The history of physics at the ANU

In August 2019 the Research School of Physics and Engineering was renamed to simply the Research School of Physics.

The Research School of Physics and Engineering was created in 2008 through the merger of the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering and the Department of Physics. This merger unites all research and teaching in physics at ANU under a single administrative unit, encouraging increased research collaboration and a providing a broader base from which to deliver world class physics education.

The Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering was one of four foundation schools of the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Australian National University. It was established by the ANU Act of 1946 and commenced in 1947 under the founding directorship of Sir Mark Oliphant. Since this time the school has become a forerunner in physics research. It's expanding and diversifying research activities have over the years, also lead to the formation of new Research Schools in areas like Earth Sciences, Astronomy, Computer Science and Engineering.

Whilst the School taught graduate students from the outset, the unique structure of ANU dictated the formation of an additional Department of Physics within the former Faculty of science to offer undergraduate courses. In addition to their teaching responsibilities, staff within this Department were also heavily involved in research and have contributed strongly to the University's excellent reputation for innovation in the physical sciences.

In 1981 the Director of the School Professor John Carver introduced Founders' Day as an initiative to unite the community in celebration of the School's achievements.

Each year, Founders' Day involves presentations on research and education highlights, informative talks on the School's achievements, presentation of the Physics endowment and School awards to pay homage to Sir Mark Oliphant and the rich and varied history of the School.

The School has had an ever shifting makeup of research departments, with some splitting off to form their own schools, while others have been created or merged as research directions changed. In 2021 a complete restructure of the School led to the disestablishment of the existing departments, and the creation of five new departments.

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Fire in the Belly

The first fifty years of the pioneer school at the ANU

To celebrate the School's 50th anniversary in 1996, Trevor Ophel and John Jenkin were commissioned to write a illustrated history - Fire in the Belly. This book is also available in hardcopy from the School.
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Annual reports

Our annual reports from 1999 to 2013 are available online.
AMPL history

History of AMPL

The history of the Atomic and Molecular Physics Laboratories

Updated:  8 February 2023/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSPhys/ Page Contact:  Physics Webmaster