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History of the ISTC

The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC) is the oldest society of its kind in the world, tracing its roots back to 1948.

The ISTC is the result of the amalgamation in 1972 of three organisations:

  • The Presentation of Technical Information (PTI) Group
    The PTI Group was founded by Professor Reginald Otto Kapp in 1948. It concentrated mainly on academic aspects of technical writing.
  • The Technical Publications Associations (TPA)
    The TPA was formed in around 1953-55. In 1968, it changed its name to the Institute of Technical Authors and Illustrators (ITAI).
  • The Institute of Technical Publicity and Publications (ITPP)
    The ITPP was formed in 1964 and one of the founding members was Major Horace Hockley, a leading figure in the history of the ISTC and its first President.

Pioneering technical communication

Over the years, the ISTC has been something of a pioneer among technical communication organisations:

  • In 1948, the PTI Group was the first professional organisation for technical communicators.
  • In 1963, the TPA Newsletter was probably the first periodical published by an association for technical communicators.
  • In 1964, the TPA awarded the first prize in the ISTC’s history — possibly in the history of technical communication — to the best student in the Final City and Guilds Examinations.
  • In the late 1960s, one of the ISTC’s constituent associations carried out a salary survey that was probably the first in technical communication.
  • ISTC members have often been ahead of their time: in 1974, a suggestion was minuted that support documentation should become a ‘provided item’, for which the manufacturer would make a charge (and profit) so that industry might become ‘communication-motivated’.
  • In 1996–9, the ISTC participated in a project to produce National Occupational  Standards for technical communication, once again a first in the field.
  • In 2000, the ISTC joined tekom in setting up TCeurope, an umbrella organisation for technical communication in Europe.

Current and past ISTC Presidents

2000 onwards

  • 2017- present: Carol Leahy
  • 2014-2017: Alison Peck
  • 2010-2014: Paul Ballard
  • 2007–2010: Simon Butler
  • 2002-2007: Gavin Ireland
  • 2000-2002: Iain Wright


  • 1998-2000: Anke Harris
  • 1996-1998: Gerry Gentle
  • 1995-1996: Dave Griffiths
  • 1993-1995: Peter Greenfield
  • 1991-1993: Ray Green


  • 1988-1991: Dennis Reeder
  • 1985-1988: Ray Burgess
  • 1982-1985: Ted (E N) White
  • 1980-1982: J D McIntosh


Documenting the history of the ISTC

“A serious professional society without a sense of its history is only half a society.” (Robert Beck, FISTC)

Various attempts have been made to document the history of the ISTC.

In the 1980s, F. A. Sowan started to document the beginnings of the organisation, and his achievement, also it was not published at the time, forms an important part of the current ISTC history.

In the 1990s, Cyril Windust took on the task of documenting the history in time for the 1998 annual ISTC conference and his efforts led to a series of articles in Communicator during 1997-8. Like the efforts of F. A. Sowan, his results form an important part of the current ISTC history.

In 2005, the idea resurfaced once more to produce a history of the ISTC. The result includes an historic account of the ISTC, from the establishment of the PTI Group in 1948 to recent achievements such as the ISTC’s Open Learning Course.

Producing a history of the ISTC is a long-held ambition that has been realised over a period of several decades, with the help of people both inside and outside the ISTC.

Read the full historic account of the ISTC (PDF).