ECHA’s 30th Birth Anniversary Celebration:

History of ECHA Conferences

The General Committee of ECHA decided to celebrate the 30th birthday of ECHA by collecting the available information and memories of our past 15 International ECHA Conferences. These conferences were always the highlights of ECHA’s life, which gave again and again a great impetus for research, its applications and cooperation both in gifted education and talent support. The Committee asked Ragnild Zonneveld to mobilize the collective memory of ECHA on its conferences. Please find her Introduction to the Conference summaries enclosed.

Peter Csermely
president of ECHA

It is with great pleasure I present you this overview on thirty years of ECHA Conferences-history.

While doing research for this project, I found this article in ECHA News: “The Importance of attending a Conference”, by Ludmila V. Popova. Ludmila Popova ends her article by saying:

“Looking back on all these events and projects I can see how many new friends and enthusiastic supporters I have acquired thanks to the conferences, how much has been achieved during this relatively short period of time, what a wide network has formed and how much I have been stimulated by these contacts. (…) With great hopes I foresee my meetings with friends and colleagues with whom we have worked and are working together for the sake of a better world and our common future.”
(ECHA News Vol. 8 no. 2 September 1994)

That was the tendency in all the reports and memories I came across: every single one was about “warm”, about “inspiration” and “stimulation”, about “contact”, “working together” and “meeting people”. And actually, it was just that I experienced myself, while working on this project!

To make this overview I have worked my way through the ECHA archives: all the minutes of the General Committee, High Ability Studies and ECHA News issues. I searched the whole of the internet by filling in several combinations in Google (did you know ECHA is a European Agency for Chemistry Safety as well?). I stalked quite a few people by emailing them (a lot) for information; sorry about that! I met with a few people, among whom the founding ECHA President, Prof. Joan Freeman and the three times president of ECHA, Prof. Franz J. Mönks. I became best friends (including arguments) with Google Translate. Same with my laptop. And thus all the bits and pieces came together.

I would like to take the opportunity to say a special thank you to a few contributors who made my work a lot easier:

  • Joan Freeman, thank you for inviting me in London and providing me with so many materials!
  • Franz Mönks, thank you for taking the time to meet me in Driebergen.
  • Ernst Hany, Éva Gefferth and Javier Tourón, thank you for reacting so often, so quickly and so informatively.

I feel privileged to have had contact with so many people I read about while working on this project; ECHA history really came to life!

Joan Freeman stated in her Opening Address at the very first conference in Zürich 1988:

“ECHA is the only association covering all Europe, which is specifically concerned with high ability. We have a daunting amount to accomplish in the next few years in getting these outlined ideas and plans into action. I am excited by ECHA, because I believe it is a sound venture which will soon bear fruit for the highly able, and that is why we are here, to start the ball rolling.”

During this project I found the ball never stopped rolling, and ECHA has been fruitful and accomplished a whole lot in the past thirty years. So let’s keep the ball rolling: I’m looking forward to meeting you in Dublin next year, so we can make some new contacts, memories and history!

Ragnild Zonneveld

November 2017

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