History of the European Society of Arachnology

Up to the 1950s, most arachnologists did not know each other personally. They exchanged reprints, were in correspondence, while travelling possibilities were quite restricted. Increasing access to international air travel changed this situation rapidly. American colleagues crossed the Atlantic, they worked with European collections and studied type material. Also, as the western part of Europe recovered from the war, more and more European arachnologists were able to visit other countries. Personal contacts resulted in firm friendships.

British arachnologists arranged the first international meeting of arachnologists during the 15th International Congress of Zoology. This was held in July 1958 at the Hotel Rembrandt in London. Six countries were represented by 22 attendees. In Germany, Hermann Wiehle was convinced that arachnologists should come together to discuss scientific problems and to foster personal contacts. But living in the eastern part of Germany, he had to encourage Ernst Kullmann, at that time assistant at the University of Bonn. Early in summer 1960, approximately 20 German arachnologists attended a first conference in Bonn.

The participants of the Bonn meeting felt that meetings of arachnologists should be continued with a meeting one year later in Saarbrücken. This 1961 venue close to the German/French border was chosen to attract colleagues from other European countries. In this it was successful as, among others, a major group of French arachnologists attended the meeting.

The next congress was held 1965 in Frankfurt/Main, arranged by Otto Kraus. At a business meeting during this congress, Max Vachon explained the concept of CIDA, the Centre International de Documentation Arachnologique at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. These plans were unanimously accepted. Vachon started 1965 as Sécretaire Général Permanent du CIDA, he retired 1977 and deceased 1991. Jacqueline Heurtault as Secrétaire général adjoint formed together with him the “staff” of the CIDA bureau in Paris and took over his position as Sécretaire Général in 1983.

The president served for one period of three years and the next president was elected out of a proposal of three candidates. While Vachon served as first president during the preparation phase of CIDA (1963-1965), Kraus became the first president of the established organization (1965-1968). He was followed by Roland Legendre (1968-1971, France), Eric Duffey (1971-1974, United Kingdom), Lambertus Vlijm (1974-1977, Netherlands), Paolo Tongiorgi (1977-1980, Italy), Herb W. Levi (1980-1983, USA), Peter van Helsdingen (1983-1986, Netherlands), Konrad Thaler (1987-1990, Austria), Volker Mahnert (1989-1992, Switzerland), Rudy Jocqué (1992-1995, Belgium) and Norm Platnick (1995-1998, USA).

Between 1965 and 1968, a world-wide system of CIDA correspondents was established and the Paris meeting was prepared. It was counted as fourth Congrès International d’Arachnologie and 109 arachnologists from 23 nations attended. So this congress was the first with a definitely international participation. From this point onwards, a self-perpetuating cycle of international conferences was established. They took place at three year intervals, initially in Europe: 1971 Brno, 1974 Amsterdam, 1977 Exeter. At the 1980 Vienna meeting, it was decided to have the next meeting outside Europe, 1983 in Panama. Next congresses were 1986 in Jaca, 1989 in Turku, 1992 in Brisbane, 1995 in Geneva and 1998 in Chicago.

In 1998, Heurtault informed the Society that, more than 30 years after the CIDA foundation, she was now unable to continue to coordinate the CIDA activities, including its information service, due to her retirement and reorganization activities at the museum. Thus, the organizational basis for CIDA no longer existed and it was moved to Washington DC with Jonathan Coddington at the United States National Museum. At the 1998 International Congress in Chicago, the name of CIDA was changed to International Society of Arachnology. The further development of the International Society of Arachnology with their presidents and congresses can be seen here http://arachnology.org.

Parallel to the CIDA activities, that became more and more international, national meetings of French arachnologists became European. Initially founded as the Union des Arachnologistes de la Langue Française, it was transformed to La Société Européenne d’Arachnology and later to the European Society of Arachnology.

The first French meeting was held 1972 in Strasbourg, followed by three further meetings in France (Montpellier 1973, Les Eyzies 1976, Avignon 1978). The next congresses were in Spain (Barcelona 1979) and Italy (Modena 1981) and by then, a sequence was found of two years European congresses and the international congress in the third year. The Modena congress was also the last that was called “Colloque d’Arachnologie d’Expression Française” but it had already the subtitle “Colloque International Européen”. After four further congresses in mainly French-speaking cities (Nancy 1982, Moulis 1984, Brussels 1985, Rennes 1987), the Berlin congress 1988 was the first outside countries with Romanic languages, followed again by French-speaking cities (Paris 1990, Neuchâtel 1991).

After political changes in the eastern part of Europe and a congress in Catania (1993), a series of congresses were organized there: České Budějovice (Czech Republic 1994), Siedlce (Poland 1996), Stará Lesná (Slovakia 1999), Szombathely (Hungary 2002), St. Petersburg (Russia 2003), Blagoevgrad (Bulgaria 2005), Ljubljana (Slovenia 2012), Brno (Czech Republic 2015), Vác (Hungary 2018). Remarkable is one congress outside of Europe (Sede Boqer, Israel 2011). So, with the further congresses in Edinburgh (Scotland 1997), Århus (Denmark 2000), Sitges (Spain 2006), Bern (Switzerland 2008), Alexandroupolis (Greece 2009), Torino (Italy 2014) and Nottingham (United Kingdom 2017) a wonderful pan-European mixture of contributing countries was achieved.

While until 2006, these meetings were officially called Colloquium, with the Bern meeting 2008 they became European Congresses of Arachnology. The congress in Edinburgh was the first with more than 100 participants and meanwhile the number of participants reached the range of 200. They come from 30+ countries, often from many non-European countries. This indicates the continuous attraction of these congresses.

Also the European Society of Arachnology developed from its French roots to a European organization. Three regulatory elements, the Statutes, the Regulations, and the Ethical rules from 2002 were slimmed down to the By-laws of 2015 and the seat of the Society, earlier moved from Paris to Nancy, is now there, where the President is.

First president of the Society
1973 – 1976 Pierre Bonnet
1977 – 1987 (?)
1988 – 1989 Christian Juberthie
1990 – 1991 Joachim Haupt
1992 – 1996 Pierre-Alain Fürst
1996 – 1998 Olivier Villepoux (?)
1999 – 2002 Alain Canard
2003 – 2006 Søren Toft
2007 – 2014 Ferenc Samu
2015 – 2020 Wolfgang Nentwig
2021 – Gabriele Uhl

As Société Européenne d’Arachnology, the Society produced the „Bulletin de la Société d’Arachnologique“, appearing from volume 1 (1988) to 14 (2002). There are no proceedings from the first meeting in Strassbourg and later the local organizers were in charge of the production of a conference proceedings volume. From the second meeting (Montpellier) to the 24th meeting (Bern) these proceedings were published as regular or special issues of local journals. Since the 25th meeting (Alexandroupoli) these contributions appeared as regular articles in Arachnologische Mitteilungen / Arachnology Letters. Initially, they filled an own issue (the 25th and the 26th meetings), but meanwhile they constitute only a part of an issue.

References: This history of the European Society of Arachnology in its first part closely follows an article of Otto Kraus on European Arachnology (The Newsletter of the British Arachnological Society (1999) 86: 1-3). Further additions were contributed by Theo Blick, Peter van Helsdingen, Wolfgang Nentwig.