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This year the ECT* celebrates its 25th anniversary. The idea for such a centre began to take shape in 1990, partly in response to a similar initiative in the United States. The Institute for Nuclear Theory (INT) in Seattle was already active and successful. Following a proposal of nuclear physicists from the Niels Bohr Institute, the nuclear theory community was invited to Paris in 1991 to discuss the possibilities of creating a European centre for Theoretical Nuclear Physics in a broad sense. In the meeting enthusiastic support was given to the idea, and a Steering Committee was nominated to take further steps. As a result of several initiatives by the Committee, several European groups were invited to make specific proposals for the centre. In response, five proposals were formulated by groups in Denmark, Holland, Italy and CERN. Finally, at a meeting convened in Paris-Orsay in 1992, the nuclear physics community overwhelmingly endorsed the proposal from Trento. ECT* was born and began its operation in 1993 with an inaugural symposium. Over the past 25 years the ECT* has lived up to its mission and has matured into an internationally recognized centre for theoretical nuclear physics and related research areas. It continues to enjoy strong support from the community and has become a role model for self-organized research.