The I.S.N. Council decided in 1976 that it was time the society had an historian and asked the Secretary at the time, Jordi Folch-Pi, to take it on. He was formally appointed to the position in 1977 and served the society by writing its first history (Folch-Pi, 1980), and by starting the collection for the archives. After his untimely death in 1979, he was succeeded by Abel Lajtha in 1980, who served in this capacity until 1983, when Henry McIlwain took over. Henry was then working in semi-retirement and had time to devote to organizing the archives in specially designed boxes to ensure their preservation, first at St. Thomas's in London and then in Birmingham. After his death in 1992, he was succeeded by Gerald Curzon. The main problem Henry encountered arose from the international nature of the society, officers having belonged to different countries and cultures, and operating in different styles. This was reflected in severe problems in securing continuity of records - the three elected officers did not usually have complete sets of the documents created by their predecessors. This sometimes made it difficult to be sure as to the precise decisions taken by their predecessors. Victor Whittaker sought to help Henry in this respect by asking each officer to make an additional copy of every document and send it to the historian to be stored in the archives. Unfortunately their responses were disappointingly sporadic. Admittedly this was sometimes due to reluctance to make contentious or controversial correspondence freely available. Appeals were then made in I.S.N. News and many members responded by sending earlier documents and so most but not all of the key documents have been collected.

The first history session was proposed by Cees Van den Berg and held as a Round Table during the Nottingham meeting in 1981.The session was well attended and proved so popular that on his appointment as historian, Henry McIlwain pressed for regular historical sessions to be part of the I.S.N. Meetings and such have been included all the meetings since then, except for that held in La Guiara (Table 5). The meeting in La Guiara was held jointly with A.S.N. and the organizers felt that the program was too large to accomodate a historical session. In his personal account of the "Post of Historian, I.S.N.", stored in the archives, McIlwain noted that the success and popularity of the historical sessions was reflected in audiences averaging over 100, even though they ran in competition with current experimental research sessions. It is fitting, though sad, that the historical session held at this meeting in Montpellier, is dedicated to Henry McIlwain and to the French neurochemist, Paul Mandel.

Table 5. Historical sessions held during biennial ISN meetings.
 
Meeting     Title, Organizer     Theme
Nottingham
1981     History of neurochemistry
Cees van den Berg     

Biochemical studies on behavioural problems
(Andreoli, Ansell, McIlwain, Rose)
Vancouver
1983     History of neurochemistry
Henry McIlwain     Various : Hensing and phosphorus, energy metabolism, axoplasmic
transport, ideas on drug action (Ansell, McIlwain, Ochs, Tower, v.d.Berg)
Riva del Garda
1985     History of neurotransmitters
Brian Ansell & Henry McIlwain     Personal recollections of participation in studies on identification & function of transmitters (Blashko, McIlwain, Rapport, Richter, Vogt, Weil Malherbe)
Algarve
1989     Contributions to early neurochemical
development by drugs and
medicaments, 1850-1950s
Henry McIlwain     As title (Curzon, McIlwain, Sandler, Sourkes, Whittaker)
Sydney
1991     

Influences on the development of neurochemistry
Henry McIlwain
    

Technical developments, the history of neurochemistry revealed by papers published in J.Neurochem. (Curzon, Lathja, McIlwain, Whittaker).