Thirty years ago, on May 8, 1984, the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology was formally certified as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in the State of Delaware, organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes. The Consortium, funded by the National Science Foundation, was organized to provide modernized seismographic networks and data distribution facilities for the university research community. This was achieved by the establishment of the Global Seismographic Network, the PASSCAL program for portable array studies, and the Data Management Center. Today, these three programs remain an integral part of IRIS and continue to play a vital role for the seismological community worldwide.

When the Consortium was formed, there were 18 universities and institutions (see list below) who served as the first Directors of the Corporation. Today, the Consortium membership is more than 120 US universities and research institutions. In addition, the Consortium has over 100 Foreign Affiliate members and nearly two dozen Educational Affiliates. Over three decades, the number and scope of the programs IRIS manages has also expanded.

In the early days, the Consortium's activities were performed by members of the seismological community who volunteered their time. A corporate office was established in Arlington, Virginia, the following year with about six staff. Today, the IRIS headquarters office is located in Washington, DC. The Data Management Center operates

The purposes for IRIS, stated in its Certificate of Incorporation, transcend the intervening years:

"(i) to promote and conduct the geophysical investigation of the earth's interior using seismic and other geophysical methods;
(ii) to promote the exchange of information and knowledge and to create, foster, and encourage cooperative efforts between the members of the Corporation and other organizations, research workers, students, and other institutions involved in the area of the study of earth sciences;
(iii) to solicit, raise, and receive funds for the advancement and furtherance of the foregoing purposes..."

In 1984, the broad seismological community was represented by seismologists at 18 Universities and Institutions across the United States, who served as the first Directors of the Corporation:

J. Freeman Gilbert (UCSD)

Don L. Anderson (Caltech)

Ta-Liang Teng (USC)

Carl Kisslinger (U Colorado)

I. Selwyn Sacks (Carnegie)

Leland T. Long (Georgia Tech)

Rhett Butler (U Hawaii)

Wang-Ping Chen (U Illinois, Urbana)

Seth Stein (Northwestern)

Adam Dziewonski (Harvard)

Brian J. Mitchell (St. Louis U)

Robert A. Phinney (Princeton)

Shelton Alexander (Penn State U)

Arthur Maxwell (U Texas, Austin)

Melvin Friedman (Texas A&M)

George McMechan (U Texas, Dallas)

Robert B. Smith (U Utah)

Stewart Smith (U Washington)

The first meeting of the IRIS Board of Directors took place later in May at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the first Executive Committee of the Board was elected:

Thomas McEvilly (Chairman)

Shelton Alexander (Vice-Chairman)

Don L. Anderson

Adam Dziewonski

Freeman Gilbert

Robert Phinney

Robert Smith

Later in 1984, the visionary $281M (10-year) IRIS "Rainbow Proposal" was submitted, initiating IRIS as a major facility for the National Science Foundation. For more on the history of IRIS, download the paper "IRIS - A University Consortium for Seismology" by Stewart W. Smith and published in July 1987 in Reviews of Geophysics.