Chapter 5


The first Scientific Meeting of the Canadian Society of Plant Physiologists was held June 1st-3rd, 1960, in Toronto, a fitting site for many reasons. It was the home of the late Dr. George Duff, the man most responsible for the Society’s auspicious beginning. It was also the home of Dr. D.F. Forward, the Society’s Secretary-Treasurer; that let her in for a number of social chores she may not have expected! Finally, it was the center from which developed one of Canada’s major schools of plant physiology, later propagated through Clendenning, Krotkov, Waygood, Roberts and other students of Duff to universities and laboratories across Canada and throughout the world.

The meeting began auspiciously with an open house at Dorothy Forward’s home in Toronto. More plant physiologists squeezed in and enjoyed memorable hospitality than would have been thought possible. This friendly and hospitable beginning seems to have set the stage for two of the most happy characteristics of the CSPP: its good fellowship and its outstanding spirit of cooperation. We were a small band in those days, without much clout in world affairs, but we stood together and enjoyed one another’s company.

The scientific program got under way with the first of a long line of successful CSPP Symposia, the G.H. Duff Memorial Symposium on Development Physiology. Chaired by Dr. G. Krotkov the speakers were Dr. F.C. Steward, Cornell University, Dr. E. Bünning, University of Tübingen and Dr. G. Setterfield, National Research Council, Ottawa. This symposium set a number of precedents. First, it was of international caliber. Second, it featured a Canadian. We recognized and were prepared to assert that Canadian physiologists could stand alongside the world's best. Third, it was supported by a travel grant of $300 from the National Research Council of Canada. While that may seem small by present standards, $300 travelled a long way in 1960. Furthermore, the NRC and its successor, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), have continued to support CSPP symposia until the present. It would have been very difficult for this important aspect of the Society’s Scientific Meetings to have happened or to have been so effective without this generous help. Finally, the Symposium was published in its entirety in the Canadian Journal o f Botany. Thus began the initial moves of a long search – still going on – for a recognized Canadian journal for plant physiology. (This point will be further discussed in Chapter 10).

Following the Symposium, the Society went into parallel sessions to hear submitted research papers. The use of parallel sessions, which began with the Conferences, was not adopted lightly or without prolonged discussion. Some felt that a desirable "holistic" approach would be engendered by having only session, while parallel sessions would create sub-disciplines and undesirably narrow sessions. However, the large number of papers submitted (36 at the first Scientific Meeting of the CSPP) made parallel sessions unavoidable. In the early days speakers were allowed 20 minutes each to present their papers. By 1970 this had been decreased to 15 minutes, the present allotment. The more generous allotment had no effect on the ability of some speakers to fit their material to their time – there were as many clock-beaters in those days as today; perhaps more! The topics covered by the papers could only be described by presenting the entire Program. It is sufficient to say that many Canadian physiologists were clearly working at what were then the frontiers of their science; one or two were unquestionably ahead of their time.

Besides science, the Society had two other important functions to fulfill: business and social. To be sure, the social part – the Society Dinner – preceded the Business Meeting. While this arrangement proved very pleasant for many, it was changed in subsequent meetings because it was found that, having dined rather well, the majority of the Society was not deeply interested in business of any sort, particularly at a Business meeting. However, the Business Meeting did take place with a surprising 46 members present (initially), and it managed to conduct its business; considering several maters, amending the nearly new Constitution, discussing meeting places, guest lecturers (including a scheme to invite Russian plant physiologists to visit Canada), and electing new officers. An important decision was also taken that many young physiologists have had reason to be grateful for: a "clearing house" list of positions vacant was set up, the forerunner of the very successful placement service that functioned in the Society for a number of years.

When the meeting was over, many members, particularly those of the host institution, looked back with critical eyes to take stock. What they saw pleased them very much. This meeting had been an unqualified success. Registration at the meeting was 88 – in a society that boasted a total of 98 members (nine of whom, as the Secretary-Treasurer wryly remarked, had omitted to pay their dues)! The Society had become a member of the International Association of Plant Physiologists. It had held an internationally significant Symposium honoring the man whose efforts had been of major importance to its founding. It had presented a group of scientific papers that ranked with the best in the world. And it had had a thoroughly enjoyable experience. A more auspicious beginning could not have been hoped for, and the weary members of the Executive and the Local Committee were able to look back on the meeting with a feeling of complete satisfaction in a job very well begun.