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The Institute of Physics building in Portland Place, London

The Institute of Physics (IOP) is a scientific charity devoted to increasing the practice, understanding and application of physics,[1] and is the UK and Ireland's main professional body for physicists. It was founded as the Physical Society in 1874[2] and it now has over 36,000 members worldwide.[1]

It grants the professional qualification of Chartered Physicist (CPhys), as well as Chartered Engineer (CEng) as a nominated body of the Engineering Council.[3] In addition to this, the IOP provides services to its members including careers advice and professional development, along with an online members' network MyIOP. As a part of its mission, the IOP works to engage the public with physics and, an online guide to physics, and a blog. The IOP is prominent in its work in policy and advocacy, lobbying for stronger support for physics in education, research and industry [4] in the UK.

Through a wholly owned subsidiary, IOP Publishing, the IOP publishes Physics World with its accompanying website which has physics news, jobs, and resources. IOP Publishing is a leading publisher of international journals, with over 40 titles. It also publishes the magazine, Optics & Laser Europe. A second subsidiary, Institute of Physics Events, runs a conference venue at 76 Portland Place, London.

The current chief executive of the IOP is Robert Kirby-Harris,[5] and the president is Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell.[6]




The Physical Society of London

The present day Institute of Physics was formed in 1960 from the merger of the Physical Society of London, founded in 1874, and the Institute of Physics, founded in 1920.[2] The Physical Society was founded to provide a forum for the promotion and discussion of physical research. From its beginning, the society held open meetings and demonstrations and published its proceedings. The membership was broadly based, including eminent academics, schoolteachers and amateur scientists.[2] 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.

The Institute of Physics and the Physical Society

In 1917, the Council of the Physical Society started to explore with the Faraday Society, the Optical Society and the Roentgen Society ways of improving the professional status of physicists. [2] The Institute of Physics was created under special licence from the Board of Trade in 1920. Sir Richard Glazebrook was the first President of the Institute.[7] As with the Physical Society, dissemination was fundamental to the Institute, which began publication of the ‘Journal of Scientific Instruments’ in 1922. [2] The annual ‘Reports on Progress in Physics’ began in 1934 and is still published today.

In 1952, in line with its role in creating and promoting the profession of physicist, the Institute began the ‘Graduateship’ course and examination, which ran until 1984 when the expansion of access to universities removed demand.[2] In 1960, the Physical Society and the Institute of Physics merged to create ‘The Institute of Physics and the Physical Society’ as a single organisation combining the learned society tradition of the Physical Society and the professional body tradition of the Institute of Physics[8] . The grant of a Royal Charter in 1970 was the opportunity to shorten the name to ‘The Institute of Physics’[9].


There are three grades of membership: Associated Member (AMInstP), Member (MInstP) and Fellow (FInstP). Qualification for AMInstP is normally by completion of an undergraduate degree accredited by the Institute – this covers almost all UK physics degrees[10]. 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 and affiliate grades of membership for those currently studying physics degrees and those who do not have accredited degrees (or equivalent experience)[11].

Academic dress

The Institute grants academic dress to the various grades of membership. Those who have passed the Institute's graduateeship examination are entitled to a violet damask Oxford burgon-shaped hood (a cowl only, with no cape) lined with red taffeta. Corporate members (MInstP and FInstP) may wear a full-shaped (cowl and cape) violet damask hood lined with violet taffeta. Additionally MInstP and those who have passed the graduateeship examination are entitled to wear a black mortarboard and a black bachelor's-style gown, while FInstP may wear a black doctor's bonnet with red tassels and a black Oxford doctor's-style gown with facings (10cm) and sleeves (15cm) of violet taffeta.


The IOP accredits undergraduate degrees (BSc/BA and MSci/MPhys) in Physics in British and Irish universities[10]. At post-16 level, the IOP has developed the 'Advancing Physics' A-level course, in conjunction with the OCR examining board, which is accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. The IOP also developed the Integrated Sciences degree, which is run at four universities in England [12].

Chartered Status

The Institute grants the professional title of Chartered Physicist (CPhys) as well as Chartered Engineer (CEng) as a nominated body of the Engineering Council. 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 MSci or MPhys undergraduate 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.

National and regional branches

The IOP operates 13 national and regional branches in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The subsidiary IOP Publishing has offices in the USA, China, Japan and Russia.


An elected Council[6] 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 of the Institute is the head of the Council. The President is now elected by the membership of the Institute and serves a term of two years. The current President is Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

Presidents of the Institute of Physics

See also Presidents of the Physical Society 1874-1960

†Between 1960 and 1970 the office held was 'President of the Institute of Physics and the Physical Society'.[13]


The Institute of Physics bestows several awards to recognise and reward outstanding achievements in physics, in research, teaching, outreach work and industry. The awards are presented at a high-profile ceremony held annually in central London. The awards include[14]:

  • Mosely Medal and Prize (formerly the Boys Medal and Prize), for distinguished research in experimental physics, which recognises physicists early in their careers.
  • Bragg Medal and Prize, for significant contributions to physics education.
  • Appleton Medal and Prize (formerly the Chree Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in environmental, earth or atmospheric physics.
  • Gabor Medal and Prize (formerly the Duddell Medal and Prize), for distinguished work in the application of physics in an industrial, commercial or business context, including work that has enhanced the economic or social well being of the UK or Ireland.
  • Dirac Medal and Prize, for outstanding contributions to theoretical physics.
  • Faraday Medal and Prize (formerly the Guthrie Medal and Prize), for an internationally outstanding body of work in experimental physics.
  • Glazebrook Medal and Prize, for outstanding contributions to physics organizations or the application of physics.
  • Kelvin Medal and Prize, for contributions to the public understanding of science.
  • Maxwell Medal and Prize, for outstanding contributions to theoretical physics, mathematical or computational physics which recognises physicists early in their careers.
  • Mott Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in condensed matter physics or material physics.
  • Paterson Medal and Prize, for outstanding contributions by a physicist early in their career to the application of physics and its commercial exploitation.
  • Rutherford Medal and Prize, foor distinguished research in nuclear physics or nuclear technology.
  • Young Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in the field of optics, including work related to physics outside the visible region.
  • Business and Innovation Medal and Prize, for outstanding contributions to the organisation or application of physics in an industrial or commercial context.
  • Chadwick Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in particle physics.
  • Hoyle Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in astrophysics, gravitational physics or cosmology
  • Franklin Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in physics applied to the life sciences.
  • Joule Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in applied physics.
  • Payne-Gaposchkin Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in plasma, solar or space physics.
  • Rayleigh Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in theoretical, mathematical or computational physics.
  • Tabor Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in surface or nanoscale physics.
  • Thomson Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in atomic or molecular physics.

IOP Publishing

IOP Publishing is a wholly owned subsidiary of the IOP with offices in Bristol, Philadelphia, Tokyo, Beijing and Washington DC. It won the [[Queen's Award for Export Achievement] in 1990, 1995 and 2000 and publishes a large number of journals, websites and magazines, including:

IOP Publishing also operates specialist 'community websites':

  • - A website produced by the IOP containing lasers, optics and photonics resources and news.
  • - A website for the medical physics community.
  • - An e-print front end to the service.
  • - Contains news, articles from Compound Semiconductors and a Buyer's Guide. A resource for the compound semiconductor community.
  • - Provides news, resources and events listings for nanotechnology community.
  • - Computer Newsletter section, Buyer’s Guide and the Jobs Watch directory.
  • - news, analysis, buyers guide and recruitment service for optical networking community.
  • - A source of information on issues from global warming to waste management and renewable energy sources.


Physics World is the membership magazine of the Institute of Physics. It was launched in 1988 by IOP Publishing Ltd and has established itself as one of the world's leading physics magazines. It, and its associated website, (formerly, provides news and information relating to the study and application of physics. The most significant content of the magazine is news, employment, and upcoming-events-related information. Several of these services were originally part of a web site called The Internet Pilot to Physics or 'TIPTOP'.


  1. ^ a b "About the Institute" (HTML), Information (Institute of Physics and IOP Publishing), © 2009,, retrieved 2009-08-25 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "The History of the Institute" (HTML), History (Institute of Physics and IOP Publishing), © 2009,, retrieved 2009-08-25 
  3. ^ Becoming Chartered by the Institute
  4. ^ Institute of Physics Policy Activities
  5. ^ Institute of Physics Senior Staff
  6. ^ a b Institute of Physics Council
  7. ^ Richard Glazebrook biography
  8. ^ Institute of Physics History
  9. ^ Royal Charter of the Institute of Physics
  10. ^ a b IOP accredited courses
  11. ^ Grades of membership
  12. ^ Integrated Sciences
  13. ^ Lewis, John J. (2003). The Physical Society and Institute of Physics 1874-2002. Institute of Physics Publishing. ISBN 0750308796. 
  14. ^ Institute of Physics Awards

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