The Institute of Physics (IOP) is the UK and Ireland's main professional body for physicists. It was founded as the Physical Society in 1874 and it now has over 35,000 members worldwide. It grants the professional qualifications of Chartered Physicist (CPhys) as well as Chartered Scientist (CSci) as a member organisation of the Science Council and Chartered Engineer (CEng) as a nominated body of the Engineering Council.
The IOP is a membership body and provides services to its members including careers advice and professional development, along with an online members' network MyIOP Physics World is the membership magazine of the IOP with its accompanying website physicsworld.com which has physics news, jobs, and resources.
Through a wholly owned subsidiary, IOP Publishing, the IOP is a leading publisher of science books and international journals, with over 40 titles. IOP Publishing has won the Queen's Award for Export Achievement three times, in 1990, 1995 and 2000. 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 IOP is also prominent in its work in policy and advocacy, lobbying for stronger support for physics in education, research and industry . As a part of its mission, the IOP works to engage the public with physics and runs Physics.org, an online guide to physics.
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.
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.
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 started to explore with the Faraday Society
, the Optical Society
and the Roentgen Society
ways of improving the professional status of physicists. This culminated in the creation of the Institute of Physics under special licence from the Board of Trade
in 1920. As with the Physical Society, dissemination was fundamental to the Institute, which began publication of the ‘Journal of Scientific Instruments’ in 1922. 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.
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. The grant of a Royal Charter
in 1970 was the opportunity to shorten the name to ‘The Institute of Physics’.
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. 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).
National and regional branches
The IOP operates 13 national and regional United Kingdom
and the Republic of Ireland
. The subsidiary IOP Publishing has offices in the USA, China, Japan and Russia.
The Institute grants the professional title of Chartered Physicist (CPhys). Until 1998 this 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 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.
The IOP accredits undergraduate degrees (BSc/BA and MSci/MPhys) in Physics in British and Irish universities. 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 .
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 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:
- 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.
- Chree Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in environmental physics, terrestrial magnetism, atmospheric electricity and related subjects.
- Duddell Medal and Prize, for outstanding contributions to the advancement of knowledge through the application of physics.
- Dirac Medal and Prize, for outstanding contributions to theoretical physics.
- Guthrie Medal and Prize, for an internationally outstanding body of work in 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, in recognition of outstanding contributions to theoretical physics in the past ten years.
- 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, for nuclear physics, nuclear technology or elementary particle physics.
- Young Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in the field of optics, including physics outside the visible region.
IOP Publishing is a wholly owned subsidiary of the IOP. There are offices in Bristol
and Washington DC
. It publishes a large number of journals, websites and magazines. Its books publishing business was sold to Taylor and Francis
in 2005. The journals produced by IOP publishing include:
PhysicsWorld.com (formerly called PhysicsWeb.org) is a web site providing various up-to-date information relating to the study and application of physics. The most significant content of the site 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.
- optics.org - A website produced by the IOP containing lasers, optics and photonics resources and news.
- medicalphysicsweb.org - A website for the medical physics community.
- eprintweb.org - An e-print front end to the arXiv.org service.
- compoundsemiconductor.net - Contains news, articles from Compound Semiconductors and a Buyer's Guide. A resource for the compound semiconductor community.
- nanotechweb.org - Provides news, resources and events listings for nanotechnology community.
- cerncourier.com - Computer Newsletter section, Buyer’s Guide and the Jobs Watch directory.
- fibers.org - news, analysis, buyers guide and recruitment service for optical networking community.
- environmentalresearchweb.org - A source of information on issues from global warming to waste management and renewable energy sources.