The International Union of History of Science (IUHS) was established in 1947 under the banner of the International Council of Scientific Unions and the endorsement of UNESCO with the sponsorship of the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences. The Commission des Instruments Scientifiques (today the Scientific Instrument Commission), was established in 1952 as one of the union's first commissions.

The first major project of the new commission was to establish a committee to create a worldwide inventory of historical scientific instruments. The established commission, which united curators, historians, and scientists interested in scientific instruments, helped to develop the field further. Key individuals in the early years were Henri Michel, Francis Maddison, Maurice Daumas, I. Bernard Cohen, Derek de Solla Price, and Silvio A. Bedini.