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Our "SVPeCiAL" meeting

Special anniversaries are to be savoured, enjoyed and applauded, particularly when they commemorate gatherings such as the Symposia of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy. The general ethos of these meetings appears always to have been one of informality and (generally) fr.iendliness and mutual support. We are and always will be a relatively small group, given the scope of our interests and the less than generous stance that many universities adopt with respect to our areas of specialisation. By adopting this friendly and informal stance we have survived and (despite a few lean years during the 1970s and early 1980s) seem to be prospering, judged by the 'new blood' that is making its presence felt, and the unsung efforts of a few people in academic departments scattered around much of western Europe.

It is always intimidating for we Europeans (well, for me at least!) to attend the annual SVP meetings in the US. The meetings are huge (occasionally over 1000 strong), have a professional staff to provide the organisational continuity year on year, necessitate accommodation at large "conference centres", publish professional looking abstract volumes, and run multiple, concurrent sessions that sometimes make your head spin in an effort to get to all the talks that interest you. But, dare I suggest that they miss some of the things that we gain from by being a smaller and more cohesive fellowship? - the answer is for you alone to decide.

The moving spirits behind the SVP were a number of doyens in our field (I must of necessity mention Al Romer in this regard as a pivotal character) who ultimately provided the intellectual 'nudge' to Rex Parrington (among others) that led to the establishment of the first VPCA symposium here in Cambridge back in 1953. It is very pleasing to be able to recognise our US colleagues and the debt we owe them on this particular occasion. Our symposium opens on 11 September 2002, a year to the day since those horrendous events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. I feel the connection strongly. Now serving as your host this year, I happened to be in the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., on the morning of 11 September 2001. I heard the news of jet aircaft colliding with the Twin Towers in New York and then felt the pressure wave (which I did not recognise as such at that instant) caused by the aircraft exploding as it hit the Pentagon Building, less than half a mile away. I will ask for a moment of silence at the opening of the meeting as a simple act of remembrance, acknowledging the common root and spirit that binds SVP & SVPCA.

David Norman (Host 2002)

Cambridge 2002