From the Committee of European Societies of Electron Microscopy (CESEM) to the European Microscopy Society (EMS).
By Peter Hawkes, Past President of the EMS
The creation of the Committee of European Societies of Electron Microscopy (CESEM) dates back to 1975, a year after the International Congress on Electron Microsocopy (ICEM) in Canberra and a year before the European Congress (EUREM) in Jerusalem. In May of that year, representatives of the Belgian and Duch societies arranged a discussion at Schiphol Airport (the airport for Amsterdam), which was attended by microscopists from the Federal republic of Germany, Scandinavia and the UK as well as Belgium and the Netherlands. A committee consisting of V.E. Cosslett (UK, Chairman), A.B. Maunsbach (Denmark, secretary), K. von Bassewitz (GFR), M. Bouteille (France), L. Simar and E. Wisse (Belgium) was formed with the specific task of drafting a constitution. CESEM was formally created at the Jerusalem EUREM on 19 September 1976, with Ellis Cosslett as its first president and Arvid Maunsbach as secretary and treasurer and his "treasure" was to remain modest. At first, there were ten member societies (Austria, Belgium, the German Federal Republic, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, SCANDEM, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). By 1998, the figure had nearly tripled. CESEM remained a loosely run club of European Microscopy Societies, whose main activity was the organization of a congress every four years, midway between the International Congresses,
Meanwhile, European commercial and political union had been making steady if irregular progress. The European Coal and Steel Community formed in 1951 evolved into the European Economic Community in 1957, which has in turn become the European Community. "Brussels" has become synonymous with the notion of a centralized European authority, vigorously contested by makers of camembert and growers of King Edward potatoes but generally accepted as a fait accompli. In particular, funding is available from "Brussels" for activities of a European character and it is important for European microscopy to speak with a common voice in order to benefit from this.
This is not of course the only reason to discuss microscopy affairs on a European scale. Some central organization to help scientists organize thematic meetings in Europe is clearly desirable and we could also envisage some kind of diploma or certificate of competence in microscopy, recognized throughout Europe. In principle, CESEM was well placed to play this kind of role for electron microscopy and, with the change in name and emphasis to Committee of European Societies of Microscopy (CESM) in 1994, for microscopy in general.
However, CES(E)M had always been a rather loosely organized, grossly underfunded organization, which did little but exert some influence on the organization of the EUREM meetings. This is no criticism of its founders and subsequent officers, whose profile was deliberately kept low: there was to be no suggestion that they ran electron microscopy in Europe, their role was merely to provide help and guidance where it was needed. It was becoming urgent to create a more powerful lobby for microscopy, capable of speaking on behalf of the European societies in negotiations with the European Community and with the major manufacturers of microscope equipment.
Wolfgang Baumeister, elected president of CESEM in 1992, launched the idea of disbanding CES(E)M and replacing it with a European Microscopy Society. His suggestion was discussed at the EUREM meeting in Dublin (1996), after which, together with Eddie Wisse (secretary of CESM) and myself (French representative in CESM) a draft constitution was circulated to all European Societies. At the CESM business meeting held during ICEM-14 in Cancún, members were asked to vote on the proposal to disband CESM and create a European Microscopy Society, governed by the draft constitution that had been circulated. (Some parts of this constitution were incomplete and others rapidly needed amendment but the general spirit has been maintained.) The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the proposal with the result that a European Microscopy Society was created on Thursday September 3, 1998. The two years between Cancún and the EUREM meeting to be held in Brno (Czech Republic) from 9-14 July, 2000 are being used to iron out problems, decide on the types of membership and establish the society formally. Jose-Maria Carrascosa (Spain) was elected vice-president (and hence future president), Eddie Wisse (Belgium) was elected secretary, Heinz Gross (Switzerland) remained treasurer and I was elected president.
The EMS of course has no influence whatsoever over national or local activities, such as national congresses or small multinational meetings such as the Dreiländertagungen that bring together micoscopists from Austria, Germany and Switzerland, or the Multinational Conferences on Electron Microscopy (MCEM) at which scientists from the Balkans, Austria, Italy and some other Eastern European countries regularly convene. The role of the EMS is to help, not to interfere! We do however expect to list all such meetings on the EMS website (see below).
The vast majority of microscopy societies in western Europe have voted to adopt en-bloc membership, whereby every paid-up member of the national society is automatically a member of the EMS, to which the national society pays a membership fee of 5 euros (almost exactly five US dollar) per member per year. One or two societies have not yet come to a decision; individual membership is open to microscopists from countries that have not adopted en-bloc membership. Discussions are in progress concerning a central office for the EMS and we hope soon to think seriously about the organization of thematic meetings to complement the quadrennial EUR(E)Ms.
Clearly, this very young society needs time to establish itself and to play the role for which its creators, and especially Wolfgang Baumeister, destined it. In particular, it needs to extend its membership to the countries of Eastern Europe, who voted in favour of it at Cancún but who are, for the most part, still undecided about their exact form of participation. Its next major activity is the European Regional Congress in Brno. We hope that that will be a resounding success and will be the first of a series of European microscopy events that we can be proud of.