The first International Conference on Automatic Control was held at the University of Heidelberg from 25 to 29 September 1956. The conference was called “Regelungstechnik – Moderne Theorien und ihre Verwendbarkeit” (Control Engineering – Modern Theories and their Application) and was organized by the German VDI/VDE-Fachgruppe Regelungstechnik founded in 1938. At that conference 30 participants signed a declaration in which the need to create an international organization of automatic control was clearly defined. The signatories pledged to promote the formation of national organizations, if not already existing at that time. At the end of the Heidelberg Conference a Provisional Committee was established under the chairmanship of Victor Broida (France) to draft a constitution for the planned International Federation of Automatic Control.

On September 12, 1957, the First General Assembly convened at the constituent meeting in Paris. Delegates from 18 countries representing their national organizations assembled at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers under the chairmanship of Victor Broida. They voted on the Constitution and By-Laws; they elected the first President, Harold Chestnut, as well as the members of the Executive Council; and they appointed committee chairmen. Thus far, IFAC had twenty-one Presidents:

✝= deceased

The IFAC Secretariat has a permanent home. By invitation of the Austrian Government it has been situated in Laxenburg near Vienna (Austria), since 1978.

Since the first IFAC World Congress in 1960 in Moscow, there have been 19 congresses held in 17 different countries.

At the Congress banquet of the 2008 IFAC World Congress in Seoul, Korea, Professor Rolf Isermann, Council Member and Advisor of IFAC, presented an overview of the history of IFAC. This informative and entertaining presentation can be downloaded here.

IFAC 50th Anniversary Celebration

IFAC celebrated its 50th anniversary on 15 September 2006 in Heidelberg, Germany, the same city where it was conceived during the “Internationale Fachtagung Regelungstechnik” in 1956. This prestigious event included presentations on the past, but with particular emphasis on the present and the future of automatic control in general, both from the theoretical and the application‘s side as well as focusing on emerging areas. These lectures can be downloaded below.

  1. “Opening Address” by Rolf Isermann (IPC-Chair, Germany)
  2. “IFAC and its People” by Stephen Kahne (Embry-Riddle University, Prescott, United States of America)
  3. "Present Developments in Control Theory" by Brian D. O. Anderson (The Australian National University, Australia)
  4. “Present developments in control applications” by Karl Johan Åström (Lund Institute of Technology, Sweden)
  5. “Industrial automation: situation and trends” by Peter Terwiesch (ABB Asea Brown Boveri Ltd., Switzerland) 

(Please click here for the 50th Anniversary Event website.)

An IFAC History Task Force has been recently established under the leadership of Past President Steve Kahne to archive the history of IFAC.