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IASP’s 50th Anniversary #IASP50

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Celebrating 50 Years of Working Together for Pain Relief Throughout the World

In 2024, IASP will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. Throughout 2023 and 2024, culminating at the 20th World Congress on Pain, 5 – 9 August in Amsterdam, Netherlands, IASP will celebrate this milestone with 50th Anniversary initiatives and history that reflect on the advances and contributions made by IASP and our members over the last 50 years.

Join us in celebrating IASP’s half-century of achievement, and looking forward to many more years of working together for pain relief throughout the world. #IASP50

History and Timeline

The Beginning

“Where on Earth is Issaquah, Washington?” was the question of several international delegates who flew into Seattle-Tacoma Airport in late May of 1973. Providence Heights Conference Center in Issaquah, a town about 20 miles east of Seattle, was the location chosen for a unique week-long conference. The meeting was the International Symposium on Pain held on 21-26 May 1973. It was the brainchild of Professor John Bonica, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Washington in Seattle and author of the groundbreaking book, The Management of Pain.

It was also just eight years after the publication of the gate control theory of pain by Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall, and much more attention was being paid to both chronic and acute pain than ever before.

It was obvious at the end of the meeting that fertile seeds had been sown and that there was goodwill. On the last day, there was unanimous approval for the proposals to start a journal dedicated to the field of pain and to start an international association to help support the journal and advance the study of pain and its treatment. And thus, the International Association for the Study of Pain was born.


Learn about IASP's founding members, watch some of the founders share their recollections of the association's beginning and their hopes for the future of pain research.

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History of Pain Transcripts 

In 1993, John Liebeskind, one of IASP’s founding members, initiated a Pain Oral History Project as part of IASP's first efforts to record the history of pain science and management. This project included interviews with IASP founders and other prominent IASP members. 

Throughout 2024, the Pain Research Forum produced a series of podcasts featuring senior leaders who have made major contributions to pain research and management, including those with major roles at IASP. 

  • Podcast with John D. Loeser - Listen to our chat with Dr. John D. Loeser about his introduction to the field of pain research, his role in the genesis of IASP, and policy barriers that impact advances in the field.
  • Podcast with Louisa E. Jones - In our conversation with Louisa E. Jones, we discussed the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to pain research and management, and learned about “underrecognized contributors to IASP’s evolution.
  • Denise Albe-Fessard France (1975-1978)
  • John J. Bonica USA (1978-1981)
  • Ainsley Iggo UK (1981-1984)
  • Ronald Melzack Canada (1984-1987)
  • Michael J. Cousins Australia (1987-1990)
  • Ulf Lindblom Sweden (1990-1993)
  • John D. Loeser USA (1993-1996)
  • Jean-Marie Besson, France (1996-1999)
  • Barry J. Sessle Canada (1999-2002)
  • Michael R. Bond UK (2002-2005)
  • Troels S. Jensen Denmark (2005-2008)
  • Gerald Gebhart USA (2008-2010)
  • Eija Kalso Finland (2010-2012)
  • Fernando Cervero UK (2012-2014)
  • Rolf Detlef Treede Germany (2014-2016)
  • Judy Turner USA (2016-2018)
  • Lars Arendt-Nielsen Denmark (2018-2020)
  • Claudia Sommer Germany (2020-2022)
  • Catherine Bushnell USA (2022-2024)
  • Andrew Rice UK (2024-2026)

As part of our 50th Anniversary celebration, IASP has published this special edition of PAIN, featuring a series of articles reflecting on the advances and contributions made by IASP and our members over the past 50 years. 

To highlight the advancements made by our members, IASP has compiled three separate lists of the “Top 10 Most-Cited Papers on Pain,” based on the number of citations and categorized by article type: Primary research papers, “review” papers, and methodology papers.  

iasp-First Steps The Early Years of IASP 1973-1984First Steps: The Early Years of IASP 1973-1984 is a set of memoirs written by former IASP Executive Officer Louisa E. Jones. It was published and distributed in conjunction with the 13th World Congress on Pain in Montréal, Canada.

Celebrating 25 Years: International Association for the Study of Pain 1973 - 1998 was published celebrating IASPs 25th anniversary in 1998. It is a snapshot of IASPs growth and milestone achievements in the 20th century. 

This second edition of our taxonomy book, edited by Harold Merskey and Nikolai Bogduk as part of the IASP Task Force on Taxonomy, was originally published in 1994 and twice updated. Classification of Chronic Pain includes detailed pain definitions, descriptions of pain syndromes, and codes for chronic pain diagnosis. The IASP Taxonomy, developed in 2012, updates the pain terminology presented in the book.

Though many of the terms were established in literature, the following pain terminology was first published in 1979. The terms and definitions have been carefully reviewed and their utility assessed in referenced to the new knowledge about both clinical and basic science aspects of pain.