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The emergence of conferences in the late nineteenth century significantly changed the ways in which the international scientific community functioned and experienced itself. In the early modern Republic of Letters, savants mainly related through print and correspondence, and apart from at local and later national levels, scholars rarely met. International conferences, by contrast, brought scientists together regularly, in the flesh and in great numbers. Their previously imagined community now became tangible. This paper examines how conferencing reshaped the collective of international scientists by zooming in on the massive meetings of the International Congress of Applied Chemistry, 1893–1914. Drawing on Emile Durkheim's studies of religious gatherings it analyses the ritualization of routine conference practices, such as plenary ceremonies, toasts, ladies’ programmes and committee meetings. It looks at how roles were distributed as participants performed as hosts and guests, and in masculine and feminine and national and international identities. Importantly, it shows both how the sacralization of chemistry as a higher aim served to instil senses of dedication in order to organize labour and mitigate conflict, and how the self-perception of the international chemical community was based on contemporary understandings of parliament, democracy and representation.