The Early Days of the CIA: Reflections


Until 1978 the people who brought first allergologists from different countries together put a lot of emphasis on internationality. The 48 founder members came from 18 different countries headed by allergologists from the United Kingdom followed by those from USA, Italy and Switzerland. This emphasis was so strong that the founders alloted certain quotas of membership for different countries: Obviously the cold war left its marks: Only a very small number of members came from Poland, Czechoslovakia or Hungary and almost no contacts existed to colleagues in other East European countries or China.

The membership quotas had the effect to keep the CIA small because most countries were rather hesitant to exhaust their quotas in order to ensure a certain number of vacancies in case one had any outstanding allergologists coming up to be put forward for membership.

Harley opening the congress in Rome, 1959

Harley opening the congress in Rome, 1959

I myself had the first opportunity to attend a CIA meeting in 1959 in Rome when I was supposed to act merely as a messenger taking the slides and the manuscript to my chief Fritz Hahn from Düsseldorf to Rome. It was a long journey by train. When I arrived I asked him if I could present the paper because I had done most of the work. Paul Kallós agreed, and this was the beginning of my very long attachment to the CIA in which I missed only two of the following symposia until now. This Rome-symposium which was organized by Lino Businco was remarkable in so far as the get-together-party took the whole of the first day and started in the morning with some drinks on the terrace of the headquarters of the knights of the order of Malta. On this occasion I met Erich Fuchs and Max Werner who invited me to join them for a stroll through the Forum Romanum which should become decisive for my future career. I found the members of the CIA to be either very much committed medical doctors or engaged scientists or both and also intellectuals with a wide range of interests (Lino Businco for instance gave us as a present on record an own composition entitled "Il piu bel sorriso"). Other participants of the meeting included Elvin Kabat who spoke only if necessary and Byron Waksman who in contrast surprised me in that he did not only speak several languages fluently but mastered also perfectly the technique of "Handkuß" which did not fit my personal idea of an American.

Erich Fuchs and Wolfgang Schmutzler

Erich Fuchs and Wolfgang Schmutzler

The meeting took place in one of the old fashioned lecture theatres of a Rome University Hospital. The participants were accommodated in one or two rather small hotels and I recall a very long nightly discussion in one of the hotel rooms with Erich Fuchs, Max Werner and Theo Inderbitzin and his wife. At the annual dinner in the "Villa dei Cesari" Geoffrey West emerged as a the jolly fellow as he is remembered by most of the members until today.

The 6th symposium of the CIA was being held in Freiburg im Breisgau where Fritz Hahn and his associates including myself had moved meanwhile. This Freiburg-symposium proceeded still in a university lecture theatre fitted with hard wooden seats to which the participants had to walk from their hotels. Abraham Osler was a prominent figure in this meeting. But two other persons turned up at the Freiburg-meeting who should become later very important for the work and spirit of the CIA. Alain de Weck attended for the first time and also Dr. phil. Christine K. who had been asked by H. Giertz to help to overcome some of our language problems and who later became Mrs. de Weck. Both of them claim, however, that this Freiburg-symposium had no impact on their joint future. But this meeting was also remarkable in another respect. It was customary already that the president, the very British Dr. David Harley, at the annual dinner asked the new members where they qualified and why they became allergologists. And he asked their wives why they had married an allergologist. It was the answer of Madame Panzani which is remembered as the most charming until today: "Parcequ’ilétait le plus beau". Not only after dinner but also during the meetings the languages were used which suited the speakers best.

The next meeting was again to be held in London, this time in the Royal Society and all participants were accommodated in one single hotel, the Mandeville.

There was a long pause before the next symposium could be arranged, this time in Tel Aviv/Rehovoth in Israel, organized by Israel Glazer and Michael Feldman. The modern scientific atmosphere of Rehovoth met the spirit of the CIA meeting very well. On the other hand for the first time a whole day excursion to West Jerusalem was included in the programme. The CIA members enjoyed that visit tremendously. And also the excursions which were optionally organized after the meeting.

Paul Kallós was the undisputed master of the early CIA. He himself and his wife Liselotte like some others e.g. C. Prausnitz-Giles, G. L. Waldbott, J. Duchaine, R. H. O. Donald, R. Keller, C. J. Britton, D. Harley, to name but a few, earned their living as medical doctors in private practice and devoted their spare time and also a lot of private money to their research activities. Regrettably, their number declined with the increasing complexity of allergological research.

I still recall the bitter complaints from some Australian members at the 1972 symposium that they had come a very long way to hear interesting news but had found too little to take back home to their patients.

This marked the transition of the CIA from a club of practice-to research- oriented allergologists. It was also the time for Paul Kallós to hand over the activities of honorary secretary to Alain de Weck.

Paul Kallós had insisted already at the 1964 meeting to use English as the sole language for the proceedings of the CIA and the publication in the Karger periodicals. He himself up to a very old age did the lions share of editorial work for the "International Archives of Allergy", the "Progress in Allergy" and the "Monographs in Allergy".

Relationship of the CIA to the pharmaceutical industry: Since its foundation on the CIA had a number of members who did not work in academic institutions but in industrial research establishments and were recognized for their personal scientific contributions to allergy, immunology or immunopharmacology. They formed the link between academic and commercial efforts and also proved to be highly valued advisers with respect to economic viability of the CIA.

The only recently introduced "corporate membership" was supposed to provide junior scientific staff in industrial companies with the opportunity to meet the international leaders in the relevant fields of science. It emerged to be somewhat disappointing in so far as many of those who were expected to benefit turned up at the symposia just to present their own paper(s) and to disappear immediately again. Such a pursuit would be contrary to the spirit of the CIA and would be simply a waste of time and means.

First meeting minutes

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