History of IAWS


(Formation and dissolution of IWRS.)

International cooperation between people working in the field of forest products existed long before 1950. The first suggestion that a world-wide wood research organization should be established was made by Jean Collardet (later a Fellow of IAWS) in 1954 at the 3rd FAO Wood Technology Conference (FAO is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). At the 4th FAO Mechanical Wood Technology Conference in 1958 a working Group for Wood Science was appointed and a Steering Committee for an IWRS, selected with FAO kindly offering to provide secretarial services.
In May 1960 a meeting by 15 wood scientists from 9 countries, headed by Stanley A. Clarke (CSIRO, Australia) and Professor Franz Kollmann (Munich, Germany), met at the Centre Technique du Bois (CTB) in Paris to form the IWRS. The original Executive Committee included B. Thunell (Sweden), J.Campredon (France), L.J.Markwardt (USA) and F.Nájera (Spain). The first General Meeting was held at FAO headquarters in Rome in July 1962 and was attended by 35 people from 15 countries.
The general object of IWRS was to further the international exchange of information and ideas to encourage research« to promote more efficient utilization of wood and its products ». IWRS had ambitious plans to organize annual meetings and, periodically, FAO conferences on Wood Technology, and to convene at meetings of kindred organizations. Regional meetings were to be arranged. Members of IWRS were to receive bulletins, notes and reports.
Examination of the program of the 1962 Rome meeting shows that IWRS did not deal with wood science in the broad sense. The topics at Rome treated wood only as a raw material (though wood chemists like Gratzl and Kratzl participated).
IWRS was formally dissolved early in 1965. The only document in the archive stating this fact is a letter signed by Bertil Thunell (acting President at the founding of IWRS) and Franz Kollmann (President 1963). The letter dated December 1964 was sent to full Members of IWRS. In it, these two scientists, formally principal leaders, suggested the dissolution of IWRS. The reasons given were :

  1. The failure of the society to focus its aims, resulting in too wide a diversity of objectives.
  2. Too few members with unrelated interests.
  3. Lack of adequate funds.
  4. Lack of as permanent secretariat.
  5. No means for publication.
  6. No regular meetings had been arranged.
  7. Cessation of FAO support.
  8. Reorganisation of the IUFRO Section 41, which appeared to eliminate the need for IWRS.

At an ad hoc-meeting of IWRS (Sept.27,1963) at Madison (WI, USA) it was unanimously agreed to replace IWRS by an academy-like organization. Eighteen IWRS members were present (Armstrong, Becker, Bosshard, Collardet, de la Cruz, Fourarge, Freas, Griffionen, Kollmann, Kühne, Markwardt, Purushotham, Siimes, Skjelmerud, Tamelong, Thunell, Yavorsky and Ylinen). Unanimous support was also expressed by 17 invited guests (Ackerman, Antoinen, Chardin, Dadswall, Donaldson, Ellwood, Fleischer, Hunt, Locke, Lewis, Parewicz, Pramraemi, Reid, Scheffer, Smith, Tortorelly and Youngs).
For a legal dissolution of IWRS (according to Article XI, Section 2 of its Constitution) it was necessary for the signatories of the December 1964 letter (Thunell and Kollmann) to obtain the agreement of the IWRS Members within 8 weeks. Members, who did not answer within this period, would be regarded as having given a silent agreement.
The December 1964 letter also described how the finances of IWRS (including a balance of USD 352.81) would be dealt with. It was suggested that the remaining amount would be given to the International Association of Wood Anatomists, whose headquarters were then in Zürich.
The letter expressed regret about these developments, which could not have been foreseen, trusting that a planned IAWS - with a limited number of elected members, a permanent secretariat and an own Quarterly Review - would increase the scientific prestige of wood research among other scientists and in the eyes of the public.
In a letter of Nov. 16, 1964, to Professor Kollmann, Egon Glesinger (Ass. Director General of FAO) expressed delight over the formation of IAWS and pointed out also that the previous attempts (incl. IWRS) to establish an improved cooperation internationally within wood science had been useful (even indispensable) steps, leading to an important international addition to promote the cause of wood and forest products. The contacts between the Academy (to be established) and FAO were to be maintained.

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