The Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) owes its origin to the foresight and initiative of two British Chemists, namely, Professor J. L. Simonsen and Professor P.S. MacMahon. It occurred to them that scientific research in India might be stimulated if an annual meeting of research workers somewhat on the lines of the British Association for the Advancement of Science could be arranged. The Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) owes its origin to the foresight and initiative of two British Chemists, namely, Professor J. L. Simonsen and Professor P.S. MacMahon. It occurred to them that scientific research in India might be stimulated if an annual meeting of research workers somewhat on the lines of the British Association for the Advancement of Science could be arranged.
- To advance and promote the cause of science in India
- To hold an annual congress at a suitable place in India
- To publish such proceedings, journals, transactions and other publications as may be considered desirable.
- To secure and manage funds and endowments for the promotion of Science inlcuding the rights of disposing of or selling all or any portion of the properties of the Association.
- To do and perform any or all other acts, matters and things as are conductive to, or incidental to, or necessary for, the above objects.
The first meeting of the Congress was held from January 15-17, 1914 at the premises of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, with the Honourable Justice Sir Asutosh Mukherjee, the then Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University, as President. One hundred and five scientists from different parts of India and abroad attended and the papers numbering 35 were divided into six sections-Botany, Chemistry, Ethnography, Geology, Physics, Zoology under six Sectional Presidents.
From this modest beginning with hundred and five members and thirty five papers communicated for reading at the first session, ISCA has grown into a strong fraternity with more than sixty thousand members till to date. The number of papers communicated for reading has risen to nearly two thousand. Upto 2000 there were Sixteen sections,two committes and six forums, namely Sections- Agricultural Sciences, Anthropology & Archaeology, Biochemistry, Biophysics & Molecular Biology, Botany, Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Earth System Sciences, Engineering sciences, Material Sciences, Mathematics, Medical & Veterinary Sciences, Physics, Physiology, Psychology & Educational Sciences, Statistics, Zoology, Entomology & Fisheries; Committees-Home Sciences, Science & Society; Forums-Communication & Information Science, Environmental Sciences, Forensic Science, Science Education, Science for School Students and Women & Science.
There are now fourteen sections namely Agriculture and Forestry Sciences, Animal, Veterinary and Fishery Sciences, Anthropological and Behavioural Sciences (including Archaeology and Psychology & Educational Sciences), Chemical Sciences, Earth System Sciences, Engineering Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Information and Communication Science & Technology (including Computer Sciences), Material Sciences,Mathematical Sciences (including Statistics), Medical Sciences (including Physiology), New Biology (including Biochemistry, Biophysics & Molecular Biology and Biotechnology), Physical Sciences, Plant Sciences and one Committee Science & Society.
The Silver Jubilee Session of the Science Congress was held at Calcutta in 1938 under the Presidentship of Lord Rutherford of Nelson but due to his sudden death, Sir James Jeans took the chair. It was at this Jubilee Session that the participation of foreign scientists in session of the Indian Science Congress was first initiated.
The Science Congress celebrated its Golden Jubilee in October, 1963 at Delhi with Prof.D.S. Kothari as General President. On this occasion two special publications were brought out : (1) A short History of the Indian Science Congress Association and (2) Fifty Years of Science in India (in 12 volumes, each volume containing reviews of particular branch of science).
The Diamond Jubilee Session of the Science Congress was held at Chandigarh in January 3-9, 1973, under the Presidentship of Dr.S.Bhagavantam. On this occasion two special publications were brought out : (1) A Decade (1963-72) Indian Science Congress Association (with life-sketches of General Presidents) and (2) A Decade(1963-72) of Science in India(in section-wise).
The Indian Science Congress Association celebrated its Seventy Fifth year of its incepton, popularly called otherwise, Platinum Jubilee, in 1988, with Prof.C.N.R.Rao as General President. Keeping this in view, a special brochure, entitled “Indian Science Congress Association-Growth & Activities” was published so as to highlight the programmes of the Association over the years. The main programmes were: (i) Bringing out special publication on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee (ii) Presentation of Plaques to the General Presidents of the Association (iii) Establishment of Platinum Jubilee Lectures to be organised in each section during the annual session of the Science Congress and (iv) Extension of the recent activities of the ISCA and its further diversification to generate scientific temper and popularise science.
The Indian Science Congress Association celebrated its Hundredth year of its incepton in June 2, 2012 and the Centenary Session was held at Kolkata in 2013 under the Presidentship of Dr. Manmohan Singh , Honourable Prime Minister of India.
On this occasion: Ten numbers of Asutosh Mookerjee Fellowships were instituted to honour and encourage senior scientists in India. The Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013 was released. India Postage Stamps were released by Department of Posts for the centenary celebration.
A special book entitled ”The Centenary Session of the Indian Science Congress Nationwide Celebration” was published so as to presented the information about the initiatives of the Indian Science Congress Association towards the centenary celebration through its various chapters in India.
The 34th Annual Session of the Indian Science Congress was held at Delhi in January 3-8,1947 with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, as General President. Pandit Nehru’s personal interest in the Science Congress continued ever since and there had been hardly any session which he did not attend. He has immensely enriched the activities of the Congress by his sustained interest in the development of scientific atmosphere in the country, particularly among young generations. In fact from 1947, programme for inviting representatives from foreign societies and academies was included in the Science Congress. This trend still continues with the support of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India.
After independence ISCA has been actively represented in various foreign scientific academies/associations, namely British Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, French Academy of Sciences, Bangladesh Academy of Sciences, Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science, etc. with a view to have a first hand knowledge on topics of mutual interest.
The year 1976 withnessed a significant departure in the trend of deliberations during the congress. It was being felt for sometime that such a gathering of scientists, covering a wide spectrum ought to be seized of national issues that have scientific and technological implications. In 1976, Dr.M.S.Swaminathan, the then General President of ISCA introduced the Focal Theme of national relevence which is now discussed in every section, committee and forum during the annual session. These apart, several plenary sessions are organised around various facets of the Focal Theme in which scientists and technologists as well as policy makers and administrators interact with one another. ISCA has thus become a platform where members from different disciplines and from different walks of life can contribute to discussions on the Focal Theme.
Another significant breakthrough was made in 1980 when the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, set up a permanent Task Force involving representatives of ISCA and chiefs of different agencies and voluntary organizations chaired by Secretary, DST, as being responsible for following up various recommendations on the Focal Theme. Every year follow-up actions on recommendations made in the previous Science Congress are discussed at a General Session organized by DST during the Science Congress. Through this process, the Indian Science Congress Association has been contributing to the development of Science in general and National Science Policy, in particular.
Indian Science Congress Association introduced the programme for Young Scientists from the 68th session of the Indian Science Congress in 1981. The programme enables Young Scientists to present their research work with opportunities to exchange ideas in the relevant scientific problems with their counterparts and specialists. The ISCA Young Scientist Awards are given to candidates for making the best presentations. Fourteen such awards are given at present. The award amount has been enhanced from Rs. 5,000/- from 93rd session and now carries Rs. 25,000/- and a Certificate of merit.
It was decided that generally most of the contributed Papers, which were accepted on the basis of a careful screening by the concerned Sectional President by way of posters. Further, to encourage scientists it was decided that at most two Prizes of Rs. 1,000/- in cash along with a certificate to be awarded to the best presentation in each Section from 86th Session. The award money has been enhanced to Rs. 5,000/- from 94th Session. Since 2013-14 best poster presentation award has been converted to a separate programme.
The Association started organizing popular science lectures in different centers in India from 1962-63. The scheme envisages constructive work for the popularization and advancement of science throughout the year. Till 1985-86 these lectures were delivered at seventeen centres spread over the country. However, this was restructured with the formation of Regional Chapters from 1986-1987. One of the major objectives of the ISCA is to inculcate the Scientific temper among the people and to encourage young scientists to grow up steadily in this direction involving them in the programmes relevant to fundamental, experimental and operational activities. With these objectives in view, ISCA started Chapters from 1986-87 in different places in India.