The International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) was established on 28 July 1919 in Brussels, Belgium at the Inaugural General Assembly of the International Research Council (now the International Science Council) to promote activities of already-existing international scientific societies dealing with geodesy, terrestrial magnetism and electricity, meteorology, physical oceanography, seismology, and volcanology.
Today IUGG is a non-governmental international scientific organization dedicated to advancing, promoting, and communicating knowledge of the Earth system, its space environment, and the dynamical processes causing change. Through its constituent Associations and more than 100 commissions, working groups and services, IUGG convenes international assemblies and workshops, undertakes research, collects observations, validates and endorses scientific products, defines standards and best practice, gains insight, coordinates activities, liaises with other scientific, national, international and intergovernmental bodies, offers advice to a variety of stakeholders, passes resolutions, issues policy documents, contributes to education and outreach, and works to expand capabilities and participation worldwide.
IUGG was founded by nine Member countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Today IUGG enjoys a membership of 72 Member countries, 6 Affiliate Members and thousands scientists around the world who work together to promote international scientific cooperation.
IUGG is a confederation of eight semi-autonomous international scientific associations, each having its own executives, statutes and by-laws, and is responsible for a specific domain of topics or themes within the overall scope of Union activities. In 1919 IUGG was composed of six Sections: Geodesy; Terrestrial Magnetism and Electricity; Meteorology; Physical Oceanography; Seismology; and Volcanology. The seventh Section, Scientific Hydrology, was established and added to IUGG in 1922. All sections were renamed International Associations in 1933. The eighth association, Cryospheric Sciences, was formed and added to IUGG in 2007.
IUGG has held General Assemblies since 1922 (quadrennially since 1963). The first Assemblies gathered only a few hundred scientists, but nowadays several thousand experts, earlier career scientists and students attend them. In-between the General Assemblies, the Union Associations hold Scientific Assemblies, sometimes jointly with other Associations.
Since the establishment of the United Nations and its specialized scientific organizations such as UNESCO and WMO, IUGG has worked closely with UN agencies and intergovernmental bodies to promote science. Science policy has been an essential component of IUGG activities related to dissemination of scientific knowledge among its member countries and the public.
IUGG has initiated and/or vigorously supported international interdisciplinary research programs, such as the International Geophysical Year (1957-58), the International Hydrological Decade (1965-74), World Climate Research Program (1980-present), International Lithosphere Program (1981-present), Global Geodetic Observing System (2003-present).