The Research School of Physics has a rich history dating back to the establishment of the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering in 1947. Founded under the directorship of Sir Mark Oliphant, the School quickly became a forerunner in physics research and was one of the four foundation schools of the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Australian National University.
Over the years, the School's research activities expanded and diversified, leading to the formation of new Research Schools in areas such as Earth Sciences, Astronomy, Computer Science, and Engineering. Physics at ANU was initially split between the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering and the Department of Physics within the former Faculty of Science, with the latter offering undergraduate courses and also heavily involved in research.
In 2008, the Department of Physics merged with the Research School of Physical Sciencese to form the Research School of Physics and Engineering, uniting all research and teaching in physics under a single administrative unit. This merger encouraged increased research collaboration and provided a broader base from which to deliver world-class physics education.
In August 2019, the Research School of Physics and Engineering was renamed to simply the Research School of Physics.
Under the directorship of Professor John Carver, the School established Founders' Day in 1981 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, and the 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.
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.
The first fifty years of the pioneer school at the ANUTo 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.