The Australian Physiological Society had its genesis in 1957, when the late W.V. Macfarlane, then Professor of Physiology at the University of Queensland, spoke to P.O. Bishop at the University of Sydney, J.C. Eccles at the Australian National University, and the late R.D. Wright and the late F.H. Shaw at the University of Melbourne, about the need for the formation of an Australian physiological society. All agreed that such a move was overdue, although it was not until 1959 that definite steps to establish a society were taken. In that year W.V. Macfarlane, who had moved in the meantime to the Australian National University in Canberra, undertook the planning of a scientific meeting to be held in Sydney in May 1960. A draft constitution for the proposed society was drawn up with the assistance of G. Sawer.
Over 26-28 May 1960, 126 physiologists and pharmacologists attended a meeting in the Department of Physiology at the University of Sydney at which 84 scientific papers were read. A business meeting was held on 26 May, attended by 49 scientists from Australia and New Zealand who were active in the areas of physiology or pharmacology. Those present were invited to consider the form to be taken by the proposed society and to consider the draft constitution. P.O. Bishop, head of the host Department, took the chair and W.V. Macfarlane acted as secretary. The name of the society chosen at this meeting was the Australian Physiological Society, but, in 1967, the word Pharmacology was included in the name, in recognition of the fact that pharmacologists had been strongly represented and very active in the Society from its foundation. The inaugural meeting appointed the first council which consisted of eight members with W.V. Macfarlane as National Secretary and P.O. Bishop as Treasurer. The subsequent National Secretaries have been P.I. Korner, M.E. Holman, J.R. Hales, S.R. O'Donnell, J.A. Young, T.O. Morgan, C. Bell, A.R. Luff, R.J. Lang, D.A. Saint, J.W. Lynch, R. Murphy, M. Watt and D. Skelly; and the subsequent treasurers, M.G. Taylor, A.J. Day, P.W. Gage, W. Burke, C. Bell, A.L.A. Boura, D.I. Cook, C.E. Hill, D.G. Allen, C.B Neylon, S. Bröer, P. Thorn, B. Launikonis and A. Russell. In 1981, the Society departed from its previous policy by creating the position of President. As its first president, it elected A.K. McIntyre; subsequent holders of this office have been W.J. Simmonds, P.I. Korner, M.E. Holman, M.J. Rand, D.R. Curtis, J.A. Young, P.W. Gage, D.J. Adams, D.G. Allen and G. Lamb.
In May 1970, the Council felt that the Society was stable enough financially for it to publish its own journal, to be called the Proceedings of the Australian Physiological and Pharmacological Society. The first issue, which was produced by an editorial committee consisting of M.E. Holman, A.J. Day and M.L. Mashford, contained the abstracts of the papers presented at the 10th Annual General Meeting held in the Department of Physiology at the University of Melbourne in May 1970. In 1971, D.R. Curtis was appointed the Editor of the Proceedings; subsequent Editors have been J.A. Young, J.J. Carmody, D.F. Davey, J.M. Lingard, A.R. Luff, L.M. Aitkin, I. McCance. In 1973 the position of Associate Editor was established and J.J. Carmody was appointed. Subsequent Associate Editors havs been D.F. Davey, J.M. Lingard, A.R. Luff, L.M. Aitkin and I. McCance. In 2005, the position of Associate Editor was changed to Webmaster and D. Laver was appointed. Subsequent Webmasters have been A. Ansselin, G. Wadley and R. Dwyer.
Since the early 1970s two scientific meetings a year were held by the Society, hosted by Departments of Physiology or Pharmacology in one or other of the Australian Universities. From 1997, due to changing circumstances, in particular the proliferation of specialist societies, the Society moved to hold only one annual meeting. The publication of two Issues of the Proceedings annually was retained.
In August 1972, the Society hosted a South East Asian and Pacific Regional Meeting of the International Union of Physiological Sciences in the Department of Physiology at the University of Sydney. In August 1983, it hosted the 29th Congress of the International Union of Physiological Sciences at the University of New South Wales. In February 1988, it participated in the inaugural meeting of the Australian Societies for Experimental Biology, a federation of the twelve leading biological societies in Australia.
The Society has been seminally involved in the formation of the Federation of the Asian and Oceanian Physiological Societies (FAOPS), providing advice and financial support. The Society's President, Prof J.A. Young was elected President of FAOPS in 1999. In 1998 the Society's 66th Meeting was held in Brisbane in conjunction with the 4th Congress of FAOPS, the 2nd Congress of FAONS (The Federation of Asian-Oceanian Neuroscience Societies) and the Annual Meeting of the Physiological Society of New Zealand. More than 500 delegates attended: Prof D. Adams chaired the Congress Organising Committee and Prof E. McLachlan the International Programme Committee.
In 1990 the Society instituted the awarding of prizes at each meeting for the best presentations (oral and poster) by graduate students in physiology and pharmacology. These are at present sponsored by SDR Clinical Technology and by Blackwell Scientific Publications. The Society is undertaking the national coordination of teaching initiatives in physiology and pharmacology, particularly in relation to the use of computers.
In 2000, the Society began publication of the Program of the AGM and the Proceedings containing the abstracts for the meeting on a revamped APPS website: www.apps.org.au. Hard copies of this issue of the Proceedings were restricted to registrants of the meeting. The issues of the Proceedings devoted to the Invited Lectures and Symposia began to be published on the website alone. In 2001 a web based method of payment of subscriptions was also introduced. In 2003, the Society moved to an exclusively on-line Proceedings.
At the Annual General Meeting in Sydney 2003, the name of the Society was discussed, and a proposal to change the name the Australian Physiological Society once more was supported by those present. In early 2004 a special General Meeting was held in Adelaide following a notice of motion to change the Constitution to effect the name change. A quorum was not achieved at this meeting, so a postal vote was conducted resulting in the proposed name being adopted. This resulted in the Society once again operating under the original name - Australian Physiological Society. To avoid confusion with a number of other organisations with the abbreviation APS, Council adopted the abbreviation AuPS. A new logo incorporating this abbreviation was designed, and the internet domain aups.org.au was registered.
In 2004, two new prizes for young members were introduced: Best PhD Publication and Best Post-Doctoral Publication.
In 2005, the Newsletter was reinstated with a Newsletter Editor co-opted to Council. The position of Associate Editor, which had been vacant for a number of years, was renamed to Webmaster and the first appointment to the new position was made.
At the 2006 AGM, the Editor's responsibilities, which had grown to cover a range of information technologies, were split. An Associate Editor responsible for the Newsletter and to assist the Editor, and an IT Manager were appointed. In 2007 Constitutional Amendments formalised these positions as members of Council appointed by Council. The publication of the Proceedings was separated into the Editorial phase, managed by the Editor and Associate Editor, and the production phase handled by the IT Manager.
At the 2009 AGM, the position of President-elect was proposed and ratified. This will come into action in during 2012 when the current President's term (elected in 2009) will be in its final year. In 2016, a similar process was established for the National Secretary position.