Institution(s): 1. Astronomical Observatory
I first briefly review the history of asteroid families, from their discovery by K.Hirayama back in 1918, until the present times. In doing this, I follow two threads – one that pertains to the development of the theories of asteroid motion and the computation of proper elements that serve as parameters for classification of asteroids into families, and the other concerning the methods for classification themselves. Three distinct periods can be distingiushed in this respect: the first one, that lasts roughly to the mid-fifties of the 20th century, devoted to discovery and first attempts towards understanding of the origins and of the properties of families; the second one, lasting until nineties, which was characterized by a gradual increase of interest for the families and growing understanding of their importance as key evidence of the solar system collisional evolution, and which prepared explosion of work and results in the subsequent, third period, a contemporary era, that lasts until nowadays.
Next, I give a personal view of the current situation in the field, describing the most important recent achievements and still open problems, in an attempt to summarize state-of-the-art and possible directions for the future effort. Here, because of the huge amount of work done in the past, focus is reduced mostly to the dynamical studies, impact of chaos and non gravitational effects that entered the „big picture“ in the last decades, modifications and improvements of classification methods to cope with ever increasing data set, and similar.All this is illustrated with a number of examples and results.