History of the Society: 1973-1993
|In 1972 the British Cardiac Society did not have any non-clinical members - let alone a basic science programme; for basic researchers in cardiovascular science, there seemed to be no natural forum at which to meet and exchange ideas. At that time Keith Gibson (working with Professor Peter Harris at the Cardiothoracic Institute in Beaumont Street) and David Hearse (working with Professor Sir Ernst Chain in the Department of Biochemistry at the Imperial College of Science and Technology) would meet occasionally to discuss their research. One evening, after a beer or three, they concluded that there was a need for an informal discussion group - where individuals interested in cardiovascular research could occasionally meet to discuss problems. A quick calculation led to the conclusion that there might be, as many as nineteen young researchers in the UK with an interest in cardiovascular research! They pondered on how these individuals could be brought together; the first idea was to establish a specialist group under the auspices of the British Biochemical Society. In 1972 a formal application was made to the Biochemical Society to form such group - the response was a speedy and firm rejection. David Hearse and Keith Gibson wondered therefore whether they should not try and go it alone.
In 1973 Peter Harris, John Muir, Winifred Nayler, Mark Noble and Desmond Fitzgerald were persuaded to join a small committee and establish what was to become the Cardiac Muscle Research Group. Peter Harris was elected as its first chairman with David Hearse and Keith Gibson becoming joint secretaries. The first act was to purchase a sheet of "Letraset" and create the Group stationery - after some thought it was decided to adopt the curved lettering that was to be used for many years on the Group's posters. In the haste of preparation nobody noticed that cardiac had been spelt incorrectly (cardaic!) and it was several months before one of the members of the Society telephoned the secretaries to enquire about the spelling - quite an inauspicious start!
From its inception the guiding principles of the Cardiac Muscle Research Group were that its meetings would be open to all, that there would be no publication and that, in general, each meeting would be devoted to a single topic - the philosophy that has (more or less) endured for the past 20 years - a factor that has surely contributed to the strength of the organisation.
Such was the success of the first meeting that the Committee decided to organise two meetings every year, one in the Spring and one in the Autumn. The second meeting (2nd April 1974) was organised in Birmingham and dealt with "The Differences Between Skeletal and Cardiac Muscle", later that year (18th November) the Group met at Imperial College in London where the topic was "Acute Myocardial Ischaemia".
In addition to the regular programme of meetings; the Group sponsored small specialised workshops on a wide variety of topics.
The growth of the Cardiac Muscle Research Group soon came to the attention of the British Cardiac Society - who appeared somewhat concerned at the rapid emergence of this new Group. An intermittent dialogue between the Muscle Group and the Cardiac Society was established (and continues to this day), various interactions were negotiated with the Cardiac Society, grants were given, joint meetings were held but for many years the proposed marriage appeared difficult and did not appear to be very popular with the members of either society. In the past 20 years, the Society has also had links with other academic societies - through joint meetings with the Biochemical Society, the Physiology Society and the European Society of Cardiology. Links have also been established with the International Society for Heart Research and in 1987 a joint membership subscription was negotiated - an event that resulted in a striking increase in the number of British members belonging to the International Society for Heart Research.
Over the years the Cardiac Muscle Research Group, now the British Society for Cardiovascular Research, has understandably (and correctly) changed its emphasis, its composition and its interests. Of notable and of considerable importance has been the progressive increase in the number of clinical members - such that they now have statutory representation on the Committee of the Society. This ability to change, whilst still maintaining a regular programme of interesting and popular meetings, has undoubtedly contributed greatly to the success of the British Society for Cardiovascular Research. The membership of the Society now stands at in excess of 500 - a figure substantially greater than the 19 originally anticipated by the founding members in 1973. This year marks the 20th birthday of the British Society for Cardiovascular Research and there can be little doubt that it has a bright and active future ahead.
by Professor David Hearse, 1993.