A Peek at the Society’s History


John M Davison MD and Marshall D Lindheimer MD


Two of your former presidents who had been Secretary/Treasurers as well, were scratching their fading memories to prepare an article on the history of the ISSHP, when your hard working Secretary/Treasurer, Professor Louise Kenny MD noted the imminent opening of new and powerful website for the society and asked us to give you a PEEK! Of course neither of us are trained, “historians” thus excuses before results!!

During the 1970s it became alarmingly apparent to several of us that while research, especially that funded from national and international agencies was, to excuse the jargon, “getting up steam”, this did not include the area of hypertension in pregnancy, this despite the fact that the hypertensive disorders complicating gestation, especially preeclampsia had remained amongst the most significant causes of maternal and fetal mortality. In summary, research in this important area of fetal/maternal medicine had remained sporadic, a major reason being that clinicians and scientists from differing disciplines but related fields rarely communicated.   Most important, there was no adequate or specific international forum for them to exchange views, develop strategies or increase awareness and support for this much neglected area.

Aware of these problems Professor Lindheimer and the late Professor Fred P. Zuspan approached both the Chicago Heart Association and their National Institute of Health (NIH) in1974 and obtained support for an International Workshop aimed at stimulating the investigation of hypertensive disorders complicating gestation and establishing avenues of communication between clinical and laboratory scientists in various disciplines. The meeting was held September 25-27, 1975 on the campus of the University of Chicago (Less than a mile away from the spot where Enrico Fermi introduced us to the peaceful use of atomic energy, and much closer to the empty stone plaque at Chicago Lying-in Hospital reserved for the individual who discovers the cause or cure of preeclampsia!). (Fig1)

The NIH support to this meeting also has its “historic” aspect. On November 22 1963 a young resident in the department of medicine at Brookdale Hospital, New York city, Dr. Lindheimer, was transporting the world famous Fred Bartter MD, an important official at NIH (and yes the describer of all those “Syndromes”!) who was scheduled to give a grand rounds’ talk at the hospital when the car radio music was interrupted with a report that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. Dr. Lindheimer, in shock, could not remember the route back to his hospital, while Dr. Bartter was looking for a way to communicate to Dallas a need to increase the president’s steroid dose to appropriate stress levels. For years afterwards when ever they met they would point at each other saying “where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated?”, or simply ”where were you?” and it was to Dr. Bartter that Professor Lindheimer turned when funds were needed for the meeting. Thus we can consider the late Fredrick Bartter amongst the “god fathers” of our society.

The meeting had 38 participants including quite a number of individuals who were later to preside over prestigious societies that focus on hypertension (American Heart Association, American Society of Hypertension, American Society of Nephrology, and 5 future presidents of ISSHP). Its proceedings were published, including post-presentation discussions and an historic talk by the late Leon Chesley PhD entitled “False Steps in the History of Preeclampsia”, the latter reprinted in the Introductory Chapter of editions 2-4 of Chesley’s Hypertensive Disorders in Pregnancy, Leon’s talk a must reading for all (1.2).

Thus we suggest that the Chicago meeting was where the seeds to form an international society devoted solely to the hypertensive disorders during pregnancy originated. There followed small group discussions at a meeting in Muenster Germany and again during a discussion group convened at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London both during 1976-7 academic year.  This was followed by a World Congress in Dublin, by an organization now officially labeled as the International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy (ISSHP), hosted by Professor John Bonnar on October 1978. If one remembers correctly, Professor Lindheimer, who always thinks serious occasions demand some levity introduced Professor Bonnar wearing a tuxedo without the tie!!


Well there is more to come, but we thought this short introduction should whet appetites for what we find when we survey 50 years of material in boxes en route to Professor Davison. We then hope to complete this historical mission focusing on the major accomplishments of this society, the growing recognition it has gained for its accomplishments and what it means for our future.


  • Hypertension in Pregnancy, Lindheimer MD, Katz AI, Zuspan FP (eds), John Wiley & Sons, New York , 1976 443 pgs.
  • Chapter 1: Introduction, history, controversies, and definitions, Lindheimer MD, Taylor RN, Roberts JM, Cunningham FG, Chesley L, In Chesley’s Hypertensive Disorders in Pregnancy Edition IV, Taylor RN, Roberts JM, Cunningham FG, Lindheimer MD (eds), Elsevier, San Diego Ca., 2015. (Chesley’s speech pgs. 14-20)