Phi Sigma is the only international biological honor society in existence. It is the sole representative of its field in the Association of College Honor Societies (the A.C.H.S.). Phi Sigma was founded at Ohio State University in 1915 and has grown solidly but conservatively ever since. Present initiates total more than 21,000. The elected membership and chapters are collegiate. All society policies and practices are determined by the members. Active members are mostly students and most of them are graduate students.
A governing council, elected at the biennial general meetings, is typically composed of individuals of professional rank. This council serves without financial reward to carry out instructions given in the constitution and imposed on it by the general meetings.
The object of Phi Sigma is to stimulate research in the biological sciences. Such stimulation is accomplished in many ways. All of these are strengthened by participation of the society in the A.C.H.S.
As a member of the A.C.H.S., Phi Sigma honors superior scholarship. This it does by selecting its members from superior students. It confers distinction for high achievement also through the annual Phi Sigma scholarship awards, which are made on each campus where there is a chapter. The awards are given irrespective of membership in the society.
The chapter of Phi Sigma on the University of Michigan campus is now the oldest and largest. This chapter, Beta, has played an important role in the general affairs of Phi Sigma. The following Michigan men have figured among the council officers of Phi Sigma: E. W. Sink was president in 1921 and 1922; Alexander G. Ruthven, President-Emeritus of the University of Michigan, was honorary president of Phi Sigma from 1930 through 1939; Professor A. I. Ortenburger, now at the University of Oklahoma, a Beta member as a graduate student, was council secretary and the backbone of all of Phi Sigma over the years from 1929 through 1946. He was succeeded by Henry van der Schalie, secretary from 1947 through 1950. In 1947 Karl F. Lagler became council vice-president, and since 1951 he has been president; in 1956 van der Schalie was elected council vice-president for a term of four years.
The history of Beta chapter of Phi Sigma dates from June 3, 1916. Many staff members in the biological departments of the University are members. The officers of Beta chapter are president, vice-president, corresponding secretary, recording secretary, treasurer, and editor. Student members are mostly graduate students who have shown research promise, who are biology majors, and who have a scholarship rating in the upper 35 per cent of their class.
The chapter plans its own program with a wide variety of activities ranging from the presentation of papers by members, and lectures and demonstrations by outside speakers, to field trips, biological photography salons, and other events. Meetings are monthly, in the Rackham Amphitheater.