IBS Italy

International Biometric Society - Italian region

History and Hall of Fame

Historical notes about the foundation of the Italian Region (RItl) of the International Biometric Society (IBS).

Just after the foundation of the Biometric Society (BS, September, 6, 1947, which was later called the International Biometric Society), it was to establish regional organizations as well. A. Buzzati-Traverso (an Italian scientist and geneticist: 1913 –1983, in the BS Council since September 15, 1947) took the task to get in touch with Georges Teissier toand discuss proposal that the Italian members join the French Region. However, since the French founded two Societies (Société Française de Biométrie and the Region Française of the Biometric Society) and provided that all full members of the first Society would have been also members of the Biometric Society, the proposal of a join French-Italian region was abandoned.
The Biometric Society members in Italy became a National Group in 1949, and the National Group became a Region (RItl) in 1953 when it hosted the 3rd International Biometric Conference, held at Hotel Grande Bretagne, Bellagio (Como). The Italian Region, with the names of C. Barigozzi (Vice-President), L.L. Cavalli-Sforza (Secretary), and R. Scossiroli (Treasurer), was mentioned on the Front Matter of Biometrics, December 1953 (in the previous Juneissue, there was a paragraph on the activities of the Italian Region).

The Italian Region of the IBS was founded mainly by geneticists with the leading personality of L.L. Cavalli-Sforza (Genova, 1922- who was also President of the BS: 1966 -1967 and of the RIt: 1965-1967). Other influent members were: A. Buzzati-Traverso (President of RItl: 1968-1971), G. A. Maccacaro (1924-1977, President of RItl: 1976 and Secretary 1962-71) firstly interested in genetic research, C. Barigozzi (1909-1996, professor of Genetic, University of Milan and first president of the RItl: 1953-55 and 1981-83), G. Montalenti (1904-1990, president of RItl: 1958-61, first professor of Genetics in Italy: University of Naples and of Rome), E. Ottaviano (1997-1991, professor of Genetics, University of Milan, president of RItl: 1989-91), A Piazza (1941-, professor of Genetics, University of Turin). Other Presidents of RItl were statisticians such as G. Barbensi (1875-1974, president of RItl: 1956-1957, 1962-1964 and 1972-74, ordinary member of the BS Council 1963-1965 and Honorary Member of the Biometric Society in 1969), I. Scardovi (professor of Statistics, University of Bologna, president of RItl: 1985-88), E. Marubini (1934-, professor of Medical Statistics, University of Milan, president of RItl: 1992-95), C. Rossi (professor of Statistics, University of Rome, president of RItl: 2000-03), A Biggeri (professor of Statistics, University of Florence, president of RItl: 2004-07), A. Decarli (professor of Medical Statistics, University of Milan, president of RItl: 2007-12), M. G. Valsecchi (professor of Medical Statistics, University of Milan-Bicocca, president of RItl 2012-2015).

Activity: statistics courses

In Italy, a very first course “Statistics for Geneticists”, organized by F. Brambilla of the University “Bocconi” in Milan, was held in the winter of 1948 at the Zoological Station in Naples Building up on that, the main activities of the RItl during 1954-55 were dedicated to the organization (L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, as referent), of a summer residential course “International Seminar on Biometric Methods”, held at Villa Monastero in Varenna (Como), September 7-23, 1955. The event was under the support of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) and UNESCO, Fifty-six students took the four courses offered: (1) Theoretical foundations, M. P. Geppert (W. G. Kerckhoff Institute, Bad Nauheim), (2) Applied statistical methods, C. A. B. Smith (University College, London), (3) Design of sampling surveys and experiments, F. J. Anscombe (Cambridge University), (4) Single degrees of freedom (χ² and analysis of variance), L. L. Cavalli-Sforza (Istituto Sieroterapico, Milan). In addition to some seminars on Statistical and Biometrical Genetics, Agricultural Experiments Sampling Problems related to the application of statistics to Demography and Hygiene, Sir Ronald Fisher gave an additional short course of six lectures for a restricted group of students on “The logic of inductive inference”.
This International Seminar was announced in June 1955 (Biometrics, the Biometric Society Vol. 11, No. 2 (Jun., 1955), pp. 252-256 and was exhaustively reported in a paper by L.L. Cavalli-Sforza: The Varenna Seminar in Biometry (Biometrics, 12; 1, 93-96, 1956). Evaluation questionnaires were designed and given out to the participants with the aim to collect suggestions on how to improve the organization of future courses.
Then, a Biometric Seminar was held in Milan on October 6-20, 1956, and a second course in Biometric Methodology was held at Instituto Sieroterapico, in Milan.
After these courses, attended by several scholars, a leading activity of the RItl was the organization of an annual residential course “Metodologia Statistica per Ricercatori Biologici (Statistical Methodology for Researchers in Biology), attended by 25-35 students with biological, medical and agricultural background. The IX course was held in Pavia, 14 Sept-2 Oct, 1959, the X course was held in Vallombrosa (Florence) in 1974, several editions were held in Cortona (Arezzo), the 11th course was held in Naples in 1980, and, last, the most recent were held in Marina di Massa (Pisa) in 2010 (XXV edition).
In addition to such “institutional” course, several other courses in Statistics applied to Biological and life sciences have been held under the sponsorship of the RItl. Among such courses, we may recall: “Advanced Course in Statistical Methods for Biological Research” (Pavia, 1979), “Experimental Design” and “Multivariate Analysis for Natural Sciences” courses held by Professor T. Calinski: (Milan, 1986 and 1990), “Statistical Methodology for the Survival Analysis” (Gargnano, Brescia, 1987 and 1995), “Advanced Statistical Methods in Epidemiology” (Bologna, 1991), “Generalized Linear Models: theory and practice” (Gargnano, Brescia, 1994). More recently, another residential course, supported by the RItl, is nearly annually held in the Alps (Ponte di Legno, Brescia, Italy) and is called StatisticAlps organized by prof. M. G. Valsecchi and colleagues, with leader statisticians in many different fields, among others Prof. D. Glidden, Prof. N. Breslow, Prof. T. Lumley, Prof. P. Haegerty, Prof. S.J. Wang.

Activity: first meetings / last meetings

The first meeting of the RItl was held on March 14 1951 at the University of Milan; its program is reported in Biometrics, 7, 1951, 303 and a detailed report of the morning and afternoon sections in Biometrics, 7, 1951,438-440.
The Third RItl Meeting, held at the University of Florence on April 2 1953, had a morning session on “Genetic Selection” and an afternoon session on “General Methodology”, Biometrics, Vol. 9, 1953, 271-272, and the approval of the Statute of the Region was formally announced.
The IV Annual meeting of the Italian Region of The Biometric Society was held in Rome on March 28, 1954, in conjunction with the first meeting of the Associazione Genetisti Italiani, at the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (Biometrics, Vol. 10, No. 4, 1954, pp. 571-576); and the fifth annual meeting in Pavia (April 22, 1955) was joint with the Italian Genetic Society (Associazione Genetica Italiana). (Biometrics, Vol. 11, 1955, 556-561).
Between April 1978 and June 1980, twelve seminars by visiting speakers were given in Milan and Naples. The Society also sponsored two congresses: “Analisi dei dati e informatica. Incontri con la Scuola Francese” in Naples, 30 June-5 July 1980, and “Statistica e ricerca epidemiologica” in Bressanone, 17-19 September 1980.
In the recent years, Regional Meetings lasting two-three days have been held on a yearly basis; particularly, in 2011 the meeting was held at Gargnano sul Garda (Brescia), in 2012 at Ponte di Legno (Brescia), in 2013 at Bressanone (Bolzano), with an attendance of about hundred participants each. The standard format includes invited sessions in the morning (plenary sessions) and parallel contributed sessions in the afternoon; the general assembly of the RItl is usually held on the second day of the meeting, before the social dinner.


The membership went up rather steadily from 51 members (July, 1955) until 135 members in 1967, but there has been a slight decrease until 112 members in 1971. In 2004 the members were 110 (Presidential Address, XXII International Biometric Conference, Cairns, Australia, July 2004,Geert Molenberghs Biometrics, 61, 1-9). In the recent years the number of members has decreased to 70 in 2011 and then increased again to 90 after the regional meeting of the 2013 in Bressanone (Trento). It is interesting to notice that about 25% of the members are students as their amount has been quite stable in the last years; so the memberships is steadily renewing in a relevant part.


Thanks to prof. Bruno Cesana for this historical research and documentation provided on the origin of the IBS RItl.

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