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The Biophysical Society was formally founded in March 1957 in Columbus, Ohio, after
several years of planning and organizing. The organization process actually began
in earnest in 1955 at two separate meetings called to address the need for a biophysical
society. One conference, held in September 1955, met at Tufts College in connection
with the American Physiological Society and was under the chairmanship of Dr. W. A.
Selle of the Biophysics Department at the University of California, Los Angeles. The
second meeting met at the Hartford House of the Yale Biophysics Department at Valhalla,
New York. Both conferences agreed that a biophysical society was desirable; however
the second meeting was more concerned with careers and training in biophysics. From
these conferences, a committee, consisting of Drs. Cole, Hartline, Talbot and Curtis,
was formed to advise the American Physiological Society. Approximately one hundred
people next met in New York in January 1956 in the Hotel New Yorker in conjunction
with the American Institute of Physics. Forty or fifty individuals were then formed
into a steering committee with instructions to convene at the Atlantic City meeting
of the Federation of Biological Societies on April 16, 1956. At the Federation meeting,
the Committee of Four was elected, consisting of Samuel A. Talbot, Chairman, Kenneth
S. Cole, Ernest C. Pollard and Otto H. Schmitt. At the Committee of Four’s First National
Biophysics Conference held in Columbus, Ohio, March 4-6, 1957, the decision was made
to organize a biophysical society, and a Temporary Council was elected. This Council
made several proposals such as adopting the Constitution and Bylaws of the Society
and preparing for the second meeting of the Biophysical Society. At this second meeting
(the first regular national meeting) on February 6, 1958, in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
all of the Temporary Council’s recommendations were accepted and the Biophysical Society
elected its first set of officers with Robley C. Williams as the first president.
From humble beginnings, the Society has grown into a professional organization with
nearly 7,000 members in the United States and 45 countries.
In the early years, the Biophysical Society was guided and operated by volunteers
who served as officers, members of Council, or on various committees. The Executive
Board (originally named the Executive Council) consisted of four officers: President,
President-Elect, Secretary, and Treasurer as well as the Past President and four members
elected by the Council. Unlike the President and President-elect who serve for one
year only, the Secretary and Treasurer serve staggered terms of four years. The Office
of the Secretary, incorporating the position of Executive Director (also under various
other titles over the years), is the hub of the Society coordinating its activities.
Two of the secretaries, Margaret O. Dayhoff and Stephen H. White, also went on to
serve as Society president after serving consecutive terms as Secretary. The Executive
Director position, held by Emily Gray from 1972 – 1996, continues to be a vital part
of the Secretary’s Office. The Executive Director acts as a liaison with the Officers,
Executive Board and Council, and attends all meetings of the Executive Board and Council.
The Executive Director is also responsible for maintaining membership lists and tracking
dues payments. In addition, the Executive Director is in charge of the rest of the
Society staff personnel, and is responsible for communication with other societies
and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB, which the
Biophysical Society joined in 1991).
The position of the Executive Director shows the incredible growth of the Biophysical
Society. The Society had grand ambitions from its inception, and began pursuing the
publication of a society journal immediately upon its creation. In fact, many early
members had been desirous of a journal for some time. Discussions began in earnest
in 1956 because Academic Press wished to begin publishing a journal to be called “The
Journal of Molecular Biology,” which it later decided would be a redundant publication.
Early members of the Society began extensive correspondence with both Academic Press
and Pergamon Press in hopes of finalizing a journal that the Society could publish.
Both companies submitted proposals in 1957 to publish the Journal of Biophysics, and
Academic Press was selected. However, several members, including officers on the Executive
Board, expressed doubts as to the selection of Academic Press as a publisher. Therefore,
the agreement was rescinded and correspondence was begun with the Rockefeller Institute
Press (RIP). In August 1959, members selected an editorial board, and RIP began receiving
manuscripts for publication in the summer of 1960. The first issue of the Biophysical
Journal came out in September 1960, and volume one was completed in 1961. During these
formative years, before the Journal could operate on a self-sustaining basis, RIP
subsidized the Journal from its own resources. In 1989, the Society began to pursue
the possibility of major changes at the Journal. In order to address more areas of
interest, and to gain a wider readership, the Society set up an Ad Hoc Editorial Advisory
Committee in 1989. Members of the committee submitted reports in November 1989, February
1990, and again in November 1991. After a meeting in Houston, the Society decided
to make two significant changes to the Journal: the Journal would now be self-published
by the Society (with guidance from Waverly Press), and every (non-student) member
would automatically receive a subscription to the Journal with a modest increase in
membership dues to compensate. These two changes, which included moving Journal operations
from the University of Minnesota to Bethesda, were implemented in 1993. In 1996, the
Society began pursuing an online version of the Journal, which is presently active.
The Society also publishes a Newsletter.
The Biophysical Society has also been active in other areas such as biophysical meetings
and group discussions. The Society established the National Lectures in 1969. The
Society also sponsors meetings of sub-groups, which continually change over time to
meet the changing needs of the biophysical community. The current sub-groups are Bioenergetics,
Biological Fluorescence, Exocytosis/Endocytosis, Membrane Biophysics, Membrane Structure
and Assembly, Molecular Biophysics, Motility, and Permeation/Transport. Each subgroup
has their own chairperson, by-laws, and dues. The subgroups are designed to address
more specific areas of interest. To address the wider interests of the biophysical
community, the Society has held Annual Meetings since its inception in 1957. The Annual
Meetings are designed to bring together the biophysical community in an informal atmosphere
to discuss developments and have individual members present papers in specific areas
to facilitate further discussion. The Annual Meetings serve to strengthen the Society
as well by introducing new members to the community and promoting awareness of the
Society and its activities.
The Society has also had a very active set of committees, which have only grown over
the years. The Society has long been concerned with education and biophysics. The
Educational Affairs Committee first met at the Annual Meeting in 1959. The committee
first targeted college students interested in biophysics, but later also turned to
younger students as well as post-doctoral students just launching into the career
field. The Educational Affairs Committee sponsors workshops and symposia for students.
The Society’s placement service also began immediately upon inception in 1957. The
Society wanted to be able to advise its members about types of career opportunities
open to research investigators. The Society facilitated communication between its
members and organizations needing biophysicists. The Society uses questionnaires in
order to better understand the needs of its members seeking placement. The Biophysical
Society has also been concerned with women and minorities in biophysics. At the 1972
Annual Meeting the Committee on Professional Opportunities for Women (CPOW) was established.
The CPOW has been very active over the years through its meetings in conjunction with
the annual meetings, and through the Spectrum newsletter. The Minority Affairs Committee
seeks to involve more minorities in the Society and promote career opportunities.
Due to the growth and duration of the Society, in June 1981, members were sent an
annual mailing, which mentioned the new appointment of a Society archivist. The Executive
Council, during the 1981 Denver meeting, elected Max Lauffer as the archivist. The
purpose of electing an archivist was to assemble and preserve the history of the first
25 years of the Society. Members were asked to send memorabilia such as pictures,
important correspondence about the work and organization of the Society, and newspaper
clippings concerning meetings. Many members responded to this request, and to personal
requests from Max Lauffer.
Organized into five series: Series I. Officers and Executive Committee, 1955-2002.
Series II. Meetings, 1956-2002. Series III. Committees, 1956-1998. Series IV. Publications,
1956-2008. Series V. Affiliated Societies, 1964-2009.
Series I. Officers and Executive Committee
Series II. Meetings
Series III. Committees
Series IV. Publications
Series V. Affiliated Societies
This collection of records of the Biophysical Society, 1955 – 2003, documents the
early origins of the Society, its growth in membership as well as committees and areas
of interest, and its work in promoting both education and research in the field of
biophysics. These records have been arranged into five primary series that reflect
the basic organization of the Society. Each of the series: Officers and Executive
Committee, Meetings, Committees, Publications, and Affiliated Societies contain the
documents of committees, boards, and individuals responsible for the workings of a
particular area of the Society’s activity.
Series one contains the files of the Biophysical Society’s Officers and Executive
Committee. The series is subdivided into five sub-series: Association Legal Documents,
Correspondence, Executive Board Meetings, Finances, and Administrative Files. The
first sub-series, Association Legal Documents, begins with the 1958 Articles of Incorporation
and also contains constitutions and by-laws from the 1950s and 60s. This series does
contain some correspondence relating to the constitutions and by-laws. The correspondence
sub-series dates from 1955 – 1998. Correspondence covers a wide range of topics, which
the Executive Committee and Officers dealt with; it also contains numerous emails.
The Executive Board Meetings sub-series contains material addressing Society issues
from the 1950s through 2002. One meeting of interest is the 1972 meeting, which discussed
a lawsuit against the director of the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Secretary
of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The lawsuit was
brought by a caucus of women biophysicists in order to address discrimination on public
advisory boards. The 1973 meeting contains a discussion of the Equal Rights Amendment,
which was tabled for the 1974 meeting. The Finances sub-series deals with the Society’s
various accounts as well as budget reports and financial statements. Several Treasurer
reports from the 1990s are also included. The Administrative Files, covering mostly
the 1960s and 70s, includes a discussion of creating an archive for the Society. The
Society Archivist, Max Lauffer, wrote a general history of the first 25 years of the
Society, which is included in these Administrative Files. General rosters and committee
rosters cover the time span from 1959 – 1996.
The second series contains the Society’s Meeting records and is divided into two sub-series:
Annual Meetings and Miscellaneous Conferences and Meetings. The first sub-series,
Annual Meetings, is comprised of files for the Society’s annual meetings from 1956
– 2000. Included are organizational materials including files of the program committee
and the local arrangements committee along with printed programs, abstracts, reports,
minutes, correspondence and catalogues. This sub-series also includes numerous copies
of meeting information and calls for papers as well as correspondence relating to
the annual meetings. One item of interest is located in Box 9 Folder 43 with the 1981
meeting information and call for papers. The item consists of a series of photographs
of the Society’s founders taken at the 1981 annual meeting. The second sub-series,
Miscellaneous Conferences and Meetings, is comprised of files for individual conferences
and meetings such as the Second, Tenth, Eleventh, and Fourteenth International Biophysical
Series three, Committees, is comprised of files from a variety of the Society’s committees,
and is divided into seven sub-series. Files for both standing committees and ad hoc
committees provide a view of the varied interests and activities of the organization.
Files span the years 1956 – 1998 and include correspondence, reports, memos, minutes,
agendas, and directories. The seven sub-series are as follows: Awards Committee, Educational
Affairs Committee, Innovative Technology Fund Advisory Committee (ITFAC), Joint Steering
Committee, Membership Committee, Nominating Committee, and Miscellaneous Committees.
One item of interest is the records of the Joint Steering Committee, which was charged
with lobbying Congress on behalf of the Society and biophysicists in general. Files
include a 1991 discussion of the Space station debate as well as a discussion of genetic
engineering. The Membership Committee files contain printed directories from 1957
– 1999 with only a few years missing. Membership Committee correspondence also contains
a list of biophysicists to contact in order to see who would be interested in forming
a society. One item of interest with the Nominating Committee is a 1997 committee
The fourth series, Publications, is made up of three sub-series: Biophysical Journal,
Newsletter, and Publications Committee. The first sub-series contains correspondence
with Rockefeller University Press, the publisher, as well as financial information
from RUP. This sub-series also contains a significant amount of general correspondence.
One item of interest is the transition plan to move the oversight of the Journal from
the University of Minnesota to Bethesda, Maryland. These files include correspondence,
the ad hoc committee charged with undertaking the proposed move, the Conway Group
files, and the actual proposed changes to the Journal, which included the new position
of a Manuscript Processing Manager. The second sub-series, Newsletter, contains printed
copies of the Biophysical Society Newsletter as well as pertinent correspondence and
reports. Copies of the newsletter cover the time span 1958 – 2003 with very few gaps.
This sub-series also contains a handful of copies of the Spectrum newsletter, which
was published by the Committee for Professional Opportunities for Women (CPOW) of
the Biophysical Society. The third sub-series, Publications Committee, consists of
correspondence, reports, agendas, and minutes of said committee.
The fifth series, Affiliated Societies, contains files relating to organizations who
had close ties to the Biophysical Society, and it is divided into two sub-series:
the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and the International
Union of Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB). The first sub-series, FASEB, spans the
years 1988 – 2002 and consists of correspondence, Board of Directors meeting files,
reports, and files of the Summer Research Conference. The second sub-series, IUPAB,
consists of a small amount of correspondence and miscellaneous material mostly from
The records in this collection were donated over a period of three years in five accessions
and an additional accession eleven years later: SARCV 2003-03, SARCV 2003-01, SARCV
2002-02, SARCV 2001-03, SARCV 2000-08, SARCV 2014-05. The donations were approved
by Ms. Rosalba Kampman and the materials transferred from the Society’s offices in
This collection was processed by Rose King and Kristen Taynor under the supervision
of Marcia Frank Peri and completed in November 2003. The finding aid was written by
Ms. Kristen Taynor in January 2004. The majority of the records having come from a
few prior officers were found to be in relatively good order but there are notable
gaps in the records. Information on the early years is fairly comprehensive as are
the more current records but there is a real dearth of documentation for the 1970’s.
Multiple copies have been disposed of whenever there were more than two copies of
a given document, as have general invoices, receipts and personnel information such
as time sheets and payroll documents. Additional materials were processed in January
2015 by graduate assistant Jessica Pantazis. Subseries III.H and Subseries V.C were
Describing Archives: a Content Standard (DACS)
Archives Processing Manual: Description (2015): The processing manual used in Special Collections for all descriptive platforms, including
Finding aid available.
Finding Aid: http://library.umbc.edu/speccoll/findingaids/coll014.php
Reproduction allowed for research purposes. Copyright maintained by creator.
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics
Biophysical Society -- Archives
Biophysics -- Societies, etc.
Extent: 11.25 linear feet
Records of the original organizing committee and officers of the Society arranged
into five Subseries: Association Legal Documents, Correspondence, Executive Board
Meetings, Finances, and Administrative Files.
Date: 1957-1990; bulk 1958-1968
Extent: 5 folders (.25 linear feet)
Articles of Incorporation, constitutions & by-laws, arranged in alphabetical
order by type of document.
Extent: 121 folders (5.25 linear feet)
General correspondence files of the association officers arranged in date order,
followed by subject files arranged in alphabetical order by subject, followed by electronic
mail correspondence arranged in alphabetical order by subject.
Date: 1956-2002; bulk 1971-1999
Extent: 71 folders (4 linear feet)
Agendas, Correspondence, Minutes, and Reports of the Executive Board; arranged
in date order.
Date: 1957-1998; bulk 1974-1995
Extent: 39 folders (1.25 linear feet)
Reports, budgets, subgroup budgets, miscellaneous financial documents arranged
in alphabetical order by type of document.
Date: 1956-1998; bulk 1961-1973
Extent: 16 folders (.5 linear feet)
Officer's administrative records arranged in alphabetical order by type of document.
Date: 1956-2002; bulk 1963-1997
Extent: 173 folders (7.25 linear feet)
Minutes, agendas, announcements, correspondence, programs, reports, rosters,
and memos arranged into two Subseries: Annual Meetings and Miscellaneous Meetings
Date: 1956-2000; bulk 1963-1997
Extent: 164 folders (7 linear feet)
Correspondence, minutes, agendas, programs, abstracts, contracts, rosters, announcements,
memos, and notes arranged in order by meeting date.
Extent: 9 folders (.25 linear feet)
Correspondence, memos, and printed reports arranged in alphabetical order with
items of the same name in order by date.
Date: 1956-2009; bulk 1980-1997
Extent: 113 folders (6.25 linear feet)
Committee agendas, minutes, correspondence, memos, reports, directories and rosters
arranged into eight Subseries by committee name.
Date: 1983-1997; bulk 1990-1997
Extent: 12 folders (.5 linear feet)
Correspondence, nominating material, and ballots and voting instructions for
various Society awards; arranged in alphabetical order.
Date: 1959-1997; bulk 1973-1994
Extent: 13 folders (.75 linear feet)
General correspondence, school lists, questionnaires, and correspondence related
to Student Symposia, and printed material from workshops; arranged in alphabetical
Date: 1956-1998; bulk 1980-1997
Extent: 5 folders (.5 linear feet)
Correspondence, progress reports, and articles arranged in date order.
Extent: 12 folders (1 linear foot)
Correspondence, memos, reports, agendas, and minutes arranged in date order.
Extent: 17 folders (1 linear foot)
Correspondence, dues lists, membership statistics, surveys and questionnaires,
and printed directories arranged in alphabetical order.
Extent: 17 folders (1.25 linear feet)
Correspondence, officer nomination lists, biographical sketches of nominees
(including the original forms filled out by the nominees), nomination forms, election
totals, and email correspondence; arranged in date order.
Extent: 33 folders (1 linear foot)
Correspondence, newsletters, reports, and committee lists arranged in alphabetical
Extent: 4 folders (.25 linear feet)
Extent: 55 folders (2.5 linear feet)
Correspondence, reports, financial statements, agendas, minutes, and copies of
newsletters arranged into three Subseries by topic.
Extent: 34 folders (2.5 linear feet)
Correspondence, financial reports, agendas, and transition plan material relating
to the Biophysical Journal arranged in alphabetical order by topic.
Date: 1958-2003; bulk 1970-1997
Extent: 8 folders (.5 linear feet)
Printed copies of the Biophysical Society newsletter with pertinent correspondence
and reports arranged in order by date.
Date: 1956-1996; bulk 1988-1993
Extent: 13 folders (.5 linear feet)
Correspondence, agendas, reports, and proceedings of said committee arranged
in alphabetical order.
Date: 1964-2007; bulk 1989-2002
Extent: 28 folders (1.75 linear feet)
Correspondence, meeting files, and reports from societies connected to the Biophysical
Society arranged into three Subseries in alphabetical order.
Extent: 24 folders (1.25 linear feet)
Correspondence, reports, and meeting files arranged in alphabetical order.
Date: 1964-1996; bulk 1990-1996
Correspondence and miscellaneous files arranged in alphabetical order.
Correspondence, reports, and meeting files arranged in chronological order.
Biophysical Society. Accessed November 13, 2015. http://www.biophysics.org/.
Biophysical Journal Online. Accessed November 13, 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/journals/231/.
Satin, L.S. "The Biophysical Society: A Short History." Biophysical Society. Accessed
November 13, 2015. http://www.biophysics.org/AboutUs/Overview/BPSAShortHistory/tabid/2929/Default.aspx.