Institute of Physics

This article is about the London-based professional association for physicists. For other uses, see Institute of Physics (disambiguation).
Institute of Physics
IOP Institute of Physics
Abbreviation IOP
Motto Intellegite et explicate
(Understand and explain)[1]
Formation 14 February 1874
Headquarters London
51,809 (2015)[2]
Roy Sambles[3]
Key people
Paul Hardaker (CEO)[4]

The Institute of Physics (IOP) is a scientific charity that works to advance physics education, research and application.[5] It has a worldwide membership of over 50,000.[6] The IOP supports physics in education, research and industry.[7] In addition to this, the IOP provides services to its members including careers advice and professional development and grants the professional qualification of Chartered Physicist (CPhys), as well as Chartered Engineer (CEng) as a nominated body of the Engineering Council.[8] The IOP's publishing company, IOP Publishing, publishes more than 70 academic journals and magazines.[9]


John Hall Gladstone, the first President of the Physical Society of London.
The Institute of Physics building in Portland Place, London

The Institute of Physics was formed in 1960 from the merger of the Physical Society, founded as the Physical Society of London in 1874, and the Institute of Physics, founded in 1920.[10]

The Physical Society of London had been officially formed on 14 February 1874 with John Hall Gladstone as its first president.[1] From its beginning, the society held open meetings and demonstrations and published Proceedings of the Physical Society.[1]

In the early part of the 20th century, the profession of "physicist" emerged, partly as a result of the increased demand for scientists during World War I. In 1917, the Council of the Physical Society, along with the Faraday Society, the Optical Society, London, and the Roentgen Society, started to explore ways of improving the professional status of physicists.[10] In 1920, the Institute of Physics was created under special license from the Board of Trade. Sir Richard Glazebrook was elected first President of the Institute.[11] As with the Physical Society, dissemination of knowledge was fundamental to the Institute, which began publication of the Journal of Scientific Instruments in 1922.[10] The annual Reports on Progress in Physics began in 1934[1] and is still published today. In 1952, the Institute began the "Graduateship" course and examination, which ran until 1984 when the expansion of access to universities removed demand.[10]

In 1960, the Physical Society and the Institute of Physics merged, creating the Institute of Physics and the Physical Society, which combined the learned society tradition of the Physical Society with the professional body tradition of the Institute of Physics.[12] Upon being granted a royal charter in 1970, the organization renamed itself to Institute of Physics.[13]


There are four grades of membership: iMember, Associate Member (AMInstP), Member (MInstP) and Fellow (FInstP). Qualification for AMInstP is normally by completion of an undergraduate degree that is "recognised" by the Institute this covers almost all UK physics degrees.[14] An AMInstP can become an MInstP by gaining professional experience as a physicist and an FInstP by making "an outstanding contribution to the profession." MInstP and FInstP are the two corporate grades of membership, granting the right to vote in Institute elections. There are also student (16-19, undergraduate and postgraduate) and affiliate grades of membership for those currently studying physics degrees and those who do not have accredited degrees or equivalent experience, as well as a digital "imember" category for anyone with an interest in physics.[15]

The Institute grants academic dress to the various grades of membership.[16] Those who have passed the Institute's graduateeship examination (offered 1952–1984) are entitled to a violet damask Oxford burgon-shaped hood. Corporate members are entitled to wear a hood of Toronto full shape in violet damask, lined in violet and faced on the cowl with 2"/5 cm[17] shot crimson silk.[16] The gown for Members and those who have passed the graduateship examination is the same pattern as that used by the University of London for their Bachelor of Arts, but with the sleeves loped by violet cords and buttons, the Fellow's gown follows the pattern of the Doctor's robes of Oxford University in black with (according to Groves 2014) 4" cuffs in violet damask, or (according to the IoP website) 15 cm cuffs and 10 cm facings in violet taffeta, the cuffs slightly gathered with red cords and violet buttons. Fellows wear a doctor's bonnet in bkack velvet with red tassels, other grades wear a standard black mortarboard with black tassels.[18][19]

Professional qualifications

The Institute grants the professional title of Chartered Physicist (CPhys) under its own charter, Chartered Engineer (CEng) as a nominated body of the Engineering Council, and Registered Scientist (RSci) and Registered Science Technician (RSciTech) as a licensed body of the Science Council.[20][21] Until 1998 CPhys was granted automatically with MInstP, however since then it has become a separate qualification that is equal in stature to Chartered Engineer. In order to gain the CPhys qualification, a physicist must be appropriately qualified (an accredited MSci or MPhys integrated master's degree is standard, although experience leading to an equivalent level can be counted), have had a minimum of two years of structured training and a minimum of two years responsible work experience, have demonstrated a commitment to continuing professional development, and have gained a number of competencies.


The IOP accredits undergraduate degrees (BSc/BA and MSci/MPhys) in physics in British and Irish universities.[22] At post-16 level, the IOP developed the 'Advancing Physics' A-level course, in conjunction with the OCR examining board, which is accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Advancing Physics was sold to Oxford University Press in January 2011.[23] The IOP also developed the Integrated Sciences degree, which is run at four universities in England.[24] The IOP provides an important educational service for secondary schools in the UK. This is the Lab in a Lorry, a mobile laboratory in a large articulated truck. This has three small laboratories where schoolchildren can try out various hands-on experiments, using physics equipment not usually available in the average school laboratory. Sponsorship is provided by EDF Energy and support from the British Science Association. IOP runs the Stimulating Physics Network, aimed at increasing the uptake of physics at A-level, and administers teacher-training scholarships funded by the Department for Education.[25][26]

The Institute is also interested in the ethical impact of physics, as is witnessed though the Physics and Ethics Education Project.[27]


Main article: IOP Publishing

IOP Publishing is a wholly owned subsidiary of the IOP that publishes more than 70 academic titles. Any profits generated by the publishing company are used to fund the IOP. It won the Queen's Award for Export Achievement in 1990, 1995 and 2000 and publishes a large number of journals, websites and magazines, such as the Physics World membership magazine of the Institute of Physics, which was launched in 1988.


An elected Council[28] governs and controls the affairs of the Institute. The Council meets four times a year and has up to 25 members of whom 16 are elected by members of the Institute.

The President is elected by the membership of the Institute and serves a term of two years. The current President is Roy Sambles. The history of the Institute, from its founding as the Physical Society of London through to today's Institute has meant that the name of the post held has varied.[1]


The Institute awards numerous prizes to acknowledge contributions to physics research, education and application.[29]

The Isaac Newton Medal is awarded annually to any physicist, regardless of subject area, background or nationality, for outstanding contributions to physics. It is accompanied by a prize of £1000 and the recipient is invited to give the Newton lecture.[30]

The Faraday Medal and Prize is a prize awarded annually for outstanding contributions to experimental physics to a physicist of international reputation in any sector.[31]

The Swan Medal and Prize is a prize awarded annually for outstanding contributions to the organisation or applications physics to a physicist in an industrial or commercial context in any sector.[32]

The Rayleigh Medal and Prize, established in 2008, is awarded biennially, in odd numbered years, for distinguished research in theoretical, mathematical or computational physics.[33]

The Rutherford Medal and Prize, awarded biennially in even numbered years, was instituted in 1966, replacing the Rutherford Memorial Lecture. The award recognises distinguished research in nuclear physics or nuclear technology and is named in honour of Lord Rutherford of Nelson. [34]

The Thomson Medal and Prize, established in 2008, is awarded biennially, in even numbered years, for distinguished research in atomic (including quantum optics) or molecular physics. [35]

The Young Medal and Prize is awarded biennially, in odd numbered years, for distinguished research in the field of optics, including physics outside the visible region.[36]

The Kelvin Medal instigated in October 1994 in recognition of the importance of promoting public awareness of the place of physics in the world, of its contributions to the quality of life and its advancement of an understanding of the physical world and the place of humanity within it.


Since its formation the Institute has had its headquarters in London. In 1927 the Institute acquired, rent-free, 1 Lowther Gardens. During the second world war the Institute moved temporarily to the University of Reading. After the war, the Institute returned to London, first to 19 Albemarle Street, where it stayed for little over a year, before moving to 47 Belgrave Square in December 1946.[37] The Institute moved to 76 Portland Place in 1996.[10]

In 2013 the IOP bought a property in King’s Cross which will become its new headquarters.[38] This has been the source of some controversy, as local residents objected to the design and size of the new building. After an initial approval in February 2015, it took almost ten months of additional negotiation before planning permission was ultimately granted by the Islington Council in December 2015. [39] [40]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Lewis, John J. (2003), The Physical Society and Institute of Physics 1874-2002, Institute of Physics Publishing, ISBN 0-7503-0879-6
  2. "The Institute of Physics Annual Report 2015" (PDF). Institute of Physics. p. 7. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  3. IOP Council
  4. Staff contact details
  5. "About the Institute", Information, Institute of Physics and IOP Publishing, 2011, retrieved 2010-10-04
  6. IOP About uS
  7. Institute of Physics Policy Activities
  8. Becoming Chartered by the Institute
  9. IOP Publishing
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 "The History of the Institute", History, Institute of Physics and IOP Publishing, 2009, retrieved 2009-08-25
  11. Richard Glazebrook biography
  12. Institute of Physics History
  13. Royal Charter of the Institute of Physics
  14. IOP recognised courses
  15. Grades of membership
  16. 1 2 Misc robes
  17. Specifications on the IoP website are in cm; Burgon Society publications give specifications in inches
  18. Nicholas Groves (2014). Shaw's Academical Dress of Great Britain and Ireland - Volume II: Non-degree-awarding Bodies. Burgon Society. p. 203. ISBN 978-099287400-1.
  19. "Academic Dress". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  20. "IOP licensed to award professional registrations". Institute of Physics. 20 May 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  21. "Chartered status". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  22. Letter to Advancing Physics users
  23. Integrated Sciences
  24. Stimulating Physics Network
  25. Teacher Training Scholarships
  27. Institute of Physics Council
  28. "IOP awards". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  29. "The Isaac Newton Medal". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 2014-11-05.
  30. "The Faraday medal". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
  31. "The Swan medal". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 2016-04-29.
  32. "The Rayleigh Medal and Prize". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  33. "Lord Rutherford of Nelson". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  34. "The Thomson Medal and Prize". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  35. "The Young Medal and Prize". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  38. "Row over plans for Institute of Physics building in King's Cross". Islington Gazette. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  39. "Residents take apart Institute of Physics case on eve of planning meeting". Kings Cross Local Environment. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
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