The American Society for Cell Biology was first organized at an ad hoc meeting in the office of Keith R. Porter at Rockefeller University on May 28, 1960. In the 1940s, Porter was one of the first in the world to use the revolutionary technique of electron microscopy (EM) to reveal the internal structure of cells. The other early leaders of the ASCB—George Palade, Don Fawcett, Hewson Swift, Arthur Solomon, and Hans Ris—were also EM pioneers. All were concerned that existing scientific societies and existing biology journals were not receptive to this emerging field that studied the cell as the fundamental unit of all life. The ASCB was legally incorporated in New York State on July 31, 1961. A call for membership (at $10 a year) went out, enlisting ASCB’s first 480 members. The first ASCB Annual Meeting was held November 2-4, 1961, in Chicago where 844 attendees gathered for three days of lectures, slides, and movies of cellular structure. The results of a mail ballot were read out and Fawcett was declared ASCB’s first president.
The ASCB did not remain an EM society. New technologies and new discoveries in molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, and light microscopy quickly widened the field. Cell biology has continued to expand ever since, extending its impact on clinical medicine and pharmacology while drawing on new technologies in bioengineering, high-resolution imaging, massive data handling, and genomic sequencing. ASCB membership has grown to 9,000 worldwide (with 25% of ASCB members working outside the United States). Annual meetings now draw upwards of 5,000 people. Since 1960, 32 past or current ASCB members have won Nobel Prizes in medicine or in chemistry.