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A Brief History

For more detailed information about the history of the Gordon Research Conferences organization, please visit our 75th Anniversary web site at www.frontiersofscience.org!

 

The first meeting of what was to become the Gordon Research Conferences took place at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, in the summer of 1931. The meeting was convened by Professor Neil E. Gordon, a member of the chemistry faculty. Dr. Gordon's interest was to bring together a group of scientists working at the frontier of research of a particular area and permit them to discuss in depth all aspects of the most recent advances in the field and to stimulate new directions for research. The meetings continue today in that same manner.

From 1931 to 1947, the Conferences met in the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland. For several years, the meetings were structured as a summer school at Johns Hopkins and met in Remsen Hall, the chemistry department building. In search of a more isolated meeting site, the Conferences moved to Gibson Island in the mid-1930s. At about the same time, the Conferences affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and were organized as the AAAS-Gibson Island Chemical Research Conferences. This mode of operation continued until 1946, when Neil Gordon retired.

In 1947, the Conferences moved to Colby Junior College (now Colby-Sawyer College) in New London, New Hampshire, and were named the Gordon Research Conferences in honor of the years of work Neil Gordon had done in establishing the meetings. In the summer of 1947, there were 10 Gordon Research Conferences. In 1956, the Gordon Research Conferences incorporated in New Hampshire as a non-profit, tax exempt organization devoted to scientific and educational purposes. The GRC presence in New England has grown steadily over the years. We currently use a variety of sites in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island and host as many as 20 meetings per week during the summer months. In 2010, GRC also held meetings in North Carolina for the first time.

In 1963, the Polymers Conference moved to Santa Barbara, California, founding the west coast winter series. In 1980, winter operations moved to Ventura, California, and in 2009, expanded to include a new site in Galveston, Texas. We now hold 40-50 meetings each year, January through May, in California and Texas.

In 1990, responding to the international growth of fundamental research and technology, the Gordon Research Conferences began to hold meetings outside of the U.S. The first meetings were in Volterra, in northern Italy. The international Conferences have grown steadily and GRC currently holds 20-30 meetings annually in Tuscany and Switzerland. Periodically, meetings are also held in Hong Kong and in the past, GRC has held meetings in Oxford, Japan, and several other sites in Europe. It is anticipated that the number of international meetings will continue to grow.

In 1996, the first Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) was held in conjunction with a Gordon Research Conference. The GRS Program was created to provide a forum for graduate students and post-docs to present their own work in a non-intimidating environment, build collaborative networks with their peers, and to support their preparation for active participation at an associated GRC. Beginning in 2005, additional Conferences began holding Gordon Research Seminars in conjunction with their meetings, and the program has grown steadily ever since. Between 50 and 80 Gordon Research Seminars are currently held each year.

From its modest beginnings in the early 1930s to the present day, the Gordon Research Conferences organization has grown in size and scope, but its vision and purpose have remained the same - to provide an informal, but important, forum for the presentation and discussion of research at the frontiers of science.

 

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