The American Physical Society

Authors(s): Publication:Physics Today Publication Date:October 1951 Publisher: American Institute of Physics Citation:Physics Today 4, 10, 18 (1951) Link:

THE American Physical Society was founded on May 20, 1899 by a group of about forty physicists who met in a small lecture room in Columbia University's Fayerweather Hall in New York City. The first regular meeting of the Society was held five months later. Before that time, physicists had customarily joined in the annual meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, its Section B being concerned primarily with physics. The formation of an independent Society for the "advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics" was only one of a series of events marking the swift development of physics in the history of American science.

When the newly formed American Physical Society joined in the 49th meeting of the AAAS in New York in June, 1900, the Society and the Association's Section B met on alternate days. It was remarked in a contemporary report of the event that although the two programs were kept separate, there was little else to distinguish the groups. The difference, eloquently enough stated by the action of the charter members in forming the new Society, was their conviction that the time had come for a separate professional scientific organization devoted to the advancement of physics. A cooperative and close relationship has nevertheless been maintained between the two organizations, and the Physical Society for many years met frequently in joint session with Section B of the AAAS. At the end of its first year, the Physical Society had a total membership of only fifty-nine; the present membership is nearly ten thousand.

SAMUEL A. GOUDSMIT, senior scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, is managing editor of The Physical Review, official journal of the Physical Society.