History of the Society


In June of 1982 a symposium entitled "Evolution of Genes and Proteins" was held at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in conjunction with the joint meeting of the Society for the Study of Evolution and ther American Society of Naturalists. At that meeting, at the urging of Masatoshi Nei, a group of molecular evolutionists decided to start a new journal called Molecular Biology and Evolution with Walter Fitch as Editor-in-Chief and Masatoshi Nei as Managing Editor. The purpose of starting this journal was (1) to have better communication between molecular biologists and evolutionary biologists, (2) rapid publication of high quality papers, (3) to make the journal available to an international readership at an affordable price, and (4) to have a journal that is owned and controlled by the scientific community. To ensure the latter point the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution was created to hold ownership of the Journal, and the Society consisted of the Editor-in-Chief, the managing editor, and the Associate Editors.

The University of Chicago Press agreed to publish the journal, and Volume 1 of Molecular Biology and Evolution, consisting of 6 issues, was published during 1984. By 1985 Molecular Biology and Evolution was ranked third among Evolutionary journals on the basis of Impact Factor, exceeded only by Genetics and by Evolution. By 1991 it had become the leading journal in Evolutionary Biology.

In 1992 Masatoshi Nei organized an International Conference on Molecular Evolution at Pennsylvania State Univerity. At that meeting he and Walter Fitch proposed that the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution become an active society with all individual subscribers to the Journal being members. That proposal was discussed and enthuiastically endorsed by those present at the organizational meeting. At that meeting Walter Fitch was elected as the first President of the Society, Masatoshi Nei was chosen as President-Elect, Linda Maxson was elected as Secretary-Treasurer, Caro-Beth Stewart was elected as a Councilor and Barry Hall was elected to succeed Walter Fitch as Editor of the Journal effective with production of the 1994 volume, Volume 11. Those five individuals were charged with the organizing a fucntional Society and creating a set of Bylaws, and it was decided that the Society would be officially activated on January 1, 1993.

The Society is governed by the Council which originally consisted of the President, Past-President, President-Elect, Secretary-Treasurer, and the Editor of Molecular Biology and Evolution. Effective on January 1, 1994 the office of Treasurer was added to the Council, with Richard Hudson being elected as the Society's first Treasurer. Effective with January 1, 1996 the Council was expanded to include three Councilors, each serving overlapping three-year terms.

In 1994 Council decided to assume publication of the Journal itself, thus end its association with the University of Chicago Press with the completion of the 1995 volume, Volume 12. That decision gave the Society full financial control of the Journal, and Allen Press was chosen to print the Journal for the Society. By the end of 1995 Molecular Biology and Evolution had increased 3.3 fold in size, and it was decided to increase the number of issue from six to ten per volume.


Editors of the Journal

  • Walter M. Fitch, 1984-1993
  • Barry Hall, 1994-1998
  • Simon Easteal, 1999-2019
  • William Martin, 2020-

SMBE Councils

Year President President-Elect Past-President Secretary Treasurer Councillors
2020 John C. Avise Jeffrey R. Powell Naoyuki Takahata Sudhir Kumar Marta L. Wayne Brian Golding, Jody Hey, Laura Katz
2019 Naoyuki Takahata John C. Avise Michael T. Clegg Marcy K. Uyenoyama Marta L. Wayne Howard Ochman, Brian Golding, Jody Hey
2002 Michael T. Clegg Naoyuki Takahata Daniel L. Hartl Marcy K. Uyenoyama Richard C. Hudson Montserrat Aguade, Howard Ochman, Brian Golding
2001 Daniel L. Hartl Michael T. Clegg Wen-Hsiung Li Marcy K. Uyenoyama Richard C. Hudson Tomoko Ohta, Montserrat Aguade, Howard Ochman
2000 Wen-Hsiung Li Daniel L. Hartl Andrew G. Clark Marcy K. Uyenoyama Richard C. Hudson Pekka Pamilo, Tomoko Ohta, Montserrat Aguade
1999 Andrew G. Clark Wen-Hsiung Li Richard C. Lewontin Marcy K. Uyenoyama Richard C. Hudson Wilfred W. de Jong, Pekka Pamilo, Tomoko Ohta
1998 Richard C. Lewontin Andrew G. Clark David Penny Linda D. Strausbaugh Richard C. Hudson W. Ford Doolittle, Wilfred W. de Jong, Pekka Pamilo
1997 David Penny Richard C. Lewontin Margaret G. Kidwell Linda D. Strausbaugh Richard C. Hudson Maryellen Ruvolo, W. Ford Doolittle, Wilfred W. de Jong
1996 Margaret G. Kidwell David Penny Wesley M. Brown Linda D. Strausbaugh Richard C. Hudson Ross A. Crozier, Maryellen Ruvolo, W. Ford Doolittle
1995 Wesley M. Brown Margaret G. Kidwell Masatoshi Nei Linda Maxson Richard C. Hudson Ross A. Crozier, Maryellen Ruvolo
1994 Masatoshi Nei Wesley M. Brown Walter M. Fitch Linda Maxson Linda Maxson Ross A. Crozier
1993 Walter M. Fitch Masatoshi Nei Linda Maxson Linda Maxson Caro-Beth Stewart

Current Officers and Council of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution