Terra Cognita

Newsletter of the Society for the History of Discoveries

Page 4

May 2006

Last Words from the Executive Secretary

This is the sixth, and last, report that I will give to the members of the Society for the History of Discoveries as Executive Secretary. It is one I write with mixed feelings. I will miss the contacts that I have made over the years, along with the never-ending e-mail exchanges I have had with those who were either upset with me or delighted with what the society was doing. Nevertheless, it is time for someone else to take over the reins of administering our small, but effective, learned society, and we are exceedingly fortunate that Katherine (Kit) Goodwin will do so in September 2006. 

Since 2000, I have had the great fortune to work with a handful of officers who made my task remarkably easy. I cannot praise enough Eric Wolf, Richard Francaviglia, Ralph Ehrenberg, and Tom Sander for their unstinting support that made the society stronger, and allowed it to perform its function of providing an intellectual home for those who have an interest in geographical exploration and discovery and the history of cartography. Also, working with David Buisseret, our long-time editor of Terrae Incognitae, truly has been a pleasure. David at TI, and Tom Sander, who has shepherded our website, www.sochistdisc.org, from its inception, have provided the professional face of our organization, and they have made us proud. Our website has become the envy of other small learned societies, and much of the credit goes to Tom Sander and our webmaster in Switzerland, Jack Benson. David is stepping down as editor of  Terrae Incognitae this year, and I know I speak for all of us when I extend to him our heart-felt thanks.

I want to mention innovations our society has instituted since 2000 that are very worthy of comment. First of all, we began honoring our society’s luminaries. We have operated for forty-five years and are mature enough to tell the world that we have superb members whose distinguished careers deserve them being named Fellow of the Society for the History of Discoveries (FSHD). The presentation of these honors is one of the highlights of our annual meetings.

Although our membership declined during the first few years of my stewardship, our numbers have recently begun to increase, and this can be directly attributed to the importance of our website. Most new members who have joined recently learned about us through the web. Making it easier to become a member

has been our adoption of PayPal. More and more of our members now use this method of payment because of its ease (no checks nor postage).

Tom Sander has developed a master list of members’ e-mail addresses, so when new information must be delivered quickly, he can contact three hundred folks with a stroke of a single key. Utilizing e-mail has also made it easier for members to vote for officers and Members of Council. Each year, an increasing number of ballots are cast by e-mail, saving postage costs.

We have made important changes in the society’s by-laws that allow us to operate more efficiently without asking individuals to assume unusually hard tasks. The office of Secretary-Treasurer has been divided into two positions filled by two different people -- Executive Secretary and Treasurer.

I have been concerned for years about having a proper, professional index for Terrae Incognitae. We should see considerable progress towards this goal in 2006. At the Williamsburg annual meeting, Council approved the expenditure of $4,000 to help defray the cost of both software and hardware that will be utilized by specialists at the University of Texas at Arlington library to create an online index that can be accessed by all of our members. Complete issues of TI will also be available online. Our journal will publish volume 38 in 2006, but only volumes 1-12 have been properly indexed. Gerald Saxon, the University Librarian at UT-Arlington and a veteran member of SHD, has vitally helped in this venture, as have Richard Francaviglia, Kit Goodwin, and Marie Irwin. We should have something positive to report to the membership regarding progress on the index in the next Annual Report.

I want to thank our members whose patience and good will have made this job both rewarding and enjoyable. I am awed by your productivity, and I take great pride in preparing the News of Members section in Terra Cognita, because it chronicles our prodigious professional activites.

Finally, I know I speak for all of our members when I express my sorrow for the loss this year of Jack Parker, Charles Hoffman, and John Garver. All of these men were wonderful scholars, great colleagues, and admirable gentlemen. You can read more about them in this issue of Terra Cognita

Our next two annual meetings in Portland, Oregon and Chicago, Illinois will be outstanding, and I look forward to seeing all of you there.

Sanford H. Bederman 

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