A History of the
International Association of Environmental Analytical Chemistry
David M. Hercules, Dept. of Chemistry, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235, USA

Introduction: The International Association of Environmental Analytical Chemistry had its beginnings in 1971 with a scientific meeting, organized to provide a forum for how analytical chemists might contribute to the recent “environmental revolution”. It has had a long and successful lifetime, morphing from that initial meeting into an organization that has a world-wide impact. It is interesting and informative to reflect on the events and changes that have taken place during the ensuing years. The following is an historical account of the formation and development of the IAEAC, much of it from a personal perspective, thus the first person account.

When viewing history one must adopt the mind-set of the time at which events occurred, not how they might be viewed presently. This is enhanced by an informal style. At the outset, I want to acknowledge the valuable assistance that I have received from a number of individuals. Marianne Frei has dug through the records to provide much factual and chronological information; her help has been invaluable. Dieter Klockow has also provided information and has served as a check on details. I am greatly indebted to Bill Donaldson for his recollections of the early days of the USA meetings, and to Wayne Garrison and Tim Collette for their insights. As with any historical account, this one will contain bias and errors both of commission and omission; I have tried to avoid the latter two, the first is inevitable. What I hope to provide is a backdrop for the IAEAC as it moves forward into the twenty-first century.

The Beginning – The event that launched the IAEAC along its way was the Symposium on Environmental Analytical Chemistry, organized by the late Prof. Dr. Roland Frei, held in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the spring of 1971. Roland’s idea was to bring together analytical chemists who were developing new techniques that might be of importance for measurements related to the environment. Also, he sought to include individuals interested in environmental problems who might be potential users of such methodology. This concept established one of the long-term, continuing themes of the IAEAC. Roland was assisted in his efforts by Dr. Otto Hutzinger and the event was sponsored by the Analytical Division of the Canadian Institute of Chemistry and Dalhousie University.

I had the good fortune to be one of the speakers invited by Roland to this first meeting. At that time I was developing my program to explore the analytical utility of x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS, ESCA). Because of the surface sensitivity of ESCA and the chemical information it could provide, it seemed to hold great potential. At the same time, ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy (UPS) was being developed independently in the UK, and Roland also invited Dr. D. (Jack) Betteridge of the University of Swansea (Wales), who was the leading analytical proponent of UPS. Roland knew that Jack and I had never met and he thought that it would be a good mutual introduction. Indeed it was, Jack and I are still fast friends. As an amusing aside, Roland also thought that it would be a good idea for the two of us to be roommates and had made such arrangements. However, I arrived with my new bride (of ca. 4 months) accompanying me, which prompted a quick shift in the sleeping arrangements.

In 1971 I was on the faculty of the University of Georgia. The United States EPA had just been established in January of 1971 by combining several existing government agencies. Located in Athens, GA was the EPA’s Environmental Research Laboratory, which housed a program to develop and assess new methods for identification and measurement of pollutants, headed by William T. Donaldson. There was mutual interest between the analytical group at the University of Georgia and Bill Donaldson’s group at EPA in developing collaborative programs and such had already begun. One of Bill’s roles with EPA was to become involved with symposia related to environmental analytical chemistry. When I returned to Athens from Halifax I suggested to Bill that he ought to take a look at the symposium that Roland was planning to hold in Halifax in 1972, because it seemed to fit well into his mission.

Bill decided that collaboration with Roland would be mutually beneficial and submitted a paper for the 1972 symposium with the intention of meeting Roland and suggesting the possibility of a collaborative effort. This meeting turned out to be fortuitous because Roland was planning to take a sabbatical at Sandoz in Basel, Switzerland during the next year and wanted to ensure that the symposium would continue. The two of them decided that it would be a good idea to have the symposium alternate in location annually between Halifax and Athens, GA, with the 1973 meeting to be held in Athens. Almost immediately the meeting was dubbed the “Athens-Halifax Symposium”.

The third symposium was held in Athens, GA in the spring of 1973. It was a joint venture between the Athens EPA laboratory and the analytical chemistry group at the University of Georgia. The symposium coordinators besides Bill and me were Dr. Wayne Garrison and Mrs. Ann Alford from EPA and Drs. Peter Carr, Leon Klatt, and Donald Leyden from Georgia, along with Dr. W. Rudolf Seitz who was jointly appointed between the two groups. The main source of funding was a generous grant from the EPA to the University of Georgia, that provided travel expenses for invited speakers. The American Chemical Society was also a sponsor, providing mailing labels. The format for that first U.S. meeting was the brainchild of Bill Donaldson, modeled somewhat along the lines of a Gordon Research Conference. Registration and a reception occurred on Sunday, all-day technical sessions on Monday, morning and evening sessions on Tuesday and a half-day session on Wednesday. No activities were scheduled on Tuesday afternoon to encourage informal discussions. A banquet for all participants was held on Tuesday evening. Each morning session began with a plenary lecture presented by a non-analytical chemist who had interest and expertise in a specific area of environmental importance. We tried to have speakers from academe, government and industry, including, if possible, individuals on different sides of a current environmental issue. The rationale was to give the symposium participants an appreciation for how their research could be used by the larger scientific community and to provide for them a source of ideas for expanding their research. All speakers were invited; no submitted papers were sought.

Transatlantic Cooperation – The Halifax part of the Athens-Halifax Symposium was short lived. As life often has it, unexpected events occur; Roland decided to remain in Basel at Sandoz and Otto Hutzinger also returned permanently to the other side of the Atlantic. However, there was considerable interest on both sides of the ocean in continuing the joint symposium; and therefore it was decided that the meeting would be held on the opposite sides of the Atlantic in alternate years: odd years in the USA and even years in Europe. Although separate committees would organize the meetings on the different continents, an effort would be made to fund travel for scientists and committee members from the other location. Consistent with this decision, Roland organized the 1974 meeting in Basel, Switzerland.

The format of the European meeting was, of necessity, quite different from the one held in the USA. The Europeans did not have the advantage of large block funding from an organization such as the U.S. EPA. Their format involved having a number of invited speakers, often addressing larger environmental issues, but they also solicited submitted papers and established an exhibit for scientific instrument manufacturers and publishers. Here, as is often the case, economics determined the nature of the operation.
That first European meeting in Basel was a resounding success: good attendance and an excellent program. However, Roland’s typical flair for the unusual created the most memorable event of the meeting. Roland arranged to have the reception (cocktail party) held in the monkey house of the Basel Zoo. The monkeys, apes and gorillas were housed in glass enclosures, thereby ensuring minimal atmospheric pollution. After consuming enough (perhaps too much) wine, it was not clear whether the participants were watching the monkeys or the monkeys the participants.

When the meeting returned to the USA in 1975, it was decided that a more isolated location than Athens would contribute to the style envisioned for the conference, isolated but readily accessed by a major airport. Jekyll Island, Georgia was selected as the location which turned out to be an excellent choice. All of the subsequent USA meetings were held there except for the one in 1977 at Lake Lanier, Georgia (a beautiful site but not economically attractive) and again, one in Athens in 1987. All of the USA meetings followed the format established at the 1973 meeting, providing excellent overviews for the participants. The only significant change was that a poster session was added during the early 1980’s. Occasionally, problems did arise. At the 1977 meeting at Lake Lanier one plenary lecturer showed some really grotesque slides of patients having lung asbestosis, causing one participant to faint. The lecturer, who was an MD, stopped his lecture, administered aid to the stricken attendee until he regained consciousness, and then returned to the podium to continue his lecture.

Table 1 summarizes the dates and locations of the symposium from 1971 to date. As can be seen from Table 1 the European meeting has been held in various locations, typically in major metropolitan areas. Similarly to the USA meeting, the format remained constant. Whereas the USA meeting had a relatively constant organizing committee, the European meeting committees changed with location. This probably aided in the “grassroots” support for the European meeting which would serve it well over time. It also provided a venue for local participants to showcase their work and stimulated involvement of younger scientists with the meeting. This most certainly had a positive long-term impact.

The meetings on both sides of the Atlantic ran well for an extended period. The European meeting was managed by the IAEAC after its formation and, indeed, became the “flagship” meeting of the Association. The USA meeting continued despite a number of changes in personnel involved in the organization. All of those initially associated with organizing the Jekyll Island meeting departed from the University of Georgia and Prof. L. B.(Buck) Rogers assumed the leadership role, ably assisted by Prof. Lionel (Butch) Carreira. Later the two were joined by Profs. Jim Anderson and Jim de Hasseth. After Buck’s untimely death in 1992 the

Table 1. International Symposium on Environmental Analytical Chemistry:

Dates and Locations
Meeting Year Location Meeting Year Location
1 1971 Halifax, NS, Canada 18 1988 Barcelona, Spain
2 1972 Halifax, NS, Canada 19 1989 Jekyll Island, GA, USA
3 1973 Athens, GA, USA 20 1990 Strasbourg, France
4 1974 Basel, Switzerland 21 1991 Jekyll Island, GA, USA
5 1975 Jekyll Island, GA, USA 22 1992 Dortmund, Germany
6 1976 Vienna, Austria 23 1993 Jekyll Island, GA, USA
7 1977 Lake Lanier, GA, USA 24 1994 Ottawa, Canada
8 1978 Geneva, Switzerland 25 1995 Jekyll Island, GA, USA
9 1979 Jekyll Island, GA, USA 26 1996 Vienna, Austria
10 1980 Dortmund, Germany 27 1997 Jekyll Island, GA, USA
11 1981 Jekyll Island, GA, USA 28 1998 Geneva, Switzerland
12 1982 Amsterdam, Netherlands 29 1999 Jekyll Island, GA, USA
13 1983 Jekyll Island, GA, USA 30 2000 Espoo, Finland
14 1984 Barcelona, Spain 31 2001 Jekyll Island, GA, USA(*)
15 1985 Jekyll Island, GA, USA 32 2002 Plymouth, England
16 1986 Lausanne, Switzerland 33 2004 Toronto, Canada
17 1987 Athens, GA, USA 34 2006 Hamburg, Germany
(*) – Scheduled but not held.

Georgia trio continued to run the meeting. On the EPA side, things were more constant until the retirement of Bill Donaldson in 1996 at which time Wayne Garrison became the point-man, along with Dr. Tim Collette; the two of them continued on the EPA side until the last Jekyll Island meeting.

It is interesting to postulate why the Jekyll Island (JI) meeting came to an end. Clearly, there was no single cause. The meeting ran well until circa 2000 at which time travel budgets in both government and industry in the USA were tightened significantly. Although obtaining funding and running the meeting became increasingly bureaucratic, to the credit of the EPA, funding for the meeting was continued until the very end. My personal (biased) opinion is that there were two factors that mainly caused the demise of the JI meeting. First, there was increasing competition from other meetings. Sessions involving environmental analytical chemistry occurred regularly at ACS meetings, the Pittsburgh Conference, and the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, for example. People with limited travel budgets found the larger, broader meetings to be more attractive, as well as the technique-oriented meetings that arose with increasing frequency. Second, and very importantly, I believe that the JI meeting had fulfilled Roland Frei’s initial goal for starting that first meeting in Halifax. The analytical chemists had learned about environmental problems and had, indeed, contributed significantly to their solutions, in other words, the JI meeting had fulfilled its mission in the USA.

Formation and Growth of the IAEAC – Both the Jekyll Island and European meetings were incorporated early on. The JI meeting was incorporated in the State of Georgia in 1975 as a non-profit corporation; the primary motivation was to have a repository for funds that was not subject to personal income tax or the spending rules of Georgia or the EPA. The breadth of Roland Frei’s vision showed up again; the European meeting was incorporated with a much broader agenda.

The IAEAC was incorporated under Swiss law in 1977. The Executive Committee, with the offices of President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Cashier (Treasurer), was charged with the responsibility of running the corporation. In addition, two auditors were responsible for verifying all financial transactions. The first meeting of the Executive Committee was held in Davos, Switzerland in May of 1977 and elected the first members of the Executive Committee and the auditors. Additionally it was established that the Executive Committee would be elected by the membership every four years at a general assembly of the corporation. The initial Executive Committee consisted of Roland Frei as President, Dr. Ernest Merian as Secretary and Cashier, Profs. Wilhelm Fresenius, Werner Haerdi and Otto Hutzinger as members and Profs. Werner Haerdi and Dieter Klockow as Auditors. The position of Vice-President was left unfilled.

Roland Frei and Ernest Merian served in their capacities with distinction and were largely responsible for the early success of the IAEAC, along with a major assist from Werner Haerdi; only a few changes occurred in Executive Committee membership from, 1977-1990. The IAEAC suffered a major blow with Roland Frei’s untimely death in 1989, which resulted in a new Executive Committee being put in place in 1990 with Jim Lawrence (a former student of Roland’s) as President. At that point Ernest Merian decided not to continue in his positions, but remained an active member of the Association until his death in 1995. In 1994 Joseph Tarradellas succeeded Jim as President until 2002 when the current president, Dieter Klockow, took office.

As the IAEAC grew, it took on the characteristics of a true scientific association. Publication of a newsletter was begun in 1982 and an association office was officially established in 1983 in Allschwil, Switzerland. The office was operated by Marianne Frei and continues to be so today. In 1983 it was decided to have an executive committee that represented both Europe and North America. A website was initiated in 1996. In 1990 the Association elected Wilhelm Fresenius and Ernest Merian as honorary members to acknowledge their long-term contributions. In addition, a certificate of honor was given to Prof. Fresenius in 2004 on the occasion of his 90th birthday. The “Roland W. Frei Award” was established in 2004 to be given for the best poster presentation by a young scientist at any event organized by the IAEAC.

I became a member of the Executive Committee in 1990, but had worked with the IAEAC Executive Committee during its entire tenure because of my association with the Jekyll Island meeting. We would always have joint meetings between the two transatlantic groups (long before 1983) both in the USA and Europe and I learned to know all of the individuals listed in Table 2. My opinion is that the IAEAC has been successful because these have been very dedicated and hard-working groups with a mission, and they have kept that mission well in focus. I could provide many vignettes about the people on the Executive Committee, but I will indulge in giving only one. The late Ernest Merian was a wonderful person with a great sense of purpose. The one thing that I fondly recall about him was that he would always arrive at our transatlantic meetings with a hand full of postcards for all of us to sign, sending greetings to those who could not be present. A truly nice touch, so typical of Ernest.

The Journal – At about the same time that he established that first meeting in Halifax which would lead to formation of the IAEAC, Roland Frei started an environmental analytical journal, the International Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry (IJEAC). Roland held the position of Editor, and Dr. Brian W. Bailey that of Associate Editor. An international Editorial Board was established; I joined the Board in 1973. The first volume of the journal was published in 1972, Gordon and Breach was the publisher. The journal is still published today and is thriving; the current volume is No. 86; the journal publishes multiple volumes in any year.

Roland remained as editor until his death, after which Prof. Joan Albaiges assumed the editorship. Currently there are two regional editors, one for North America (R.Burk) and one for Japan (M. Morita). The IJEAC became the “official” journal of the IAEAC, even though it was owned by Gordon and Breach. In 2002 the journal was sold to Taylor and Francis, the current publisher. Under the diligent and thoughtful guidance of Joan Albaiges, the journal has continued to increase in both scientific quality and influence.

Workshops and Symposia – Another important activity of the IAEAC has been to establish workshops and symposia on selected topics of environmental interest. Some of these have been on-going series, some single events, and some in between.

In addition, the IAEAC has sponsored a number of workshops that were held repeatedly at different places in Europe and North America in the 1980s and 1990s, occasionally in conjunction with a major conference. Typical examples were workshops on chlorinated dioxins and related compounds, ion chromatography, chemistry and analysis of hydrocarbons, organophosphorus compounds and soil residue analysis.

A very noteworthy program begun by the IAEAC, primarily at the behest of Joseph Tarradellas, was holding regional conferences on environmental topics in different parts of the world. The reason for this activity was to provide scientific platforms for environmental scientists worldwide, particularly in those countries outside of North America and Western Europe. My personal belief is that this activity has helped to stimulate environmental research in many places where this might not otherwise have occurred. To date, the following events have been sponsored:

Symposia on Environmental Chemistry in Brazil – 3 Meetings; Salvador/Bahia, Brazil (1985, 1987, 1991).

Symposia on Analytical, Environmental, and Sanitary Chemistry – 6 Meetings held in different countries in Central America and Cuba between 1991 and 2004.

North African and Middle East Symposium on Environmental and Sanitary Chemistry, Hamamed, Tunisia, 1999

Asian-Pacific International Conferences on Pollutant Analysis and Control – 3 Meetings: Singapore (1996), Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (2003), Bangkok, Thailand (2005).

The Future – The IAEAC is still an active organization with presently about 80 members, having meetings already scheduled through the next several years. I believe that it has served a significant but changing role in environmental science. In the early days it provided a forum for rational discourse in an area where often this was lacking. It has grown and matured by sponsoring symposia covering an ever-widening range of environmental topics. It has supported the formation of environmental programs in countries that lack major scientific infrastructure. So my prognosis for the future is that the IAEAC will continue to prosper and grow. Its success is a fitting tribute to the vision articulated by Roland Frei when he started the early meeting and the journal. Were he to be with us today, I am certain that he would be justifiably proud.