As we mourn the loss of HRH Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh and reflect on his 73-year marriage to Queen Elizabeth, we are reminded of his commitment to thousands of causes and leadership of many societies and organizations devoted to the welfare of mankind. One of these thousands of associations was IFAC in 1966.
It was a tradition in the early days of IFAC to have a major political/royal/governmental official at the opening ceremony of each IFAC World Congress. In 1966, the 3 rd IFAC World Congress was held in London, UK during the term of Professor John Coales, IFAC’s fourth President. John was a Professor at Cambridge, had been actively engaged in the war effort (radar development) in the previous decade, and knew many government leaders in Great Britain during and after the Second World War. He arranged to have Prince Phillip at the opening ceremony of the 3rd IFAC World Congress. At a later social event at that Congress, Harold Wilson, Prime Minister of the UK, was in attendance.
This practice of having major national figures in ceremonial roles at an IFAC World Congress organized by IFAC’s National Member Organizations was an early tradition that did not continue over the decades. It is interesting to note that the first Deputy Prime Minister of the Soviet Union, Alexei Kosygin, was in attendance at the opening ceremony of the 1st IFAC World Congress in Moscow in 1960.
Note that the 4th IFAC President hosted the 3rd IFAC World Congress. IFAC’s first President was the American, Harold Chestnut, and the first Congress was hosted by IFAC’s second President, Academician Alexander Letov, in Moscow. That was part of the “Iron Curtain compromise” necessary for the creation of IFAC in the late 1950s; the Americans would have the first President and the Soviet Union would host the first Congress. Chestnut served a two-year term and never hosted a Congress. All succeeding Presidents have had three-year terms. In 2023 Professor Hajime Asama, IFAC’s current and 23rd President will host the 22nd Congress in Yokohama, Japan.
Steve Kahne (US)
IFAC President (1993-1996)