The Sanibel meeting began in 1961 establishing the tradition of inviting a number of active scientists from all over the world to attend and speak. This practice created a uniquely open and fertile environment for the exchange of ideas, as well as creating a truly international network of colleagues and friends.
From the beginning, QTP faculty understood the value of communicating the latest in research finds to graduate students and other young scientists eager to join the growing community of quantum chemists and chemical physicists. At that time there were almost no courses and few textbooks on the subject. To fill the gap, QTP began annual Winter Institutes (WI) on Quantum Chemistry, Solid-state Physics, and Quantum Biology in 1960.
The Winter Institutes were partitioned into a Preparatory Part, and one or two Advanced Parts. The last two weeks of the WI were held on Sanibel Island, just off Ft. Myers, FL in the Gulf of Mexico. The Sanibel part concluded with a one week Symposium, which attracted active scientists from around the world, for a conference program that can be characterized as the most intense (and exhausting) of any such meetings. Typically the scientific sessions ended at midnight and started at eight thirty in the morning. About 250 participants came each year to the WI and the Sanibel Symposium.
It seems fair to say that these activities had a significant impact on chemical physics and physical chemistry in a variety of ways. In this context, it is notable that at most institutions throughout the world a theorist in these fields, such as a quantum chemist, was, and often still is, the only person with that specialty on the faculty. To meet a colleague with similar interests and scientific expertise often would require significant travel. Given the scenario, it is understandable that the yearly WI and Sanibel Symposium were embraced with sustained enthusiasm among these scientists. Here was a series of events, concentrated in time and space, which made it possible for senior scientists, postdoctoral associates, and graduate students to meet most of the world’s experts in the field, to learn about the latest developments and to disseminate their own work among this group for the cost of a trip to Florida.
The Winter Institutes have become obsolete, but. in contrast, the Sanibel Symposia have been held in an unbroken string of annual gatherings for 56 years.
Transition from Sanibel Island
In 1978 the site of the meeting was changed from Sanibel Island, as a consequence of the sale of the Casa Ybel property for real estate development. The new location at Palm Coast, on the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of Florida, was quite a bit closer to the UF campus, and the Sheraton Hotel there served as an excellent symposium site until 1985. That year the meeting was moved a couple of miles further north along highway A1A to the Whitney Marine Biological Laboratories of UF at Marineland, the original oceanarium in the world. In 1989 the Sanibel Symposium (the name of the original meeting site has been permanently attached to this meeting) had outgrown the facilities at Marineland and a new site was found just outside the North gate of St. Augustine, FL, the oldest European settlement in the United States. Except for aberrations, the Ponce de Leon Resort housed the meeting until 2004. In 1994, the meeting went to the Marriott at Sawgrass, about seventeen miles north of St. Augustine, FL on the Atlantic coast, and in 2004, to the St. Johns Convention Center.
In 2005, the Sanibel Symposium moved to the King and Prince Golf & Beach Resort on St. Simons Island, GA, where the meeting has been held for the past 10 years and is the current meeting site for this year’s symposium. The atmosphere here is close to the original Sanibel Island location and is within walking distance of the Lighthouse and the Village, offering an exceptional Hotel and Resort at the King and Prince, that makes a trip to the new Sanibel meeting a pleasant one. The hotel itself, located directly on the Atlantic Ocean, is listed on the National Historic Registry.
The Sanibel Symposium attracts about ~200 scientists every year from over thirty different nations. It has become an integral part of the activities of QTP.
In 2010, we organized a special Symposium to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Among the ~330 scientists that chose to attend, there were many who had been associated with the Sanibel Symposia and with QTP. The topics discussed were updates of those addressed by many earlier meetings. For a list of the topics, speakers, and many papers that review forefront science at Sanibel and QTP, please see the special 50th anniversary issue of Molecular Physics, 108, issues 21-23 (2010), edited by Rod Bartlett and Sam Trickey.
In 2013, the meeting recognized the notable contributions of Michel Parrinello and Roberta Car, while also having a mini-symposium to honor Norman March, a long, faithful Sanibel participant. Previous meetings have honored Robert Mulliken, John Slater, Henry Eyring, Egil Hylleraas, William Lipscomb, Clemens Roothaan, and Enrico Clementi, among others.
In 2014, the ‘360 meeting’ recognized the contributions of five scientists closely associated with the Sanibel meeting whose ages added up to 360. These were Bill Butler, University of Alabama; Malcolm Stocks, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, H. F. Schaefer, III, University of Georgia, Rod Bartlett, University of Florida, and Yngve Ṍhrn, University of Florida. In addition there was a mini-symposium on Ab Initio Simulations at Extreme Conditions.
In 2015, the 55th, ‘double nickel’ meeting, emphasized 5 new developments and 5 recent developments now paying important dividends, from linear scaling and strong correlation to solar energy capture and attosecond spectroscopy’s demands on theory.