SIBBM History

The group of friends who formed the Founding Committee met up in Rome on March 1st, 1965, included:

  • M. Ageno
  • E. Antonini
  • C. Baglioni
  • A. Buzzati-Traverso
  • L.L. Cavalli-Sforza
  • O. Ciferri
  • F. Graziosi
  • A.M. Liquori
  • G. Maccacaro
  • G. Magni
  • L. Silvestri
  • G. Tecce
  • G. Toschi

The Founding Committee met again in Rome on June 17th, 1965, to discuss the Statute for the constitution of the Society, with the participation of:

  • M. Ageno
  • E. Antonini
  • C. Baglioni
  • G. Bernardi
  • A. Buzzati-Traverso
  • E. Calef
  • L.L. Cavalli-Sforza
  • O. Ciferri
  • P. Fasella
  • F. Graziosi
  • A.M. Liquori
  • G. Maccacaro
  • G. Magni
  • G. Pernis
  • A. Reale-Scafati
  • A. Rossi-Fanelli
  • E. Scarano
  • G. Sermonti
  • L. Silvestri
  • G. Tecce
  • G. Toschi
  • J. Wyman

on this occasion, the the Statute was approved thus leading to the creation of the Italian Society of Biophysics and Molecular Biology (SIBBM).

1965-1995 Opening Speech by Francesco Amaldi
(the SIBBM Society President at the time)

The history of SIBBM

On the occasion of the thirtieth National Conference of the Italian Society of Biophysics and Molecular Biology, it seemed appropriate to gather together some news on the history of our Society; a memory for the oldest and a story to read for the youngest.

In these thirty years, the SIBBM has changed, little by little, almost imperceptibly and not only because many of its members have changed. I think some reflection on these changes is worth making. The SIBBM was established by a group of Founding Members in 1965, at a difficult time for Molecular Biology in Italy (as well as in other countries); difficult both from a scientific and an academic point of view. From the scientific point of view, due to the divergence that existed between two great schools of thought; that of the biochemical-structuralist and that of the genetic-informational, between which the new molecular biology was struggling to find space. From an academic point of view, the term 'molecular biology', which, in fact, can be understood in many different ways, was disputed among the different academic environments. There was also the additional problem of the association with the field of biophysics, which was also considerably advanced, and which created a cultural problem; so much so that it ended up causing a secession (with the creation of another society), the only part that remained with SIBBM was the component that intended biophysics as a contribution to the method and conceptual apparatus of physics to the problems of molecular biology, rather than as an application of physical techniques to biological objects. This situation led to bitter discussions, almost clashes, that heated the scientific-cultural atmosphere at the time.

It was in this atmosphere that SIBBM was established; while trying to evade traditional scientific environments and at the same time approaching them. SIBBM was proposing aperture to new possibilities for the development of new sectors of molecular biology such as those happening in other parts of the world, which produced the overwhelming developments that we all know today. As the oldest of us remember, even with a bit of nostalgia, those early years of SIBBM were characterized by passionate participation and animated discussions.

A few years ago, it would have been difficult to tackle this topic without bumping into the susceptibility of this or that scientific environment. Today, many things have settled down; they have been clarified, and the relationships between the different scientific and academic environments have improved, perhaps due to the unexpected sequence of events that unfolded before our eyes distributing reason to some and the lack thereof to others. The scientific history of these years has taught us all the strengths and the limits of the different approaches to biology and we have seen the enormous advances that have been made by combining them together.

Thus, in these thirty years, thanks to the contribution of the SIBBM and its partners, the position of molecular biology in the national panorama has changed. From a cultural point of view, we have contributed to the widespread diffusion of a biology approach previously limited to a few groups and laboratories, and an even wider diffusion of molecular biology techniques to the most disparate fields of biological research and medical applications - industrial, etc .; so much so that today we have to note that molecular biology is no longer the exclusive property of molecular biologists nor of SIBBM that should represent them. From the educational point of view, the introduction of molecular biology as a university subject and, with the recent reform, molecular biology as a fundamental course, was achieved in the late 1960s.

Surely today, Italian research groups have expanded their relationships with international research, with collaborations, transfers and their participation in Conferences and Congresses around the world. But if, as a result, from the point of view of cutting-edge research, the Societies and the National Conferences may today play a somewhat secondary role, they remain an important meeting point for the various Italian groups, with the consequent exchange of ideas, information, materials and so on. In addition, a look at the list of members and especially that of participants in the Conferences reveals another interesting aspect, namely that in recent years the average age is very low, and this can only be a good sign (even if participation in Conferences of older members would have great significance for cultural transmission between generations).

Thus, the annual conference has become an occasion in which young people bring their data for the first time as a poster, they have the first opportunity to present them orally in public and to eventually defend them in a discussion; they also begin to get to know other researchers, other groups, other fields of research. For many, the National Conference becomes the first "entrance into society". And who, in addition to research, is also interested in training young people, knows how important this is.

From these reflections comes the commitment to keep alive and possibly strengthen the SIBBM, to increase its activities, the foremost of these being the Annual Conference. But, at the same time, the changed situation of the boundaries pushes us to try to further deepen the cultural exchanges and to improve the coordination with other scientific environments and in particular with other related scientific societies.

Despite the many changes, it seems to us that the purpose of the Society, art. 2 of the Statute, can only remain unchanged: "The Society aims at promoting the studies and research of Molecular Biophysics and Molecular Biology with all the means that the Society's bodies deem appropriate".

Francesco Amaldi