by Francis D. Por
Zoology was among the very first disciplines to build an international organization. Congresses of Zoology started in 1889 on the initiative of the Societe Zoologique de France on the occasion of the International Exposition in Paris. Congresses were then held at regular intervals and attendance increased from congress to congress, from a few tens in Paris and in Moscow to 700 in Budapest in 1927. The London Congress set a target of 1000 and in Washington the number reached 2500.
The Congresses were also growing in complexity, resulting in part because of the emerging specialization of different fields of zoology. In London in 1958 there were eight to nine daily parallel sessions. In Washington an attempt was made to organize symposia instead and there were no less than 29: the problem of unifying subjects became more important than the numbers of participants.
The Washington Congress decided that the Board of the Division of Zoology of the IUBS would be responsible for ensuring the continuity of Zoological Congresses but this was not successful. A gallant effort was made in 1972 by Vaissiere and French colleagues to convene a XVII International Congress of Zoology in Monte Carlo. However, attendance was poor and proceedings were never published. An international focus became the problem of vanishing species. Instead, what followed in the next two decades was the vanishing of zoology from the international academic agenda. In a return the names of university departments and research centers were rapidly changed in order to avoid use of the word 'zoology'.
With the aid of modern communications and technology a reunification of the fractured specialties of zoology became possible. The concept of an integrative zoology, synthesizing data and results ranging from molecular biology to behavior, gained wide acceptance. The XVIII International Congress of Zoology was held in Athens in Greece in August 2000. The symposium program of the Congress presented a cross-zoological picture of the many levels of zoological inquiry, both horizontal and vertical. Attendance in Athens was far from the incommunicable thousands in the last congresses, but was considered by all as an unmitigated success.
Subsequently, the IUBS approved the (re)formation of an international zoological body (the ISZS) as proposed by Zhibin Zhang, John Buckeridge and Francis Dov Por in Cairo in Jan 2004, and an ISZS Executive Committee was elected in Beijing in Aug 2004 and charged with organizing International Congresses of Zoology and providing a global voice for zoologists.