The History of the International Conference on Lightning Protection

Research on contemporary lightning protection started at the beginning of last century leading to European standards: BS (now BS 6651) in Great Britain, ABB (now VDE 00185) in Germany, OVE in Austria, SEV in Switzerland, CEI in Italy, PN in Poland and NFPA and AIEEE in the United States of America.

Further developments of lightning protection systems were performed in two directions: one referring to power installations and the other relative to all other structures.

In 1921 the first International Conference on Great Electrical Grids (CIGRE) became the main forum for exchanging opinions on power lines protection and stations topics. Common international contributions on the protection of structures, other than power one, were developed much slower. The turning-point for the international cooperation was the year 1951 - thirty years after the first CIGRE event when an International Conference on Lightning Protection was promoted by a group of scientists from Austria (Prof. V. Fritsch and Mr W. Kostelecki), Germany (Prof. H.F. Schwenkhagen and Mr. P. Schnell) and Switzerland (Prof. K. Berger). During the meeting held in Bad Reichenhall Germany (1951), the promoters decided to regularly organise international meetings on lightning events and lightning protection of structures.

A Steering Committee of the Conference was appointed and later enlarged to representatives from other European countries like E. Kongstad (Denmark), J. Fourestier (France), R.H. Golde (United Kingdom), T.G. Brood and Quintus (The Netherlands), T. Horvath (Hungary), T. Riccio (Italy), J.L. Jakubowski (Poland), G. Dragan (Romania), D. Muller-Hillebrand and S. Lundquist (Sweden) and Z. Krulc (Yugoslavia).

German and French were accepted as the Conference official languages. The Conference was thus named Internationale Blitzschutzkonferenz (German) and Conference Internationale pour Protection Contre la Foudre (French).

As shown in Table 1, three subsequent Conferences took place in Bregenz Austria (1952), in Lugano Switzerland (1953) and in Merano Italy (1956). Some invited representatives progressively attended the meetings, as observers. Some of them joined the Steering Committee. At the fifth meeting in Vienna Austria (1958) seven countries were represented in the Committee. The overall figures (Countries and Delegates) also gradually increased.

For a long time the Conference was held without the support of a formal statute. The membership was free, without any contribution.

During the third conference it was decided that, in principle, the Conference meetings would be periodically organised every two years. From year to year, along with the number of Conference participants, the number of submitted papers also increased.


Table 1. List of ICLP meetings

Conference number Year Place Country Topics Papers Countries Delegates
1 1951 Bad Reichenhall Germany        
2 1952 Bregenz Austria        
3 1953 Lugano Switzerland        
4 1956 Merano Italy        
5 1958 Vienna Austria        
6 1961 Triest-Opatija Italy-Yugoslavia        
7 1963 Arnhem The Netherlands        
8 1965 Cracov Poland        
9 1967 Lugano Switzerland 5 27 12 150
10 1969 Budapest Hungary 5 45 13 170
11 1971 Munich Germany 5 35 14 160
12 1973 Portoroz Yugoslavia 5 60 14 350
13 1976 Venice Italy 5 51 14 200
14 1978 Gdansk Poland 5 49 17 155
15 1979 Uppsala Sweden 6 40 18 164
16 1981 Seged Hungary 5 40 20 110
17 1983 Haag The Netherlands 5 32 20 152
18 1985 Munich Germany 6 63 22 250
19 1988 Graz Austria 7 74 26 262
20 1990 Interlaken Switzerland 8 85 31 250
21 1992 Berlin Germany 8 118 36 230
22 1994 Budapest Hungary 6(10) 113 39 180
23 1996 Florence Italy 8 133 39 205
24 1998 Birmingham England 10 183 47 233
25 2000 Rhodes Greece 10 145 40 299
26 2002 Krakow Poland 10 163 38 207
27 2004 Avignon France 10 178 41 285
28 2006 Kanazawa Japan 11 293 41 540
29 2008 Uppsala Sweden 10 204 42 306
30 2010 Cagliari Italy 12 157 39 293
31 2012 Vienna Austria 12 235 37 314
32 2014 Shanghai China 15 396 50 562
33 2016 Estoril Portugal 17 239 41 296
34 2018 Rzeszów Poland 16 202 37 272
35 2020 Colombo Sri Lanka        


Until the 8th meeting in Cracov Poland (1965) the number of countries was not greater than 12, with less than one hundred participants and 30 papers submitted. The 9th meeting in Lugano (1967) was significant for the delegates attendance, with 150 participants from 12 countries, but only 27 papers presented.

In 1973, during the 12th Conference, the concept of unification of national standards arose. Several proposals were prepared and discussed till the 14th Conference but without success. During the next (15th) Conference the proposal on co-operation between ICLP and IEC came out. A task force working on this matter was appointed, with the final result that the TC 81 IEC was established in 1980.

Till the 14th Conference (Gdansk 1978) the number of sessions and their topics was not greater than 5. Traditionally they were as follows:

1. Thunderstorm and Lightning Research
2. Theoretical Lightning Protection Problems
3. Practical Lightning Protection Problems
4. Recommendations and Standards for Lightning Protection
5. Special Lightning Protection Problems

Number and topics of sessions for the following Conferences as well as chairmen were defined every time during the meetings of the Steering Committee preparing the forthcoming Conference. As a rule, the chairmen were selected from the Steering Committee members and, if needed, from experts in lightning protection.

In October 1978 the Steering Committee decided to include the protection of electronic equipment in the 3rd topic, which was divided into two sub-topics. A special new topic No. 6 was focused on test and measurement methods.

The 15th Conference (Uppsala - 1979) was crucial for the Conference official language. The proposal of Prof. St. Lundquist to use English language was considered and accepted. English became, as it is now, the unique official Conference language. The Conference thus changed its name to the current International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP).

In 1981, within the 16th Conference held in Seged (Hungary) it was decided to come back to 5 sessions with traditional topics. The session chairmen were supported by co-chairmen, which later became vice-chairmen and starting from the Budapest event in 1994 moderators.

Six topics were re-established for the 18th Conference (Munich, 1985):

1. Research on Thunderstorm and Lightning
2. Striking Mechanism
3. Lightning Down Conductors and Grounding
4. Electromagnetic Lightning Impulse (LEMP) and Induction Effects
5. Protection of Electronic Systems and Devices
6. Life Hazard due to Lightning

Within the 4th topic new issues connected with hazard and protection of electronic systems against LEMP were discussed for the first time. The following Conference (Graz - 1988) was structured into seven sessions (topics). The additional topic on practical problems of lightning protection and standards was again accepted as topic number 6 and the topic Life Hazard due to Lightning became topic 7. During this Conference the methods of lightning risk assessment for lightning protection of structures were presented and discussed for the first time.

At the 20th Conference (Interlaken - 1990) two new subjects were identified: Simulation and Testing of Lightning Effects and Locating and Registration of Lightning. 8 topics were finally accepted as follows:

1. Lightning discharge
2. Striking Mechanism
3. Lightning Conductors and Earthing
4. Lightning Electromagnetic Effect (LEMP) and Induction Effects
5. Simulation and Testing of Lightning Effects
6. Locating and Registration of Lightning
7. Protection of Electronic Equipment and Systems
8. Practical Problems of Lightning Protection/Life Hazard

The Conference programme changed at the 22nd Conference in Budapest (1994). The topics were formally 6, discussed in 10 sessions (with 10 chairmen and 10 moderators). The first topic (as in 20th ICLP) was divided into 3 sub-topics (including lightning location and registration). Topics 3 and 8 (of the 20th ICLP programme) were divided into two sub-topics. Topics 5 and 6 of the 20th ICLP programme disappeared.

The 23rd ICLP programme was again divided into 8 sessions. During this Conference the first Statute was released. The first proposal on the ICLP Statute dated back to 1978, proposed by Prof. K. Berger, but the discussion on the matter was fruitless for several conferences.

The discussion on the Statute was resumed in Interlaken (1990) and then in Budapest (1994). A working group was appointed and prepared successfully the statute draft, which was accepted during the 23rd ICLP (1996, Florence). An executive board was elected consisting of Prof. Carlo Mazzetti (President), Prof. Zdobislaw Flisowski (Poland) and Dr. Fabio Fiamingo (Technical Secretary).

In 1998 (Birmingham), the ICLP programme scheduled parallel sessions for the first time. The lightning protection problems were discussed in ten different topics.

In 2006 the ICLP moved for the first time out of Europe. Following the invitation of our Japanese colleagues, the 28th Edition of the ICLP was organized in the beautiful city of Kanazawa and was one of the most successful meetings in the ICLP history, with 540 delegates from 41 countries. A special session on lightning protection of wind turbines was included in the technical program.

In 2008 (Uppsala), Prof. Farhad Rachidi and Prof. Vernon Cooray were elected respectively as the ICLP President and Vice-President. The new board was active until 2014 when the ICLP was organized for the second time beyond the European borders, and the first time in China.


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