This section contains a historical essay about the Gordon Research Conferences organization. Use the links below or in the main menu to navigate between the different sections of the essay.

Creating Communities of Science: 75 Years of the Gordon Research Conferences

By Arthur A. Daemmrich and Leah Shaper

The Gordon Research Conferences (GRC) celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2006, providing an opportune occasion to reflect on the past and explore the future. Gordon Conferences represent a crucial but often hidden dimension of the scientific infrastructure by fostering communication across disciplinary, national, and social boundaries and by supporting pioneer research in a remarkable range of theoretical and applied fields.

From their modest origins in summer meetings held at Johns Hopkins University in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Gordon Research Conferences have expanded to attract more than twenty thousand participants annually to one of over 350 conferences held around the world. The remarkable growth of GRC over 75 years since its first official conference in 1931 is a product of internal and external factors: conferences are designed to stimulate intensive discussion and real-time peer review of new findings in science, technology, and medicine; new topics are chosen through a review process that focuses on frontier areas; and the GRC format fosters intimacy among participants even as the size of the scientific enterprise continues to grow at an exponential rate. This historical essay describes how the GRC organization established a unique meeting format, managed rapid growth, supported advances in theoretical knowledge and experimental techniques, fostered important collaborations, promoted the founding of new fields, and helped advance applied science.