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European Crystallographic Association

[Hartmut Fuess] Hartmut Fuess
The science of Crystallography has a long tradition in “Old Europe”. Basic principles of symmetry, description of crystals and their classification were well established before the discovery of x-rays and their application to crystals. Immediately after the discovery by von Laue (1912) the first crystal structure was solved by the Braggs (1913). In the following years Britain and Germany were the leading nations in radiocrystallography. Whereas in Britain crystallography has been widely connected with physics, mineralogy has been the “bigger” brother for crystallography in Germany. Thus, our British colleagues created an independent organization with the British Crystallographic Association (BCA) while Germany had a working group (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kristallographie) somehow connected to the societies of mineralogy, chemistry and physics. An independent society was only founded after the unification of the two German states in 1991. Similar developments were observed in the other European countries. Crystallography was mostly connected with another scientific society, only a few independent organizations exist.

As a result of this heterogeneous situation a first European Crystallographic Meeting (ECM) was organized in 1973 at Bordeaux under the guidance of André Authier. Without any formal organization a small group of people organized the following ECM-conferences in years with no IUCr-congress. The name European Crystallographic Committee (ECC) was created and all European countries were invited to take part. Besides about 20 of them Israel and Egypt were always present. One of the - unwritten - guidelines of ECC was the alternation of ECM-meetings between Eastern and Western European countries. This approach was definitely very important and contributed considerably to overcome the isolation of colleagues in many countries and to a cohesion of crystallography in Europe. The ECM conferences attracted more and more scientists culminating in more than 1000 delegates in Vienna, Austria in 1988.

This tremendous success led to the consideration of a more formal organization. After lengthy discussions among ECC delegates, a formal organization was finally created under the chairmanship of Hartmut Fuess at ECM 17 in Lisboa. The legal act of registration was prepared by Paul Beurskens from Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Dutch is therefore the official language of the statutes.

Carmelo Giacovazzo was the first elected president. In 1978 the IUCr statutes were amended at the Warsaw Congress and the European Crystallographic Assn (ECA) became the first Regional Associate of the IUCr (at that time it was still the ECC). The ECA admits three categories of members (i) The crystallographic organizations of countries (ii) individual members and (iii) cooperative members. Most European nations are now represented, the number of individuals is about 500. In 1995 South Africa was admitted first as an observer and then as a regular member. The ECM 21 conference was held in 2003 in Durban. The presence of Egypt and South Africa in ECA most naturally led to the idea to include Africa in the organization. Under the presidency of Claude Lecomte several African countries were admitted as members. On the other hand some countries in Middle and Eastern Europe have experienced increasing difficulties keeping in contact. To reintegrate those crystallographers is one of the important tasks of the present Executive Committee which was elected in Durban. The members, Teresa Duarte (Portugal), Giuseppe Filippini (Italy), Hartmut Fuess (Germany), Mariusz Jaskolski (Poland), Claude Lecomte (France), Anders Liljas (Sweden), André Roodt (South Africa), Chick Wilson (U.K.) represent well a European-African partnership.

The forthcoming meetings of ECM 22 in Budapest (Hungary) in August 2004, ECM 23 in Leuven (Belgium) in 2006 and ECM 24 in Marrakech (Marocco) in 2007 are already scheduled.

Hartmut Fuess, ECA President