International Congresses of Genetics

The International Congress of Genetics dates back to 1899.  While the first two conferences were plant breeding meetings, they were retrospectively re-named Genetics conferences in 1906.   For overviews of the history of the International Congress of Genetics see:-

Haynes (1998). Heritable Variation and Mutagenesis at Early International Congresses of Genetics. Genetics 148: 1419–1431 

Krementsov, N. (2004). International Science Between the World Wars: The Case of Genetics. Taylor & Francis Ltd

1899International Conference on Hybridisation and Cross-Breeding of Varieties
London, England

This conference preceded the re-discovery of Mendel’s laws of inheritance by one year.  One of the three ‘re-discovers’, Hugo De Vries, presented a paper. William Bateson who gave the study of heredity the name ‘genetics’ and was an early leader of the discipline also spoke. 

Report in NATURE 
Report in SCIENCE
Conference report & text of papers from J. Roy. Hort. Soc. 24, 1900. 

1902International Conference on Plant Breeding and Hybridization 
New York, USA

Both Bateson and De Vries presented papers on Mendelism at this conference. Wilhelm Johannsen who went on to coin the term ‘gene’ and to distinguish between genotype and phenotype delivered the first paper of the conference.

Proceedings and text of papers from Memoirs of the Horticultural Society of New York ; vol. 1. 

19063rd International Conference on Genetics 
London, England

Mendelism so permeated the program of this conference that Mendel’s photograph appears in the opening pages of the Proceedings document. The three ‘re-discovers’ of Mendel’s laws (Correns, de Vries and von Tschermak) were all present. This was the first of these meetings to feature talks on animal genetics.

Proceedings and text of papers published by the Royal Horticultural Society 

19114rd International Conference on Genetics 
Paris, France

At this conference it became clear that a variation in a broad range of traits, ranging from cold resistance in plants to disease in humans, was heritable.  Where such variation was underpinned by allelic variation in more than one gene. We see researchers struggling to understand the relationship between genotype and phenotype, although Bateson and Punnett were actively working on the problem.  The challenge was more than formidable, given a lack of understanding of concepts that we take for granted, such as the existence of genes on chromosomes and recombination.

At the end of the conference delegates resolved that “the periodic international conferences should be tied to each other through a continuously active entity and a homogeneous leadership possessing the authority necessary to make binding decisions.” Accordingly, they elected William Bateson (Great Britain), Erwin Baur (Germany), Erich von Tschermak (Austria), Wilhelm Johannsen (Denmark), Philip de Vilmorin (France), Jan P. Lotsy (Holland), N. H. Nilson-Elle (Sweden), Walter T. Swingle (United States), and A. Lang (Switzerland) to form the Permanent International Committee for Genetic Congresses – PICGC).

No Congresses were held between 1911 and 1927 due to the First World War

19275th International Congress on Genetics 
Berlin, Germany

The fifth Congress was held at the University of Berlin.  The program was outlined in the journal Science 

A report on the Congress was published in Nature 

The proceedings of the Congress were published in Z. f. Induct. Abstamm.-u. Vererbungsl., suppl. 1, 1928  

The Congress was attended by 1000 delegates and 135 papers were read.  Sergei Navashin was elected as the Congress President in recognition of the excellence of his research in cytology and the growing significance of the study of cytology in genetics.  Research presented by Hermann Muller on the induction of mutations with x rays that would ultimately lead to the award of the Nobel Prize was considered to be a highlight of the Congress.  Research on Drosophila, primroses, wheat and maize were prominent along with intense interest in crossing over and linkage.  Several papers on human twin studies and blood groups were presented.Z. f. induct. Abstamm.-u. Vererbungsl., suppl. 1, 1928      

19326th International Congress on Genetics 
Ithaca, NY, USA 

Four people who would go on to win the Nobel Prize spoke at this Congress - Thomas Morgan (1933), Hermann Muller (1946), George Beadle (1958) and Barbara McClintock (1983). Morgan was the Congress President and Calvin Bridges the Vice President.  Muller spoke about his research on induction of mutations by X rays that would win him the Nobel Prize. Curt Stern presented his seminal research using translocations to provide physical evidence of crossing over.  Four giants of 20th century population and evolutionary genetics - Theodosius Dobzhansky, R. A. Fisher, J. B. S. Haldane, and Sewall Wright also presented their latest research. The Congress featured many exhibits, including a “living chromosome map” with mutant maize plants placed in positions representing the locations of the causal mutations on the linkage map. 

Congress Program 
Historical Reflection by James Crow 
Report in Science 

19397th International Congress on Genetics 
Edinburgh, Scotland 

Congress Proceedings 
Report in Nature 
Report in the Journal of Heredity 

Reports on subsequent Congresses will be progressively added to this page.


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