Society for Endocrinology - a world-leading authority on hormones

History of the Society

The launching of the Journal of Endocrinology and the founding of the Society for Endocrinology

 Lord Zuckerman OM KCB FRS 
Reproduced from Journal of Endocrinology (1984) 100 1-5


The idea of launching a Journal of Endocrinology and, as a follow-up, to found a Society for Endocrinology, was conceived in a bus going to Croydon Airport on 9 June 1937. Those concerned were Sir Charles Dodds Bart FRS, Sir Frank Young FRS, Sir Alan Parkes FRS, and myself. The four of us were on our way to Paris to attend the Singer-Polignac Colloque (see Plate), the first international symposium on the physiology of reproduction ever to be organized, and the proceedings of which were published in 1938, in a volume edited by Lucien Brouha and entitled Les hormones sexuelles (Paris: Hermann).

I do not know whether or not we had all seriously thought before the bus-ride of the desirability of taking the step we ultimately took. But I had. I well remember the sense of frustration I experienced in those days with the delays in the publication of papers. We were then in the heyday of the growth of endocrinology, and of reproductive physiology in particular. Almost any experiment seemed to produce fascinating results. I had come firmly to believe that endocrinology deserved to be recognized both by a British Society and by its own Journal.

The story of the subsequent gestation and birth of the Journal falls into several distinct phases. On our return from Paris we had to inform ourselves about what would be entailed in launching a new scientific journal. I began by seeking the advice of Sir Arthur Tansley FRS, at the time Sherardian Professor of Botany in the University of Oxford, and who I knew had on his own launched The New Phytologist in 1902, and which he had also edited for 30 years 1. He spoke to the syndics of the Oxford University Press on our behalf, and advised that those responsible for the scientific conduct of a journal which they wanted to see launched should also be responsible for its finances; that it would, however, be preferable were the journal to be in the hands of an established society rather than in those of a group of individuals; and that the journal should in any event be backed by a guarantee which would cover the probable deficit that would have to be met in the launching phase.

The next step was to find guarantors. We thought that ten would be appropriate, with each undertaking to provide up to £40, if called upon. The four progenitors of the project were obviously on the list. We then persuaded Sir Henry Dale FRS, Sir Charles Harington FRS, F. E. Crew FRS, F. H. A. Marshall FRS, G. F. Marrian FRS and P. M. F. Bishop, all of them, sadly, now dead, to join our number. I then wrote to the editors of fourteen other scientific journals to inform them of what we proposed doing, to ask for their views, and to allay any suspicion of 'poaching'. Eleven blessed our venture unreservedly. A twelfth, Herbert Woollard FRS, then the Professor of Anatomy at University College London, and Editor of the Journal of Anatomy, was not at all happy about our intentions. One sentence in the letter (20 May 1938) in which he expounded his views makes strange reading today. "The chief difficulty I see in all this," he wrote, "is that there are only about six endocrinologists in the country." The remaining two of the fourteen — the distinguished cardiologist, Sir Thomas Lewis FRS, who then edited Clinical Science, and E. A. Carmichael, the Editor of another clinical journal — expressed the hope that we would not try to attract for publication in the proposed new journal papers that dealt with clinical matters.

The first phase of our work having been completed, the ten guarantors formally constituted themselves into a 'Managing Committee of the proposed journal to be devoted to Endocrinological subjects'.

This Committee met twice, the first occasion on 25 May 1938, when Frank Young, then at the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, was appointed Secretary. Publishers' estimates were compared, and it was agreed that it would be inadvisable to help finance the proposed journal by means of pharmaceutical advertisements over which we did not have the power of veto. One difficulty that had to be immediately resolved was a proposal from the British Medical Association that it should assume responsibility for the new journal. Some of the committee favoured this idea, since it would relieve the guarantors of any financial obligations. Others, including myself, were opposed (undated letter. S. Z. to Frank Young), first because we were optimistic about the financial future of the journal, and second because we felt that when the journal became established, it should become the nucleus round which a society could form. This view was finally accepted by the whole Management Committee. (The question of handing the Journal over to the BMA arose again in 1946, shortly after the Society was formed.)

During this time we were also dealing with the legal formalities of incorporating the guarantors as a non-profit making company, to be called the Journal of Endocrinology Ltd, limited by guarantee, and having no share capital. This second phase of our planning took nearly a year, and when it had been completed, the Management (or launching) Committee was wound up.

The third phase began on 11 March 1939 with a meeting of the Council of Management of the new Company, followed by its first Annual General Meeting. Membership of the Company was formally limited to the guarantors, all ten of whom served on the Council of Management. Alan Parkes was appointed Chairman of the Company; Frank Young, Secretary; Peter Bishop. Treasurer; and an Editorial Board was appointed under the chairmanship of Charles Dodds. After a careful study of the estimates provided by the publishers whom we had approached, we chose the Oxford University Press, with Dr Marshall and Professor Crew, who felt that we would get better service from the Cambridge University Press, dissenting. Events proved them right. Difficulties soon arose with the O.U.P., which we left for the C.U.P. after the two first volumes had appeared.

In order to make the proposed new journal known to possible subscribers and contributors, we arranged for a prospectus to be circulated by British scientific journals, including the Journal of Physiology. The typography of this prospectus drew from John Fulton of Yale University, one of the keenest bibliophiles of the day, the adverse comment that "The circular announcing the new journal ... appears to have been printed by a third rate job printer, has not been proof read, the press work is extremely poor and I cannot imagine a brochure less likely on aesthetic grounds to attract subscribers". Bad typography or not, our publicity campaign brought in 250 subscribers, and the first number of the Journal appeared on 1 July 1939. The manuscripts for the second were sent to the Press shortly after, but by 12 October, when that number appeared, the Second World War had broken out.

The likely adverse effects of the war on the Journal were discussed on 18 October 1939 at the second meeting of the Council of Management. We envisaged an increase in costs and also a decline both in the number of subscribers and in the amount of material that would be submitted for publication. Accordingly we resolved to suspend publication on the completion of the first volume. A month later this decision was rescinded since it appeared that the flow of material for publication had not diminished significantly. At the same time we asked a number of organizations for financial help to tide us over our difficulties. The Royal Society provided £300, which made it unnecessary for the guarantors to add to the £20 each of them had already paid in.

The first change in the management of the Journal was the resignation in March 1941 from the Secretary-ship of Frank Young (who at the time was also looking after the Biochemical Journal), and my appointment in his place. (R. L. Noble, who had been appointed Assistant Editor to Dodds, resigned shortly after the war broke out, his place being taken by P. C. Williams.)

Apart from this, we got along somewhat better than had been anticipated at the outbreak of war. By 1944, three volumes had been published, the first two under the imprint of the O.U.P. and the third under that of the C.U.P. (The correspondence about the transfer of the Journal to the C.U.P. shows that we had some difficulty in obtaining a clear statement of our debt to the O.U.P.) We were then all so immersed in our respective wartime duties that it was very difficult to arrange meetings of the Council. There was also a considerable lag in picking up again after the war. The last number of Volume 4, covering the period 1944 and 1945, appeared in April 1946, while the final number of Volume 5 appeared in June 1948.

The fourth phase in the Journal's history was marked by the formation of the Society for Endocrinology, a move that had been in our minds when the Journal was launched. In spite of my continuing and heavy involvement in war work 2, I took the initiative towards the end of 1944 and drafted a note (see Appendix) for a meeting of the Council of Management that we had managed to convene for December. In it I recommended that we should organize symposia in connection with the Journal of Endocrinology pointing out that the objects for which the Company had been established were, first, to own and publish a journal " ... to advance knowledge concerning the glands of internal secretion ... " and second, "To promote in such other ways as the Company may from time to time determine the advancement of such knowledge." The note continued, optimistically, by saying that "With the European war drawing to a close, it seems appropriate to consider what other steps we can take to promote the advancement of knowledge in endocrinology." After my memorandum had been discussed, I was asked to prepare a statement about the steps which would have to be taken to form a Society, and to outline a scheme in detail.

In January 1946, some 6 months after the end of the war, all contributors to the Journal were invited to meet the Council to discuss the formation of a Society. On 15 February, thirty of us met together and resolved to form a 'Society for Endocrinology', and to invite as foundation members all those who had already published in the Journal. A working committee prepared a draft constitution, which was adopted at a meeting held at Guy's Hospital on 26 April 1946. At this meeting, John Folley FRS was elected Secretary of the Society, Cliff Emmens, Treasurer, and myself Honorary Editor of the Society's Proceedings. At the first formal Annual General Meeting on 24 July 1946, Alan Parkes was elected Chairman. An inaugural address was given by Sir Charles Harington to the title The Scientific Foundations of Endocrinology.

The next step was to associate the Journal with the Society, so that subscriptions paid by members of the Society covered the supply of the Journal at a reduced rate. Another issue that had to be formally agreed was that the Society's Proceedings should be published in the Journal. Since nearly all the officers of the new Society were then also members of the Council of the Company of the Journal this was arranged without difficulty.

Matters continued in this way until the new Society took over the Journal, with the disbandment of the original Council of the Company. The formal opening move was made by John Folley, acting as Secretary of the Society, in a letter dated 28 April 1947 addressed to me as Secretary of the Company, and informing me that the Society wished to acquire the Journal. The transfer proved to be a long and complicated business, with all sorts of legal niceties having to be settled, and with much correspondence with members of the Council of the Company on the one hand, and with John Folley and the lawyers on the other.

The final arrangement for the takeover was called the Parkes' Plan. The first step was to permit all members of the Society who so wished to become members of the Company of the Journal of Endocrinology, which therefore had to be formally enlarged so that this could be done. Second, it was agreed that the Committee of the Society would become the Council of Management of the enlarged Company. To facilitate this change, five of the ten members of the original Company and Council — Crew, Dodds. Marshall, Marrian and Dale — resigned, with the vacancies so created being regarded as 'casual' vacancies. These were filled by five members of the Committee of the Society not hitherto associated with the Journal (John Folley, Charles Gray, Peter Krohn, Idwal Rowlands and F. Lloyd Warren) who now became members of the enlarged Company. As part of this arrangement, the Society reimbursed the original guarantors for the sums they had laid out.

I had an amusing exchange of letters with Charles Dodds about his attendance at a meeting of the Society which was called for 2 June 1948 to discuss the transfer. At the time Dodds was looking forward to being relieved of the editorship of the Journal, the understanding being that I should take over the burden. In his letter he wrote that he had left Paris that morning to attend the meeting which he thought had been called for 3.00 p.m. and that when he arrived in good time he learnt that the start had been advanced to 2.15. "My annoyance", wrote Sir Charles, "is only tempered by the pleasure that it gives me to contemplate the horrors that await you as Editor!" The record shows that Dodds had agreed in writing to the change in the time of the meeting, and had also sent apologies for being unable to attend!

For 15 years after Dodds and P. C. Williams handed over, the Journal had its home in the Department of Anatomy in Birmingham. I remained Editor until March 1957 (for the final year as Chairman of an Editorial Board), and was followed by Peter Eckstein, who served until May 1963, when the burden of editing was taken over by H. Helier of Bristol, helped by a much enlarged Editorial Board. When I became Editor, I had resigned the secretaryship of the enlarged Company of the Journal of Endocrinology, with John Folley taking my place.

Meanwhile several changes had taken place in the membership of the Council of the enlarged Company. By the beginning of 1949, the only two members of the original ten who were still members of both the Society's Committee and the Company's Council were Parkes and myself. It had taken almost 10 years to the day for the Journal to spawn a Society with identical aims and management.

All scientific journals were in difficulties in the immediate post-war years, for one reason because there was very little to publish, and for another because of printing problems. In those days it often took as long as 2 years to get a paper into print, by which time the findings which it reported had been superseded. It took 3 years to publish the first post-war volume of theJournal. Delays in the time it took to publish in turn often resulted in a fall in circulation. The situation was indeed so bad that some British scientific societies started to seek printers abroad. In 1949 the Council of the Royal Society had accordingly set up a small committee consisting of three Fellows, with myself as Chairman, three representatives of the British Federation of Master Printers, and three from the Printing and Kindred Trades Association, in order to see what could be done to improve the situation. As Chairman I was in a good position to learn what possible remedies lay in the hands of editorial staffs. One obvious measure was to reduce the delay between the appearance of the separate parts of a volume by publishing more of them and, so as to prevent them from becoming too slender, to canvass colleagues to send in good papers.

In 1953 I accordingly started to campaign for an increase in the rate of publication of our Journal on the assumption that the more frequently we published, the more attractive we would become to potential authors, the more copies we would sell, and the sooner we would be relieved of what was then continuing financial embarrassment. Council agreed in August 1953 that six parts should appear a year, and 5 months later added two more, that is to say, it was agreed that we would publish two volumes annually. That was the start of the upturn in the Society's finances.

In 1953, the Society also agreed to publish, in addition to its Journal, a series of Memoirs, as records of the Society's conferences and seminars. This, too, proved a happy venture, both scientifically and financially. Thirteen volumes of Memoirsappeared in the first 10 years after this decision was taken.

The numbers of scientists engaged in endocrinological research and in research in the field of reproductive physiology were multiplying fast, and in 1956. Alan Parkes proposed, on behalf of the Society for the Study of Fertility (which had grown up in parallel with the Society for Endocrinology), that the Journal of Endocrinology should become the official organ of the Fertility Society and that its name should be changed to that of Journal of Endocrinology and Reproduction. Views on this proposal were so divided that it was dropped, and the Society for the Study of Fertility then launched its own journal.

I forget the lines of the discussion that led to the separation, but since the hormonal control of reproductive processes had been a powerful interest among those who, 20 years before, had launched the Journal of Endocrinology. I certainly regretted that it had come about. But I would not take it upon myself now to judge whether, from the point of view of the advancement of endocrinological science, the outcome was good or bad. The fact is that as science grows it inevitably fragments. Endocrinology was in its infancy when our journal was founded, and with the growth of the science, specialisms were bound to develop. It is a truism that in all sciences, major new ideas which transform the direction of research are not only rare but also very powerful in setting fashions which, as they are pursued, throw the less active and less glamorous parts of a subject into the shade. Fortunately the latter nonetheless remain a potential mine of major ideas for the future. In my view, that is why a general journal, like the Journal of Endocrinology, which caters for the conventional as well as the new, can go on looking forward to as bright a future as its founders hoped for nearly 50 years ago.

(I prepared a first draft of this brief history in 1964, in the hope that it would be embellished by Alan Parkes, to whom I wrote saying that I was "practically certain" that he was "the only other member of the founders who has any of the earlier correspondence". Unfortunately it appears that he had none for, apart from suggesting the deletion of passages which dealt with my own concerns, he made only some textual changes to the draft I sent him. Believing that much more could and should be added, I then pushed the manuscript to one side. Twenty years later, I myself can add nothing to what I first wrote.

In preparing the original draft, I was greatly helped by Miss Pamela Warwick (now Mrs Spikes), then my secretary, who sifted what was at the time a much larger volume of relevant paper than is now in my possession. My text was also then read by two colleagues. Peter Krohn FRS and Peter Eckstein, to both of whom I offer my belated thanks, as I do to Alan Parkes for his most useful advice.)


1 More than one learned journal had been founded in those days by a single individual, and had become their personal property. The Journal of Physiology, for instance, had been launched in 1878 by Michael Foster who, in turn, sold it to John Newport Langley in 1894, from whose widow it was bought by the Physiological Society in 1926.

2 At the time I was scientific adviser on air planning to Lord Tedder. Deputy Supreme Allied Commander to General Eisenhower, to whose headquarters in France and my staff were assigned. I was, however, able from time to time to fly back to the U.K.


Note by Secretary on calling of symposia in connection with The Journal of Endocrinology

  1. In our Memorandum of Association, the objects for which the Journal of Endocrinology Limited was established are stated as:

(i) To own and publish a journal devoted to the publication of communications which advance or are likely to advance knowledge concerning the glands of internal secretion, the mode of their action, the nature of their secretions and the disorders of their functions.

(ii) To promote in such other ways as the Company may from time to time determine the advancement of such knowledge.

  1. Until now our activities have necessarily been confined to the task of fostering the Journal. With the European war drawing to a close, it seems appropriate to consider what other steps we can take to promote the advancement of knowledge in endocrinology. The project of forming a Society of Endocrinology was raised a few years ago during informal discussions between members of the Council, but was dismissed. It is not felt that circumstances have yet changed sufficiently to warrant the re-opening of this discussion.
  2. On the other hand, it is suggested that a fruitful way of furthering knowledge would be for small groups of investigators to hold symposia on selected topics. The 1937 Singer-Polignac conference in Paris could be taken as a general example of such a symposium. Experience during the war has also been that discussions of specific questions by workers interested in the same problems can be of great value; they serve the useful purpose of crystallizing the existing state of knowledge, and of defining the more salient interests which are emerging
  3. It is therefore proposed that, as soon as circumstances permit, the Council should organize symposia on specific topics in the field of endocrinology. Invitations should be sent by the Council to not more than 20 workers engaged in research in the particular field selected for discussion. It is useful to restrict the number at a symposium so as to maintain an "across-the-table" atmosphere, and so as to prevent the symposium breaking down into non-integrated discussions. Depending on the subject, the symposium could occupy two, or even four, sessions.
  4. Meetings should at first be called not less than four times a year, and then as conditions improve, more frequently.
  5. The proceedings of each symposium should be summarized briefly in "minutes" indicating the present state of knowledge in the subject under discussion, and the more outstanding problems which are under investigation, or which require investigation. These minutes should be mimeographed and circulated to all subscribers to the Journal. They should not be more than about 6 pages long. Assuming a subscribers' list of 500, the cost per set of minutes would be approximately:













Duplicating materials








The Journal itself could not meet these costs, and subscribers should be invited to increase their subscriptions by the necessary 1s. 3d. a year (assuming four sets of minutes a year)