1966 – 1980

In 1968, the Committee decided that a presentation to the Society “of acceptable quality” should be mandatory for membership. Despite the introduction of this more stringent requirement, and the raising of the subscription to £5 in 1976, the Society continued to flourish, with no perceptible check in growth rate. Inevitably, paediatricians predominated, but the present membership of 265 includes 30 physiologists, 18 obstetricians, 11 pathologists, 5 biochemists, 3 pharmacologists , 2 anaesthetists and 8 in other branches of the medical profession. There are 63 members from 17 countries overseas, twelve of whom are numbered among the 17 Honorary Members. Thus the Society is still a multi-disciplinary body and has achieved international recognition. The interests of the minority groups were protected in 1976 by increasing the number on the Committee of eight, of whom “not more than four….. shall be paediatricians”. In 1978 a member from overseas, Dr Catherine Tchobroutsky, was elected to the Committee.

The tradition of holding two Winter Meetings in London and a Summer Meeting elsewhere in the United Kingdom has been maintained (Table 1). The London meetings were held at University College Hospital Medical School from 1966-68 and at St Thomas’s Hospital for the next ten years. The Society is grateful for their generous hospitality. The Institute of Child Health is the present venue for London meetings. The Summer Meetings have been held in places as far apart as Exeter and Aberdeen and have been social as well as scientific occasions, usually ending with a dinner. The two-day meeting in Brighton in 1971 was particularly noteworthy in that it was held jointly with the European Society for Paediatric Research; members were able to sample the delights of opera at Glyndebourne or the theatre at Chichester in the evening.

A special invitation lecture has continued to be a feature of the November meetings (Table 2). This was sponsored by Oxygenaire Ltd from 1964-67, by Glaxo Ltd from 1968-74, and by Geistlich & Sons in 1975. In 1976 Vickers Medical Ltd agreed to support the lecture for a further seven years. These companies’ generosity had enabled the Society to invite lecturers from overseas on a large number of occasions. The Society is also indebted to Vickers Medical and to several other companies, notably Cow & Gate, Becton Dickinson UK, Reckitt & Colman, British Oxygen Company, Medishield, Hewlett Packard, Simonsen & Weil, Draeger Medical, Vygon (UK), Wyeth, RL Dolby, Wedderburn, Ivac and Milupa for financial help with the Summer Meetings.

In addition to the three regular meetings for open communications, the Society usually holds at least one Special Meeting each year (Table 3). Many of these have been joint meetings with other Societies. In 1966 and 1968 members of the Neonatal Society and Blair Bell Research Society met to present papers on subjects of mutual interest. The Society continued to collaborate with the Blair Bell Research Society to establish a tradition, started in 1961, of arranging symposia at which speakers attending meetings have been held, the second of which was also sponsored by the Society for the Study of Fertility. We are grateful to the Ciba Foundation for providing an extra night’s accommodation for their guests on these occasions. The Neonatal and Blair Bell Research Societies also sponsored a lecture by Professor GC Liggins at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1971. In 1973 a symposium was arranged in collaboration with the Nutrition Society and in 1978 we were the guests of the National Institute for Research in Dairying at Shinfield.

The other meetings should be mentioned. On 28 November 1974, the Society held its 50th Meeting at the Zoological Society’s Meeting Rooms in Regent’s Park and followed this with a dinner in honour of its first President, Professor RA McCance*. Professor McCance was also honoured on 20th March 1979, when a symposium on “The Development of Foetal and Neonatal Physiology in the United Kingdom” was held in Cambridge to commemorate his 80th birthday. The meeting was followed by a dinner in Sidney Sussex College at which a pencil portrait of him by Mr W E Narraway was unveiled. The portrait had been commissioned by the Society and was the gift of his many friends and colleagues. It will hang in Sidney Sussex College and is to be used as the frontispiece to a commemorative volume on “Studies in Perinatal Physiology”. This embodies the Meeting’s proceedings and reprints of several of Professor McCance’s publications: the publishers are Pitman Medical.

*Text of the speech given by Professor R A McCance after dinner at the London Zoo, 28th November 1974:

“I have great affection for the Neonatal Society. This would be natural enough I suppose, even if it had turned out to be a child that was “handicapped” in some way – as they say euphemistically nowadays. But I’m really in a way rather proud of it. It was born at just the right time I think – of course that sort of thing is much easier to arrange now-a-days with the Pill and all that – and it was always a thriving baby. It might have done well on full cream dried milk which seems to be generating a lot of heat at the moment, but perhaps some of you I know regard it as a triumph for breast feeding, others perhaps for a glass or two of sherry at bedtime.

But seriously, I have often thought about the one or two things that might have contributed materially to its success:- Firstly, it was born at exactly the right time as I’ve just said.
Secondly, it was a first child, and although it has now got several little brothers and sisters, none of them have achieved quite the same stature or breadth of outlook that we have: nor I think the same international reputation for informal discussion and exchange of views. Where else would you find paediatricians gathering together to hear about the birth of the Weddell seal pups as I believe we are to do at the next meeting.

Thirdly, we are still a small society and I hope we shall always remain so. I expect a number of you have read or heard about one of the best sellers of the day called “Small is beautiful” by a man called Schumacher I believe. The author is certainly right about societies. Once a small scientific society allows itself to grow beyond a certain size – and we are very near that size now – it loses all intimacy and value as a meeting ground for free discussion and frank criticism which justifies its existence. A small size is not without dangers and requires wise direction. I’m glad to say, for instance, that we have never taken the risk of saddling ourselves with a journal. Some little researches I have been making lately suggest that this is always a dangerous practice for a small society, particularly in a period of rising costs. We have, however, thanks to our current President, – a wise choice, you see – been able to combine the best of all possible worlds by getting our abstracts published – which keeps the ambitious young of both sexes satisfied – and not only published but published free gratis and for nothing in one of the best paediatric journals.

Fourthly, we have never allowed ourselves to become political – and I hope we never shall. I have watched societies and associations which shall remain nameless on this happy occasion, ruin themselves as scientific societies by doing so. The mind of the investigator differs fundamentally from that of the politician – or for that matter the administrator – that the less they have to do with each other the happier they all are.

Lastly, we have always had good officers, faithful and hard working secretaries, benevolent presidents and a firm but tactful treasurer. I hope we shall always remain a small enough society to take an intelligent and personal interest in their election. We have one coming up soon for a new secretary and a new member of the committee. Now I expect some of you are anxious to get away home so I shall keep you no longer except to say what you all know I must feel – and that is – thank you all deeply and sincerely by honouring me with this beautiful dinner and lovely evening”.

In 1979, the Society was also able to publish abstracts of papers presented at its ordinary meetings for the first time. Since 1970 these have been submitted to the Meetings Secretary and precirculated to members. The titles were published in Archives of Disease in Childhood. Recently the journal questioned the value of publishing titles only and were persuaded to publish the abstracts in full for a trial period.

In his history of the early years of the Society, Professor McCance concluded that in 1966 “it had reached school age”. It can now be said to have left school and become a young adult.

– Heather Shelley and David Harvey (1980)

Our History:

1990 – Present​

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