Acfas centenary at UdeM

It is no coincidence that Acfas chose the University of Montreal to hold its 90And congress and celebrate the 100th anniversary of its foundation. “To speak the language of Marie-Victorin’s plants, the root of Acfas is UdeM. And its first fruits too! ” summarizes Yves Gingras, professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal, holder of a doctorate in history and sociology of science from UdeM and author of For the advancement of science: History of Acfas (1923-1993). A look at the origins of this association whose heritage is alive and well throughout the Francophonie.

“In the 1920s, Montreal became an economic center. That’s why the city has its own university, ”explains Yves Gingras.

Thus, the UdeM freed itself from the Université Laval in May 1919. In the first half of the 1920s, seven faculties were created, in addition to the three original faculties. Several professors were hired, including Br. Marie-Victorin who, on the basis of his vast experience and without a university degree, became the first professor of botany in the brand new science faculty.

“There was a lot of dynamism around Brother Marie-Victorin, says Yves Gingras. At the time, he was the only thunderous spokesperson for the defense of science in Quebec. Through his popularization efforts, the botanist fights against the ignorance of French Canadians and expresses himself in the public sphere on the value of science as an engine of economic and social progress.

Between 1921 and 1923, these new professors also created cultured societies, such as the Canadian Natural History Society, launched by Marie-Victorin, and the Biological Society, founded by Professor Louis-Janvier Dalbis. Quickly, the idea sprouted to bring them together to found an association whose role would be to promote scientific culture in French. Who better than Marie-Victorin can lead this project?

Creation of Acfas

In the spring of 1923, “Brother Marie-Victorin wrote a letter to the rector of the UdeM, Piette, to invite him to preside over a lunch on June 15 to lay the foundations of the Canadian society for the advancement of science ”, Yves Gingras tells us. Thus it was that the small scientific community of Montreal came together to form Acfas, which brought together 11 newly formed learned societies: biology, medicine, physics, engineering, chemistry, natural history, mathematics, astronomy, history, political economy and philosophy. “Acfas is a creation of Montreal, a collective work of UdeM,” observes Gingras.

The radiologist and professor of medicine Léo Pariseau is appointed first president of Acfas, “because it seems that it was his idea”, according to Yves Gingras. Brother Marie-Victorin was his first secretary and held this position for 10 years. From the first meeting of the new council, in January 1924, there was hint of the idea of ​​forging ties with the Quebec region. The general secretary of the University of Montreal, Édouard Montpetit, is responsible for building a bridge with the Laval University.

From 1924 to 1933, Acfas organized about 250 public conferences. “In its first 10 years, Acfas was essentially a lecture machine in classical colleges to attract students to the university,” notes Yves Gingras.

First Acfas Congress

From 2 to 4 November 1933 the first Acfas congress was held at the UdeM, on the initiative of Jacques Rousseau, botanist, ethnologist and pupil of Marie-Victorin. He also succeeded him as Acfas secretary and remained there for 16 years. “Jacques Rousseau was Marie-Victorin’s right hand. He kept Acfas at a safe distance ”, says Yves Gingras.

At the dawn of this first great meeting, Brother Marie-Victorin signed a text The duty: “This is the first attempt to bring together, to bring together, not only, as we are rooted in our habit, the beautiful projects and hopes on paper, but the achievements, the achievements made in the scientific field as a result of a concerted movement that goes back ten years This meeting offers 133 articles on topical issues: the scientific method in social studies, arsenical chemotherapy of syphilis or even television and the flora of Abitibi.

Like the contemporary Acfas congresses, the former is linked to a public activity for young people. Parallel to conferences and other scientific activities of the UdeM, the Cercle des jeunes naturalistes at the Collège Mont-Saint-Louis organizes a botanical science fair. “The exhibition was a huge success,” says Yves Gingras. The newspapers reported 100,000 visitors and made the front page of the Must. This was really Marie-Victorin’s idea: to include young people in Acfas activities ”.

The 90th Acfas Congress at the University of Montreal

One hundred years after its foundation, Acfas will keep 90And conference from 8 to 12 May at the Université de Montréal, HEC Montréal and Polytechnique Montréal. The meeting will be held on the theme “100 years of knowledge for a sustainable world”.

Acfas proposes the most important multidisciplinary conferences on knowledge and research in Francophonie, in which thousands of people from all disciplines participate every year who share their work and forge bonds.

“The 90sAnd it will be the largest of the congresses we will hold, ”says Jean-Pierre Perreault, president of Acfas, vice rector at the University of Sherbrooke and a graduate in biochemistry from UdeM. With the development of the virtual congress offer in recent years, “we will see an explosion in the number of conferences, the number of activities and international influence,” he adds.

In 2022, the Acfas congress organized at Laval University attracted participants from over 50 countries.

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