The International Society for Plastination was founded in 1986 during the Third International Conference on Plastination held in San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A. by Harmon Bickley , Ph.D. who served as the Executive Director from 1986-1995.

The International Society for Plastination is a multidisciplinary organization, including people within all fields of science interested in the technique of Plastination. Plastination refers to the use of polymers to infiltrate and preserve any material for teaching, research or diagnostic purposes.

The purpose of the Society, as contained in the Letters Patent shall be:

  1. to provide for and maintain an International Association for individuals and institutions who perform Plastination techniques, or are interested in Plastination preservation methods;
  2. to serve as a forum for the exchange of information about Plastination;
  3. to define Plastination as a specialty area of professional activity, to encourage other institutions to adopt Plastination preservation methods, and to invite individuals to learn and practice Plastination as a career in the sciences;
  4. to publish the Journal of the International Society for Plastination on a regular basis;
  5. to hold regular meetings, workshops and conferences to promote and teach the techniques of Plastination;
  6. to maintain a record of member institutions and individuals performing Plastination, their particular specialty, and others interested in Plastination.

Harmon Bickley , Ph.D. (1930-2001)

Founder of the International Society for Plastination (Executive Director from 1986 to 1995)
published in J. Int. Soc. Plastination, 9(1): 11-12, 1995

Many of us attending this meeting have been plastinating for some time now, so it might be interesting to briefly glance back and see how far we've come. Note that I am not dignifying this report by calling it a history. The history of international plastination is an important story that needs telling, but it will take far more effort and space than we are using here.
Let's begin with what we are calling (in retrospect) the "First International Conference on Plastination."

1. The "First International Conference on Plastination" was actually entitled "Preservation of Biological Materials by Plastination." It was convened in San Antonio, Texas, USA on Friday, April 16, 1982 and lasted only one day. Eighty people were registered, all from the United States. It wasn't very formal and it really wasn't international. But we're counting it anyway.

2. The "Second International Conference on Plastination" was held in San Francisco during April of 1984. It seems that it was hardly more formal than the first, since my files contain no examples of brochures or other mailings. As I remember, the attendance was close to 1 00 and even included some from outside the U.S. The need for this kind of conference expressed by those in attendance encouraged us to do a better job on the next one.

3. The "Third International Conference on Plastination" was held in San Antonio, April 21- 25th, 1986. It was publicized widely in both North America and Europe; therefore we anticipated a strong response. As a result, attendance was excellent and the meeting finally began to take on an international character. With this conference, the current five-day format was adopted: two days of lectures dealing with the principles of plastination, one day of informal gatherings, and two days of papers relating to advanced topics. It was at this meeting that the International Society for Plastination was founded and plans were made for publication of the journal. Volume 1, Number 1 of the Journal of the International Society for Plastination was released in January of 1987, and contained many of the papers presented at this meeting.

4. The "Fourth International Conference on Plastination" was held at Mercer University School of Medicine, Macon, Georgia, USA, March 21-25th, 1988, again employing the current five-day format. Judging from both attendance and comments, it was a resounding success.

5. The "Fifth International Conference on Plastination" was one of the highlights of our brief history. It was particularly significant since it was held in Heidelberg, the "Birthplace of Plastination." The dates were July 22-27, 1990, a change from the usual springtime interval. It was well publicized throughout the world and attendance was the best ever.

6. The "Sixth International Conference on Plastination" was held at Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 1992. Again, July dates were used since this seemed to accommodate those of us who had teaching duties. The meeting was thoroughly enjoyable and introduced many new people to plastination.

7. And here we are at Graz for the "Seventh International Conference on Plastination in 1994." We couldn't have chosen a nicer place to meet, so this is bound to be just another great meeting.
Interim meetings (those held during the off-year intervening the International Conferences) popped up quite spontaneously. The initiative for holding them was provided by members who wanted an opportunity to serve as a host. They have been held at a number of interesting places such as Knoxville, Tennessee, Rancho Cucamonga, California, and Mobile, Alabama, all in the United States.

Although not advertised as international meetings, they have gradually become quite international in composition. They tend to emphasize the "hands-on" rather than the didactic approach.


As mentioned above, the International Society for Plastination was organized at the Third International Conference on Plastination. It was conceived as a means of defining plastination as an area of professional activity and serving as an agency for disseminating information relative to the art and science of plastination. Its role was envisioned as consisting of five principal services:

1. To identify an international community of scientists and technologists interested in plastination.

2. To serve as a form for the international exchange of information about plastination through the periodical publication of a journal.

3. To organize and conduct regular regional and international workshops and meetings.

4. To maintain an international registry of laboratories and technologists skilled in the performance of plastination.

5. To define plastination as an area of professional activity and provide a means of learning and practicing plastination as a career.

Well, that's the whole story in outline. As you can see, we've come a long way since the first silicone elastomer was forced into a specimen. Our organization has been simple and pragmatic, by intention. But perhaps it is time for the International Society for Plastination to become more of a broadly based membership organization and climb to even greater heights. This was proposed at the Business Meeting and officially adopted.