History of IGARSS and Geoscience Electronics Group Symposia

History of the International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposia “IGARSS” and Geoscience Electronics Group Symposia

1. International Geoscience Electronics Symposia

1.1. The Formation of IEEE G-GE Symposium

The First Annual International Geoscience Electronics Symposium, sponsored by the IEEE Geoscience Electronics Group was held from April 16-18, 1969 at the Twin Bridges Marriott Hotel, Washington, D.C. Arrangements for this symposium were handled by the host, Washington G-GE Chapter. The Steering Committee Chairman of this meeting was Charles F. Getman, who was then with the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office in Washington. This meeting turned out to be a great success, with 376 engineers and scientists in attendance. There were 63 papers presented in 13 technical sessions on topics such as earth resources surveys, oceanographic and meteorological remote sensing, earth seismology instrumentation, and environmental pollution. No digest of papers was published for this symposium, but a Special Issue composed of selected papers from this meeting was published in the October 1969 (GE-7) Transactions on Geoscience Electronics. The banquet speaker at this first symposium was Professor Paul S. Bauer. The registration fee for IEEE members was $17.00. Total receipts for the meeting were $6812 expenses were $5423.82, for a net meeting surplus of $1388.18.

The 2nd International Geoscience Electronics Symposium was held April 14 – 17, 1970 in Washington, D.C. at the Marriott Twin Bridges Motel. The General Chairman was Michael L. Sims. There were 70 papers presented in 18 sessions, and a 100-page Digest of papers was published. This successful meeting included an awards banquet on April 16, with the speaker being U.S. Senator Warren G. Magnuson. In his address, he called for the creation of a World Environment Institute to provide an international, interdisciplinary approach to global environmental problems. As a result of his suggestion, a G-GE team composed of Enrico Mercanti, Mace Miyasaki, and Ed Wolff began a survey of the world’s environmental community and possible implementation arrangements for a World Environment and Resources Council (WERC). In 1971 the G-GE obtained support from the IEEE Technical Activities Board and TAB Vice-President Harold Chestnut to hold a first exploratory meeting from the world environmental community to form the WERC. This meeting was held in Washington, D.C. on August 26-27, 1971 at the time of the IEEE G-GE 1971 Annual Symposium.

The 3rd International Geoscience Electronics Symposium was also held in Washington, August 25-27, 1971. The General Chairman was Ralph Bernstein, with the IBM Corporation. There were 47 papers published in a 78-page Digest (Call No. QE-1.I73). Unfortunately, attendance at this third meeting was only about 150, much lower than the previous two years, and substantially less than was needed for the meeting to be a financial success.

Keith Carver

1.2 G-GE Annual Symposium Overview

1971Washington DC, USARalph Bernstein150 attendees, 47 papers
1970Washington DC, USAMichael L. Sims70 papers
1969Washington DC, USACharles F. Getman376 attendees, 63 papers


2. International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium

2.1 Establishing IGARSS : 1981

In 1980 President Fawwaz Ulaby spearheaded a major initiative to have the Society sponsor an annual international conference to bring together the global community of scientists and executives concerned with geoscience and remote sensing. Ulaby argued that the new symposium series, which was called the International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS), would announce to the scientific community that GRSS could represent the interests of those involved in remote sensing, instrumentation and information processing. Furthermore, he noted, a symposium could help increase membership and make the society a leader in the growing field of remote sensing. Ulaby and Carver—who was slated to succeed Ulaby as President of GRSS in 1982–were convinced that a remote sensing symposium in the nation’s capital would be a success. The time was right; there was a huge amount of energy in NASA. The Shuttle program was just starting. So many of the new remote sensing and satellite programs were just getting started at the time. Indeed, the early 1980s were a time of tremendous advancement in the science of remote sensing. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospherics Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) were spearheading remote sensing initiatives in the United States, and a host of other international agencies, including CCRS in Canada, ESA in Europe and NASDA in Japan were making significant contributions to the field of remote sensing. The Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS) was focusing new interest on advances in solid-earth sensing, atmospheric and oceanographic remote sensing and new sensor systems.

When IGARSS‘81 did kick off at the Twin Bridges Marriott in Washington, D.C. the end of that first week in June. There were 416 in attendance, with 16 countries represented. A comprehensive 2-volume Proceedings was published, with 1457 pages. The first symposium of the modern era of GRSS was a resounding success. IGARSS’81 was well attended by international members of the Society, and the symposium offered sessions in all technical areas of interest.

The symposium received strong support from the U.S. scientific community. The keynote speaker at the banquet was U.S. Senator Harrison Schmitt of New Mexico. Schmitt’s appearance at IGARSS’81 was emblematic of the nation’s love affair with space travel in the early 1980s. Schmitt, a geologist, was the 12th and last of the Apollo Astronauts and one of the last Americans to walk on the surface of the moon.

Participants and GRSS members who had been unable to attend eagerly snapped up copies of the two-volume Proceedings of nearly 1460 pages that were published in late summer of 1981. For Ulaby, Carver and AdCom, the success of IGARSS’81 presented a solid foundation upon which to build for the future. The presence of delegates from 16 countries reaffirmed Ulaby’s feeling that GRSS should truly become an international organization. Ulaby had long argued that the parent IEEE was a trans-national organization with members from around the world. If GRSS truly wanted to be a global organization, it needed to hold its meetings and symposia overseas.

2.2 IGARSS’82 and Beyond

Ulaby’s argument was buttressed by the presence at IGARSS’81 of three key individuals from what at the time was the Federal Republic of Germany, or West Germany. Alois Sieber, Wolfgang Keydel and Franz Schlude were all associated in 1981 with the German Aerospace Establishment (DLR). They were joined by colleagues Phil Hartl of the University of Berlin and Johannes Bodechtel of the University of Munich.

The West German members proposed to host IGARSS’82 in Munich in June 1982. Bodechtel offered his services as General Chairman of the symposium, and the group assured AdCom that critical committee assignments had already been made. The West German Embassy hosted a well-attended reception at the National Air and Space Museum during IGARSS’81. At that reception just across Independence Avenue from NASA headquarters, the West German Charge d’Affaires for Science and Technology announced that IGARSS’82 would, in fact, be hosted by the Federal Republic of Germany in the old capital city of Bavaria, Munich.

IGARSS’82 was another resounding success, and GRSS was on the road to continued growth in the years ahead. The success of the symposium in Munich created impetus for a formal proposal that would shape the history of the Society over the next quarter century. “We came up with the idea of holding IGARSS in North America in odd-numbered years and overseas during even-numbered years,” explained Keith Carver. “We knew that the Europeans were aware of the Remote Sensing Society, but so many of them at the time were in the Photogrammetry Society. But so many of the remote sensing and satellite programs both here and abroad were just getting started at the time.”

IGARSS’83 came back to the United States, to the San Francisco Hilton in late August, and went to the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, exactly a year later for IGARSS’84. The rest of the 1980s saw the Society’s symposium switch back and forth between the United States and Europe – IGARSS’85 held at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, IGARSS’86 held at the University of Zurich-Irchel in Zurich, Switzerland, IGARSS’87 held at The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and IGARSS’88held in the medieval city of Edinburgh, Scotland.

IGARSS departed from the odd-even system in 1989 when IGARSS’89 was held in Vancouver, British Columbia. Although in North America, U.S. members argued for a U.S. site in 1990, with AdCom acceding to the request. IGARSS’90 was held on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park in late May amidst a spectacular display of spring blossoms. The symposium resumed its overseas location in early June 1991 when delegates enjoyed a week in Helsinki, Finland. The symposium returned to the United States in 1992, to Houston, Texas, and made its first foray to Asia when IGARSS’93 was held in Tokyo, Japan in late May.

The symposia during the 1980s established GRSS as the voice of remote sensing in the global scientific community. All were financially successful, with average attendance between 350 and 400 people.

Attendance grew dramatically with more than 1.000 people registered for IGARSS’89 in Vancouver and averaged close to 800 attendees each year between 1990 and 1995. This growth in attendance also brought about a significant venue shift, moving the symposia from the typical university setting to a hotel or convention center venue beginning in 1995 and continuing through the present time.

Fawwaz Ulaby

2.3 List of IGARSS Symposia

YearLocationChair(s)Technical Chair(s)
1981Washington DCFawwaz UlabyKeith Carver
1982MunichJohann BodechtelPhilip Hartl
1983San FranciscoKeith CarverDon G. Rea
1984StrasbourgPreben Gudmandsen 
1985AmherstRobert McIntoshCalvin Swift
1986ZurichHarold HaefnerKlaus Itten
1987Ann ArborFawwaz UlabyKeith Carver
1988EdinburghDon D. Hardy 
1989VancouverJohn S. MacDonaldJim Gower
1990College ParkVincent SalomonsonJim Smith
1991HelsinkiMartti HallikainenMartti Tiuri
1992HoustonAndrew BlanchardAdrian Fung, Alois Sieber
1993TokyoMikio TakagiSadao Fujimura
1994PasadenaJoBea Way, Dan McLeeseEni Njoku
1995FlorencePaolo PampaloniPiero Burscaglioni
1996LincolnRam NarayanRobert McIntosh, Calvin Swift
1997SingaporeH. LimTat Soo Yeo, et. al.
1998SeattleLeung TsangYasuo Kuga, Dale Winebrenner
1999HamburgWerner AlpersRichard Bamler, R. Winter
2000HonoluluAndrew Blanchard, David GoodenoughAlbin Gasiewski, Karen St. Germain
2001SydneyAnthony MilneJohn Richards, M. Lewis
2002TorontoEllsworth LeDrewDavid Goodenough, Tom Lukowski
2003ToulouseDidier MassonnetJean Claude Souyris
2004AnchorageVerne KauppCraig Dobson, Curt Davis, Tom Lukowski
2005SeoulWooil MoonS.H. Lee, William Emery
2006DenverAlbin Gasiewski, V. ChandrasekarG. Wick, William Emery
2007BarcelonaIgnasi CorbellaAdriano Camps
2008BostonJohn Kerekes, Eric MillerDara Entekhabi, Steven Reising
2009Cape TownHarold AnnegarnMichael Inggs, Roger King
2010HonoluluPaul Smits, Karen St. GermainDavid Kunkee, Paolo Gamba
2011VancouverMotoyoki SatoYoshio Yamaguchi, Ya-Qiu Jin
2012MunichAlberto Moreira, Yves-Louis DesnosIrena Hajnsek, Helmut Rott
2013MelbournePeter Woodgate, Simon JonesClive Fraser, Jeff Walker, Mark Williams
2014QuebecMonique BernierJosée Lévesque, Jean-Marc Garneau, Ellsworth LeDrew
2015MilanVito Pascazio, Sebastiano B. SerpicoLorenzo Bruzzone, Paolo Gamba
2016BeijingJi Wu, Ya-Qiu JinJiancheng Shi, Huadong Guo, Kun-Shan Chen
2017Fort WorthSaibun Tjuatja, David KunkeeJoel Johnson and Kunshan Chen
2018ValenciaJosé MorenoJosé Sobrino and Gustau Camps-Valls
2019YokohamaAkira HiroseIrena Hajnsek, Akira Iwasaki, Hiroyoshi Yamada
2020VirtualBill Emery, Adriano CampsJasmeet Judge, Paolo Gamba, Jiancheng Shi
2021BrusselsRamon Hanssen, Joost VandenabeeleMichal Shimoni, Andrew Skidmore, Sindy Sterckx, Devis Tuiai
2022Kuala LumpurHean Teik ChuahHong Tat Ewe
2023PasadenaSidharth Misra, Shannon BrownDavid Kunkee, Rashmi Shah