the Society were drafted and published in July 1937.The ‘Association’ met on a fairly regular basis where ‘papers’ were read and discussed. up until the war when the ‘Association’ was suspended.

The British Glaciological Society

When, after the war, the Association started meeting again the question of the name for the association popped up again. This was when ‘Glaciology’ first was mentioned. Thus, it was at the first meeting of the society after the war on 16 July 1945 when the new name ‘The British Glaciological Society’ emerged.

Quite soon after the war ‘a hint of internationalism’ surfaced with the recommendations from the Wordie and Seligman that the Society should adopt a tolerant attitude. The Society had already received recognition from across the Atlantic for its pre-war advice to an US Antarctic Service Expedition.

Then in 1946 the publication program started which has lasted till this day. From the early beginnings ‘foreign’ representatives were included in the editorial committee for the infant Journal of Glaciology, another sign of the growing desire to create a more international identity for the Society and its new publication. This is also the time when the idea the Society should organise symposia.
In the early fifties also saw the introduction of ‘local overseas representatives of the Society’ to ‘further the Society’s aims abroad.

International Glaciological Society

With this move to ‘internationalism’ it was inevitable that a name change was needed. Thus, it was on 12 July 1961, the governing committee unanimously agreed to change the Society’s name to ‘The Glaciological Society’. Shortly thereafter, on 6 January 1962, a new Constitution was approved at an Extraordinary General Meeting. Those two things along with a restructuring of the Journal’s editorial structure were celebrated at the 25th anniversary of the Society at a birthday dinner at St John’s College at the beginning of January 1962.

The inevitable next step was to change the name of the Society to the ‘International Glaciological Society’, to elect a President from outside of Britain Dr Walter Schytt who began his term in 1969. Dr Schytt went on to preside over the first Annual General Meeting held outside Britain, in Moscow in 1971.

This brief synopsis of the early days of the IGS is mainly based on the book:

Wood, Peter (1986) The International Glaciological Society: fifty years of progress. Published by the International Glaciological Society Cambridge