In 1957, the first International Conference of the Origin of Life (ICOL) was held in Moscow, followed by two more meetings, in 1963 in Wakulla Springs and in 1970 in Pont-à-Mousson. During a meeting in 1967 of the Radiation Research Society in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Alexander Oparin, Sidney Fox, Cyril Ponnamperuma and others discussed the possibility of bringing together those researchers who were studying origin of life initiatives using varied approaches, specifically with the intent of fostering interactions among the international community as an official society. Their idea was to gather the various disciplines under one banner – ISSOL. In 1973, the Society was officially formed and had their first meeting in Barcelona, Spain. The society’s beginning marked a confluence of scientific thought that made the investigation the origin of life more than only a speculative endeavor: Alexander Oparin’s work on the primordial soup, Sidney Fox’s efforts to understand autosynthesis of protocells, Cyril Ponnamperuma’s ideas of chemical evolution, and Stanley Miller’s and Harold Urey’s test of early earth conditions ability to produce organic compounds.

The society grew to sponsor international meetings on a three year cycle, varying the locales to enable fair access to all international partners. International participation in spaceflight programs in the 60’s provided an impetus to the growing origin of life community – specifically in the United States – and the society obtained financial support from NASA. Dick Young, the first head of NASA’s Exobiology program, and the program itself was instrumental in providing direction and funding over the next several decades, which supported ISSOL and it’s members. As manned and unmanned space travel matured, the origin of life research initiatives and the interdisciplinary approaches needed became important to the space community. Real possibilities of detecting life on other bodies in our solar system became an attractive goal. The origin of life field became increasingly interdisciplinary, augmenting its membership with geologists, paleoatmosphere chemists and astronomers, and the society began reaching out to the wider community, providing a more astrobiological context to its meetings.

The term Astrobiology, though once outside the mainstream of scientific inquiry, was a formalized field of study as early as 1960, and in 1998 NASA established the Astrobiology Institute to perform research in astrobiology. Astrobiology became a global endeavor with international partners in Europe, Australia, Spain and England. In 2005 at the ISSOL meeting in Beijing, ISSOL determined that developments in interdisciplinary approaches of origin of life projects and the maturing Astrobiology discipline, provided an overlap in interest that needed to be reflected by ISSOL. The society voted and adopted the new name ISSOL – The International Astrobiology Society.

2017-present Niles Lehman
2014-2017 Sandra Pizzarello
2011-2014 David Deamer
2008-2011 Jane Siefert
2002-2008 Antonio Lazcano
1999-2001 J. William Schopf
1996-1999 André Brack
1993-1996 James P. Ferris
1989-1993 John Oro
1986-1989 Stanley Miller
1983-1986 Cyril Ponnamperuma
1978-1983 Fujio Egami
1974-1978 A.I. Oparin