ISA CLE History

Joe Kaulfersch
ISA Cleveland Section President 2019-2020

A few weeks ago our District Vice President Harriet Radvansky went to a locker we rent that holds our historical records. She was able to clean some important-looking records that she shared with me. It is fascinating to read this history and make sense of it.

The archives of our section reveal there had been a Cleveland Instrument Society in 1944 with 80 members. The featured speaker for September 1944 was Major Behar, Editor of INSTRUMENTS magazine. His subject was "Some Forgotten Fundamentals of Instrumentation" It should be noted that instrumentation was an old word rarely if ever, applied to industrial process technology before that. Subsequent speakers at CIS meetings included C.B. Moore founder and President of Moore Products Co. Springhouse, PA and Donald Eckman formerly of Case Institute of Technology. It became Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in 1968.

ISA officially was born as the Instrument Society of America on 28 April 1945, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. The Society grew out of the desire of 18 local instrument societies to form a national organization. The Cleveland Section was one of the founding members. It was the brainchild of Richard Rimbach of the Instruments Publishing Company. Rimbach is recognized as the founder of ISA.

Industrial instruments, which became widely used during World War II, continued to play an ever-greater role in the expansion of technology after the war. Individuals like Rimbach and others involved in the industry saw a need for the sharing of information about instruments on a national basis, as well as for standards and uniformity. The Instrument Society of America addressed that need.

Albert Sperry
Albert F. Sperry

Albert F. Sperry, chairman of Panelit Corporation, became ISA's first president in 1946. In that same year, the Society held its first conference and exhibit in Pittsburgh. The first standard, RP 5.1 Instrument Flow Plan Symbols, followed in 1949, and the first journal, which eventually became today's InTech, was published in 1954.

Membership grew from 900 in 1946 to 6,900 in 1953, and today ISA Members number 28,000 from almost 100 countries.

Recognizing ISA's international reach and the fact that its technical scope had grown beyond instruments, in the fall of 2000, the ISA Council of Society Delegates approved a legal name change to ISA--The Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Society. Today, ISA's corporate branding strategy focuses exclusively on highly recognizable letters, though ISA's official, the legal name remains the same.

At a regular business meeting on June 26, 1946 the members of the Cleveland Instrument Society voted to join the ISA as a charter section. Mr. Samuel Boesky voted to join the ISA as a charter section. It is understandable that Mr. Samuel Bousky-Chairman of CIS was elected President of the Cleveland Section of the Instrument Society of America.

The 1950s include two developments of significance for our section and the ISA. Our first Bulletin was published in September 1950; it has been an important element of our section ever since. In 1952 Cleveland was the host city for the National ISA Meeting & Exhibit. In 1956 our section began a ten-year relationship with Fenn College Technical Institute by introducing a four-semester course in Basic Instrumentation. Several luminaries in our section taught these courses. One of our sage members Franklyn Kirk was one of these. Tom Fisher, Jim Weber, and John Dole also taught these classes. In 1957 Cleveland again was chosen to be the site of the National Meeting & Exhibit. That relationship ended when Fenn College became the base for what today is Cleveland State University (CSU) in 1968. The class was revived when CSU established its Continuing Education Department.

In 1969 our section held its first tabletop show. This became an annual event of importance commercially and financially for the section. We complemented our exhibit with a conference or other educational activity. The late John Dole headed this up for most of those years. However, in the past ten (10) years we have not had a show due to the lack of interest from business users not seeing a benefit to send their employees to learn about new technology and industrial process control.

In 1986 the Cleveland Section held a regional show that was very successful. Ten years later Cleveland celebrated its 200th anniversary. It was also the Cleveland Section's 50 anniversary and we held another regional show.

ISA decided that it needed to become an International Society. It was at that time we saw reluctance to shows in general. Customers were shown out.

This year we are celebrating our 60th anniversary. We believe it to be the function of the Society (ISA) and its sections to provide industrial instrumentation and, control standards. In addition, educational services to its members and community are greatly needed.

It is also interesting to note that the Cleveland economy has deteriorated to have the dubious title of being the "Poorest City in the United States." We have lost thousands of petrochemical, auto, steel, aerospace, engineering, and manufacturing jobs for many reasons. They all had ISA members working for them. These companies could not compete with their competitors. Foreign firms have purchased them. A few moved away because of incompetent management and politicians. Many companies closed because they would not invest in new technology. In the late 1960s, the Harvard MBA model became the rule. In former times engineers managed many of the companies that many of us work for. Now the accountants and lawyers rule.

Return on capital assets is constantly being measured with break-even calculations and strictly financial returns - all typical "bean-counting" myopia as one luminary has written recently. The quarterly stock report has become most important. The demographics of our country are also changing. A large percentage of automation professionals are approaching retirement. Although, they may not be saying, "Take this job and shove it", they will none-the-less be leaving their jobs, and with a lot of knowledge base. We need to make young engineers aware and even excited about becoming an automation or controls engineers and ISA members. The big question is how the ISA reaches those engineers. Most universities just don't know about the automation industry and don't offer applicable course curriculum. It's the responsibility of suppliers, users, industry organizations, and each one of us to promote our industry. Automation involves so many technologies, i.e. advanced control, mechatronics, software, etc. that most young engineers would thrive on.

So it's really not about "taking this job and shoving it", it's about "taking this job and this ISA and evolving it". As technology evolves, so do our jobs and responsibilities. But, it all comes down to people...the most valuable assets of any company. The bottom line will follow.

How we do this speaks volumes about America's future. We as members of ISA have a responsibility to have the courage to stand up and do what is right for our society at large.

Founder's Mission

The object of the Society shall be to advance the arts and sciences connected with the theory, design, manufacture, and use of instruments in the various sciences and technologies.

Today's Mission

The mission of ISA as the global society for instrumentation, systems, and automation is to:
Maximize the effectiveness of ISA members and other practitioners and organizations worldwide to advance and apply the science, technology, and allied arts of instrumentation, systems, and automation in all industries and applications.
Identify and promote emerging technologies and applications.
Develop and deliver a wide variety of high-value information products and services to the global community.


Thank you for your patience, understanding, and ongoing support of the Cleveland Section.