Global Concerns Global Concerns - XXIV

Please be my guest!

These words convey a special gesture for both receiver and giver. Extending and receiving invitations are honored practices in every culture of the world, and the AACC has recently been honored to have one of its invitations accepted.


The AACC recently extended an invitation to the IFAC Council to hold its 2001 meeting series in conjunction with our American Control Conference (ACC). We're happy to report that the IFAC Council, at its meeting in July, accepted AACC's invitation, so we will now have the pleasure of hosting IFAC next summer in Arlington, Virginia. Between now and then, we will use this column to provide more information regarding this significant occasion.

Who is IFAC?

As most of you know, the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) is a multinational federation of National Member Organizations (NMOs), each one representing engineering and scientific societies concerned with automatic control within their respective country. The American Automatic Control Council (AACC), which sponsors the American Control Conference (ACC), is the IFAC NMO from the USA.

IFAC began in the late 1950's when research and practice of systems and control was being recognized as a significant engineering-scientific field. Although elementary control techniques had already been used for many years, dramatic developments during World War II had focused particular attention to the field. Several pioneers within control, including Harold Chestnut and Rufus Oldenburger from the USA, along with contemporaries from a dozen or so other countries, believed that world-wide scientific communication and interactions would be beneficial to all. These pioneers, with admirable tact, skill, and diplomacy were able to establish IFAC and to enable it to reach across the "iron curtain" and other national barriers even during the height of the cold war.

Obviously, if the USA was going to participate in IFAC, an organization was needed to serve as our NMO, and there were several eager founders who were willing to work to bring together the largest national engineering organizations who were active within control: these included IEEE, ASME, AIChE, AIAA, ISA, SIAM, and others. (Since the IFAC formation, ASCE, AISE, and SCS have joined our NMO.) This was a remarkable accomplishment - perhaps comparable to the formation of IFAC itself - because there was an inherent natural competition among these organizations. Fortunately, Harold Chestnut was a recognized leader from the electrical engineering community while Rufus Oldenburger was similarly respected by the mechanical engineering field. Today, over 40 years later, as a result of service from many enthusiastic leaders through the years, the AACC is a cohesive, cooperative organization within the USA that is both a key part of IFAC as well as a separate entity that vigorously promotes our field.

The purpose of IFAC is to foster both theory and application of the science and technology of control in the broadest sense in all systems, whether engineering, physical, biological, or economic. IFAC is also concerned with the impact of control technology on society. IFAC sponsors from 30 to 40 technical meetings, conferences, and workshops throughout the world in years when there is not an IFAC World Congress. IFAC publishes three journals (Automatica, Control Engineering Practice, Annual Reviews in Control) and is affiliated with several other prestigious international publications. IFAC offers ample opportunities for control engineers to interact with their peers from throughout the globe.

Who is the IFAC Council?

The IFAC General Assembly, consisting of delegations from all NMOs, is the supreme body of the Federation; the General Assembly meets every three years at the time of the triennial IFAC World Congress. Between meetings of the General Assembly, management of the Federation is vested in the IFAC Council. In addition, technical and executive activities are managed by the Technical Board and the Executive Board, each chaired by IFAC Vice-Presidents, both reporting to the Council. The Council, and these Boards, as well as various committees hold annual meetings.

The AACC is pleased to welcome the IFAC Council and its related Committees to the 2001 ACC. IFAC receives numerous invitations for this meeting series, and we are honored that IFAC has selected ACC for this event. All ACC attendees are encouraged to meet with the IFAC Officials during this visit and to explore opportunities for increased interactions with IFAC's international activities.

Who from IFAC will come to the ACC?

All of the IFAC Council members as well as the Technical Board, Executive Board, and numerous subcommittees (finance, publications, policies, awards) will be part of next year's meeting series. It is likely that several of the IFAC Technical Committees will also use this as an opportunity for their annual meetings. The Operating Committees for the next IFAC World Congress, to be held in Barcelona, Spain in 2002, will also hold meetings at this time.

In our next Newsletter, we will review opportunities for individual participation in IFAC; hopefully this will suggest areas that you may want to explore further next summer when IFAC comes to ACC!


In our last Newsletter, we listed some of the many USA representatives who have served in leadership roles within IFAC. As we noted, there have been many who have contributed much to IFAC, but alas, compiling such a list always seems to miss a few. Professor Petar Kokotovic is one that we missed. During the 1960 and 1970's, Professor Kokotovic served IFAC as chair of the Theory Committee and as an editor for Automatica. He also helped organize three World Congresses and was the recipient of the 1990 IFAC Quazza Medal. Petar, please accept our apologies for our oversight, and thanks for your service to IFAC. Apologies to others that may have also been overlooked.

                    Mike Masten
                    IFAC Council Member