Abstract of an article by Dr. Ursula Marvin. The full article was published in 1993 in Meteoritics, volume 28, pages 261 to 314.
In August, 1933, at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, The Society for Research on Meteorites was founded with an enrollment of 57 charter members and Frederick C. Leonard and Harvey H. Nininger as the first President and Secretary-Treasurer, respectively. Within five years, the Society had doubled in size, with members from the U.S.A. and ten other nations. Annual meetings were suspended during World War II (1942 through 1945) and when it reconvened in 1946 the members adopted the name 'The Meteoritical Society'. By that time personal and professional antagonisms had arisen that threatened to fragment the Society and led, in 1949, to the resignation of Nininger and his wife. Throughout the 1950s the Society was widely regarded as a small, disorganized and essentially moribund organization.
Revitalization of the Society began in the 1960s after the advent of the Space Age when the Society steadily gained members with expertise in mineralogy, petrology, isotope geochemistry, electron microprobe and neutron activation analysis, and impact dynamics. When Nininger was persuaded to rejoined in 1963, he found a renewed Society. In the election year of 1966 a group of youthful insurgents nominated an alternate slate to the proposed by the Council and won every contested seat on the Council except that of the Editor.
The Society's first publication Contributions of the Society for Research on Meteorites was published as a section of Popular Astronomy and from 1935 to 1946 reprints of the items (articles, reviews, and notices) were bound and distributed separately each year. When the Society changed its name in 1946, its journal became Contributions of the Meteoritical Society, which continued publication until Popular Astronomy ceased publication in 1952. A new journal, Meteoritics, was instituted in 1953. After 1956, its publication lapsed for six years but began again in 1963 and has continued under the leadership of four successive editors becoming one of the most frequently cited geoscience journals. In 1970, the Society also became a co-sponsor with The Geochemical Society of Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, but the future of this arrangement remains in doubt.*
In 1938, the Society had gained considerable prestige by its acceptance as a full Affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, but in view of its increasingly international membership and activities the Society terminated its affiliation with the AAAS in 1976. Again in response to its international status, in 1992 The Meteoritical Society affiliated with the International Union of Geological Sciences.
The Society held its first annual meeting outside North America at the Universitat Tubingen in West Germany in 1971. Subsequently, it met in Europe every second year until 1990, when it met at Perth in Western Australia. During the 1980s, the membership of the Society grew to more than 900 and the annual meetings attracted between 300 and 450 participants. As meteoritical research continues to probe the borderlands with astrophysics, planetary science, and terrestrial geology, and as younger members assume leadership roles, a productive future seems assured for both meteoritical science and The Meteoritical Society.
*Note from webmaster: Doubts about the sponsorship of Geochimica et Cosmochica Acta have been resolved since this was written in 1993 and the two Societies cosponsor the journal.