A statement adopted by IUPAP, March 1999
Physics - the study of matter, energy and their interactions - is an international enterprise, which plays a key role in the future progress of humankind. The support of physics education and research in all countries is important because:
- Physics is an exciting intellectual adventure that inspires young people and expands the frontiers of our knowledge about Nature.
- Physics generates fundamental knowledge needed for the future technological advances that will continue to drive the economic engines of the world.
- Physics contributes to the technological infrastructure and provides trained personnel needed to take advantage of scientific advances and discoveries.
- Physics is an important element in the education of chemists, engineers and computer scientists, as well as practitioners of the other physical and biomedical sciences.
- Physics extends and enhances our understanding of other disciplines, such as the earth, agricultural, chemical, biological, and environmental sciences, plus astrophysics and cosmology - subjects of substantial importance to all peoples of the world.
- Physics improves our quality of life by providing the basic understanding necessary for developing new instrumentation and techniques for medical applications, such as computer tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, ultrasonic imaging, and laser surgery.
In summary, for all these reasons, physics is an essential part of the educational system and of an advanced society. We therefore urge all governments to seek advice from physicists and other scientists on matters of science policy, and to be supportive of the science of Physics. This support can take many forms such as:
- National programs to improve physics teaching at all levels of the educational system.
- Building and maintaining strong departments in universities (and other academic institutions) with opportunities for grants to support research.
- Scholarships and fellowships for both undergraduate and graduate students studying physics.
- Adequate funding for national laboratories and the formation of new ones as appropriate.
- Funding and facilitating international activities and collaborations.
Physics - Technology and Society
Technology is the application of various laws, doctrines of physics for practical purposes. Practical applications of physics and other branches of sciences have played a very important role in the development of industry and in improving the standard of living of man.
The understanding of electromagnetic waves in the longer wavelength domain has found applications in radio, television and wireless communication.
Television programs from the distant countries can be watched ‘live’ via satellites. The satellite communication has resulted in bringing the world to the tabletop.
These satellites also help in forecasting weather and in geophysical survey such as exploration of oil wells. The electricity that we use in our homes and industry is generated at a power plant by the conversion of some other form of energy into electrical energy.
Nuclear energy released in a fission process is the source of energy in a nuclear reactor which produces electricity.
A host of other applications of physics have contributed a great deal to the technical advancement of society. Our society, today is becoming more and more science oriented. Thus physics plays a very significant role in technology and in our daily lives.
Some Physicists from Different Countries of the World and their Major Contributions
Major Contribution / Discovery
Country of Origin
Principle of buoyancy; Principle of the lever
Law of inertia
Wave theory of light
Universal law of gravitation; Laws of motion; Reflecting telescope
Laws of electromagnetic induction
James Clerk Maxwell
Electromagnetic theory; Light-an electromagnetic wave
Heinrich Rudolf Hertz
Generation of electromagnetic waves
Ultra short radio waves
Marie Sklodowska Curie
Discovery of radium and polonium; Studies on natural radioactivity
Explanation of photoelectric effect; Theory of relativity
Victor Francis Hess
Measurement of electronic charge
Nuclear model of atom
Quantum model of hydrogen atom
Inelastic scattering of light by molecules
Louis Victor de Borglie
Wave nature of matter
Controlled nuclear fission
Quantum mechanics; Uncertainty principle
Relativistic theory of electron; Quantum statistics
Ernest Orlando Lawrence
Theory of nuclear forces
Homi Jehangir Bhabha
Cascade process of cosmic radiation
Lev Davidovich Landau
Theory of condensed matter; Liquid helium
Chandrasekhar limit, structure and evolution of stars
Transistors; Theory of super conductivity
Unification of weak and electromagnetic interactions