The History of the IUSSP



Sanger - Geneva 1928
The Union was officially founded in 1928, at a meeting in Paris, which followed the International Population Conference held in Geneva during the preceding year (August 29 - September 3, 1927). This was the first World Population Conference - it was organised by Margaret Sanger - stressing the crucial nature of the population problems and their influence on social, economic and political situations. At the end of the scientific meetings of the Conference, there was a meeting of the Executive Committee which decided that (i) "a permanent international organisation should be set up to consider in a purely scientific spirit the problems of population and (ii) a provisional committee be chosen and entrusted with the duty of setting up such organisation".


Geneva Conference 1927
The constituent Assembly of the International Union for the Scientific Investigation of Population Problems (the name of our union before its re-constitution in 1947) was then held at the Musée Social in Paris on July 4-6, 1928. It consisted of 35 members of 12 different nationalities. The first President was elected, Raymond Pearl. It was decided to create national committees and at the 1931 General Assembly, it was reported that 14 national committees had been created and were functioning (mostly European). These committees were very different in size but also in their level of activity. The majority of these committees ceased to exist with the 1947 constitutional reforms.



Group (1) at Geneva 1927
Available resources were used for the administration of the Union, for its three research committees (on Population and Food, on Differential Fertility, Fecundity and Sterility and on Statistics of Primitive Races) and for research grants to individuals.


The second world war led to an interruption of the Union's activities; essential features were preserved, in spite of the attempts by the Nazis to re-start the Union in their own image.


After the war, the President, Adolphe Landry, proposed two resolutions:

  • the Union should become more active;
  • the Union should be reorganised to ensure that it could carry out its tasks efficiently.


This was unlikely if it continued to be a federation of national committees, as these could easily be dominated by internal political considerations and would discredit the Union because of the lack of scientific rigour in their work.


It was decided that the Union become an association of individual members during the deliberative Assembly held in Washington on November 6-11, 1947 (decision ratified by postal ballot in 1948). The first list of members included 147 members from 32 countries.


Since its re-organisation in 1947 as "International Union for the Scientific Study of Population", the Union's membership has grown considerably and expanded to all regions of the world.


Read more in The IUSSP in History (1985).