Early history of TC 3
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Earliest records
Meeting in Brussels 1910 ?
Meeting in 1911 ?
Meeting in Berlin 1913
Meeting in Brussels 1920
Meeting in Geneva 1922
Meeting in London 1924
Meeting in the Hague 1925
Relevant source documents
see also Meetings of TC/SC 3

We, i.e. the past Chairman of TC3 Mr. Bodin and the Secretary Mr. P.-Å. Svensson tried to trace TC3 back to the time when it really started. The information below has been obtained thanks to the kind co-operation of the staff in the Central Office, but in the Central Office we can not come further back. If, in the archives of the National Committees, or elsewhere, older documents exist, please contact us. Thanks in advance.


Earliest records

The earliest records are called Publications and numbered 1 to 33. 

We have not got hold of the complete publications but only extracts, which focus primarily on the work on nomenclature (i.e. of interest for the history of TC1).

A letter from the Central Office states in February 1908  ".. a definite system of Nomenclature and Symbols appear to be the basis of the work which the Commission has to undertake and it is suggested that for the present, the attention of  all Electrotechnical Committees (comment:  i.e. on  National level) shall as far as possible be confined to these subjects ..". At the same date UK informs FR that they are creating a subcommittee for Symbols since it is different from Nomenclature.

In Publication 5 First annual report to 31 dec ,1909, one can read:
- The meeting of the Full Commission  . . . has been postponed till the year 1911.
- Progress of Work, Symbols (besides Nomenclature, unit of Candle Power and Standards for Electrical Machinery) : . ; ". to concentrate on … general manner of expressing ohm's law."

Publication 8  Report of the unofficial conference held at Brussels, Aug. 1910
It seems that internationally there is no Committee  for symbols only; that all subjects are dealt with by the whole Conference and some National Committees: FR, UK,  may specialize in Symbols.
A "small International Committee on Nomenclature" is appointed: it is not known if a Special Committee on Symbols is also appointed, but it is likely since they would not appoint only one Special Committee.

Publication 9  Résumé of the unofficial conference held at Brussels , Aug. 1910.
Symbols seem to have been discussed in Brussels by the whole Conference under item VI as Nomenclature is also discussed.

Publication 10 Résumé of meeting of delegates ... terms and definitions, Cologne, May 1911 : UK, FR, DE delegates meet on a specific subject for the first time , it seems. Proposal is made to meet again in Turin in Sep 1911.

Publication 11 Resumé of the Turin meeting, Sep. 1911.
The existence of Special Committees is cited, but not listed. Special Committee on Nomenclature (1 delegate from FR, DE, UK) meets and is to remain in being until next meeting of the Commission.

Publication 12  Report of Turin meeting, Sep. 1911
Reference is made to "propositions on Symbols" put forward at the Brussels Conference.

Publication 14  is a "List of terms and definitions" prepared by the Special Committee on Nomenclature, Turin, Sep, 1911

Publication 15  Special Committee on Nomenclature, Résumé of Meeting of Delegates, Paris, March 1912.

Publication 19 is a list of Symbols and abbreviations

Publication 26 Résumé of the meetings of the Special Committees, held in Berlin, Sep 1 to 2, 1913 . The Special Committee  on Symbols met in Berlin, is reappointed with delegates from 12 countries. The Special  Committees  are invited to meet in Madrid in April 1914.

Publication  30 Report of Berlin meeting held Sep, 1913
It is confirmed that the Special Committee on Nomenclature met successively in Cologne, Paris, Cologne and Berlin.

Publication 33 Report of the fourth Plenary meeting, held in London, Oct, 1919
During this meeting it was i.a. decided that the term "Technical Committee" is used instead of "Special Committee". 

Publication 33 is the last "Publication" that is a record, from then on begins the RM numbering system for the records, (and the term  "Publication" is reserved for the standards).


Meeting in Brussels 1910 ?

A small International Committee on Nomenclature was appointed at the Unofficial Conference held at Brussels in 1910. This is mentioned in the Publication 11.  The same Publication mentions also the existence of  "Special Committees" but does not list them. 

However, as early as in the "First annual report (of the IEC) to 31 December 1909", which appears in Publication 5, the progress of work mentions 4 work items: Nomenclature, Unit of Candle Power, Symbols, Standards for Electrical Machinery. These items were at the this time dealt with at the general level of the Commission.

In Publication 15  "Special Committee on Nomenclature, Résumé of Meeting of Delegates, Paris, March 1912", reference is made to a communication from the "Special Committee on Symbols" (about reactive power): this is so far the first known mentioning of the future TC3 (and TC25).

Since the Special Committee on Nomenclature is known to have been set up in 1910 and since the work on Symbols was closely linked to the work on Nomenclature from the beginning, a preliminary conclusion is that 1910 is likely to be the creation year also for TC3. The meeting in Brussels this year could be the first meeting.


Meeting 1911 ?

We have not yet found any evidence, but there ought to be at least one. The committee on nomenclature held two meetings this year. (If there was a need for a Special Committee 1910 it is unlikely that the first meeting should have been held as late as 1913, when a recorded meeting took place, see below.)


Meeting in Berlin 1913

Publication 26 mentions a meeting of Special Committee of Symbols in Berlin, on September 1 and 2, 1913: This could be the meeting No. 2 or 3, since it was meeting No. 5 for the committee on Nomenclature, and the committee on symbols did not meet with committee on Nomenclature in March 1912.


Meeting in Brussels 1920

The series of Report of Meeting (RM) from meetings of the Advisory Committees starts 1920 with:

RM 1 Unconfirmed minutes of Joint Meeting of the Delegates of the Advisory Committee on Rating of Electrical Machinery, held at Brussels, March 1920; and 

RM 2 Unconfirmed minutes of Joint Meeting of the Delegates of the Advisory Committee on Nomenclature and Symbols, held at Brussels, March 1920

RM 1 refers  back  to Publication 33 and  the plenary meeting (of the IEC), held in London, October 1919, in which "The Advisory Committee on the Rating of Electrical Machinery is renominated with one delegate from the National Committees of each of the following countries: Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy Sweden, Switzerland and United States."

RM 2 refers also back to Publication 33. The members of this Advisory Committee were from Belgium, Great Britain, Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United States, and then "a number of delegates from other countries were also present." 

According to RM 2 "a discussion took place as to the terms employed in order to distinguish between the symbols of the class given in Publication 27 (issued 1914) and the conventional signs or graphical symbols representing apparatus, etc. It was agreed, therefore, that the French title should read "Notations" for the class of symbols given in Publication 27 and "signes" for graphical symbols used in engineering plans", and that "the delegates from Great Britain and the United States agreed to prepare an equivalent rendering in English of these terms. It was agreed that "symbols" should cover the whole subject at present under consideration by the Advisory Committee."

It is also worth noting that there is a discrepancy between the English and French versions of RM2: The English version speaks about "Joint Meeting of the Advisory Committee ..", while the French speaks about a joint meeting between two entities: "Réunion mixte ... des Comités d'etudes de la Nomenclature et des Symboles". Evidently, "joint" refers to the fact that there  was a common meeting between two entities, and that the Advisory Committee on Nomenclature (covering the present TC1 area) and the Advisory Committee on Symbols (covering the present TC3 and TC25 areas), were well established  at that time.

On Graphical symbols (signes) a list of symbols, based on an existing Italian listing was discussed and appended to the minutes as Annex I. It was agreed to recommend the symbols in this appendix  for the consideration of the National Committees.

The question of symbols for use in wireless telegraphy and telephony was raised, and it was agreed that the National Committees should be requested to compile a list of symbols concerning this subject in conformity with the symbols already adopted by the Advisory Committee, and further that the British and Italian Committees should transmit as soon as possible to the National Committees the work they had so far accomplished.

To hasten the work on Nomenclature a sub-committee was formed, next meeting to be held in Zürich during the summer.

The following recommendation was accepted for reference to the National Committees:

In view of the fact -

(a) It is of the greatest importance to unify the electrotechnical nomenclature and symbols in every country.

(b) It is equally of the greatest importance that new electrotechnical terms, definitions and symbols should be formulated from the point of view of international usage.

(c) There is a more or less widespread tendency towards the adoption in various cases of electrotechnical terms, definitions and symbols which too often do not anticipate nor lend themselves to international use.

the Advisory Committee on Nomenclature and Symbols feels that it is very desirable that the National Committee should exercise in their countries a moral influence to prevent or stop formulation of electrotechnical terms, definitions and symbols which would ultimately present a serious obstacle to international agreement.

This meeting seems to be the first occasion where the following question appears:


The President called attention to the desirability of discontinuing the use of the term "voltage" and after some discussion it was agreed to invite the National Committees to give this question their consideration. The majority of the Delegates were in favor of recommending that the use of the term should be discouraged.


Meeting in Geneva 1922

The meeting of the Advisory Committee after Brussels 1920, was held in Geneva 1922, and recorded in RM8

(In the IEC archive at the Central Office a note states that RM 8  has "got lost in London", and we have not yet found it. However, it was distributed by the Central Office to all National Committees, so it may still be available in the archive of a National Committee somewhere.) 

According to RM13, that refers back to this meeting, the meeting was a joint meeting of the Delegates of the Advisory  Committees on Nomenclature and Symbols


Meeting in London 1924

The subsequent recorded meetings were held in London, 1924, and the Advisory Committees met as two entities on this occasion:

Advisory Committee on Nomenclature, July 16, recorded in RM12, and 

Advisory Committee on Symbols, July 17-18, recorded in RM13.

In RM13, a 35 page, printed document,  RM 8 was approved,  and it was decided that that the next publication should comprise: 

(1) An accepted list of general symbols;
(2) A list of examples of symbols derived from (1), 
(3) A list of symbols for submission to the National Committees for their further consideration.

Having decided this, all the the symbols proposed in RM8 were examined by the committee. 

The output of this meeting  was a collection of symbols (30 pages) recommended by the Advisory Committee for adoption by the IEC.


Meeting in the Hague 1925

The meeting of the Advisory Committee on Symbols in  the Hague April 16 - 17, 1925, is recorded in RM20.

This time the minutes from the last meeting (RM13) were not approved as read. Instead a number of corrections needed to be made:

(a) purely editorial corrections;

(b) misrepresentations of the decisions arrived at at the last meeting; and

(c) amendments involving re-opening of discussion on matters of principles.

It was agreed that the third category should not be discussed, but be left for future revisions.

The meeting then discussed the first two categories of changes, and made corrections accordingly. Also the proposals submitted to the National Committees for consideration were discussed. The earlier decision in London to separate between general symbols and examples (the Annex)  seems to have resulted in a lot of discussions on to which group the symbols should go.

No work on symbols for telegraphy and telephony was carried out.

As to symbols for "interior installations" a sub-group found that there was a great divergence among the symbols used in the different countries, and they saw very little prospect of being able to reach international agreement thereon. Moreover, it did not see any serious need for international agreement on such symbols, and suggested the question be referred back to the National Committees for consideration.

It was confirmed that the result of the work in the Advisory Committee on Symbols was to go into one publication:

International Symbols

First part: Letter symbols
Second part: Graphical symbols


Relevant source documents:

Publication 5 (missing)

Publication 10? (missing)

Publication 11 (missing)

Publication 15 (missing)

Publication 33 (missing)
Publication 1 to 33 are all missing to us, the information above on their contents is known to us through a document on the history of TC1. Other publications in this series may also be of relevance.

RM1: 1920

RM2: 1920

RM8: 1922 (missing)

RM13: 1924

RM20: 1925 

If anybody has access to one or more of the missing documents, please inform.

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