Construction on the school begins

The history of physics at the ANU

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 RSPE endowment and School awards to pay homage to Sir Mark Oliphant and the rich and varied history of the School.

Fire in the Belly
book cover image

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 available in hardcopy from the School, and also on-line.

Updated:  2 June 2017/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSPE/ Page Contact:  Physics Webmaster