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-three 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 20 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.)

IFAC 60th Anniversary Celebration

IFAC celebrated its 60th anniversary at the 20th IFAC World Congress in July 2017, in Toulouse, France, the country where IFAC was founded in 1957. To mark the 60th anniversary, the IFAC 2017 World Congress program emphasized presentations on the history and the future of a number of theoretical and application areas of automatic control. The presentations were structured around two semi-plenary invited history lectures, two panel sessions on the IFAC Story and the History of Automatic Control, five invited history sessions and two invited history open tracks.

IFAC 60th Anniversary Report: Summary of actions taken at the 20th IFAC World Congress, Toulouse, France, July 2017: By Luc Dugard (IFAC 2017 WC IPC Vice-Chair) and Dimitri Peaucelle (IFAC 2017 WC General Chair).

IFAC’s success has been the result of 20 triennial terms of important contributions to the conferences and literature in the control field throughout the world. Too little attention has been devoted to documenting how IFAC has contributed to this success. In 2014 I approached IFAC Past President and Advisor Stephen Kahne with a request to prepare a document describing the history of our federation from its founding in 1957. Professor Kahne assembled a team with significant IFAC leadership experience to help write The IFAC Story as an e-book that is available on the IFAC website. ISBN 978-3-902823-73-1

Janan Zaytoon
IFAC President for the 2014-2017 triennium

The e-book is a narrative created from an archive of formal records and recollections of a number of long time contributors to the International Federation of Automatic Control. The authors use an informal style to convey progress in the primary areas of IFAC’s development throughout its 60-year history. Contributions of many of its leaders are noted and are linked to several themes throughout the book. The central role of IFAC’s National Member Organizations is explained as is IFAC’s global technical structure that has enhanced progress in the control and system field over the decades. A robust publications program has played an important role in IFAC’s scientific impact on the community as well as on IFAC’s fiscal stability. This is described in some detail. The continuing role of control education at the university level as well as in pre-college initiatives is described as the field is ever more appreciated as an enabling technology across a wide swath of society. The work underpins an emphasis on the control community’s place in the world as IFAC’s sixth decade comes to an end.