The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children began modestly as an idea of Henry Collis, a prominent British educator of the gifted. While educators of the gifted were already convening at national levels, Collins envisioned a conference on gifted education which would unite an international body of educators.

Collis led the efforts to organize the first World Conference on Gifted Children. It was held in London in September of 1975. Attendance at this fledgling enterprise surpassed 500, demonstrating widespread support for an international network for gifted educators. Fifty-three nations were represented; keynote papers originated from 24 countries.

During the London conference, participants proposed the formation of a permanent organization dedicated to the further development of gifted education on a worldwide basis. Officers were elected and in 1977, at the second World Conference convened in San Francisco, the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children was established as a representative worldwide association.

In 1979 a secretariat for the World Council was established by A. Harry Passow at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, with Milton J. Gold serving as Executive Secretary. In succeeding years the World Council presidency was filled by Dan Bitan, Israel (1977); Iraj Broomand, Iran/Dorothy Sisk, USA (1979); James J. Gallagher, USA (1981); A. Harry Passow, USA (1985); Norah Maier, Canada (1989); Wu-Tien Wu, Taiwan (1993); Barbara Clark, USA (1997); Klaus K. Urban, Germany (2001); and the current president, Den-Mo Tsai, Taiwan (2005).

In time the secretariat was relocated to the University of South Florida and then to Toronto. In 1993 the secretariat moved to Purdue University with editor John F. Feldhusen. In 1995 Headquarters moved to the Belin/Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa, under the direction of Nicholas Colangelo, and then to Los Angeles, California. World Council Headquarters is presently located at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Canada. The current president is Den-Mo Tsai.