Culture, history and society

Reflections on the 50th anniversary of the European Physical Society

1968 by all accounts was a turbulent year and protests dominated the international landscape; across the globe there were anti-Vietnam war marches, civil rights protests, in one of which Martin Luther King was shot and killed, there were student demonstrations in France and of course the invasion of Czechoslovakia. I think it is fair to say the events of 1968 shaped the social history of many European countries, the UK included, and the roots of that social change are still with us today.


Throughout all of this unrest, science and the collaboration amongst scientists, and particularly European physicists, managed to bridge the political divides and remains to this day a positive force for good. Science has always been a global endeavour, something that those outside of science often, I think, struggle to understand, but sometimes we need to put in place frameworks that formalise these relationships if we are to move forward. And so the birth of the European Physical Society in 1968 makes absolute sense to me – and EPS is as relevant today as it has always been.

All of the member states of EPS have worked hard to make Gilberto Bernardini’s vision for the organisation a reality, and to demonstrate, and quoting directly from Gilberto: “the determination of scientists to collaborate as closely as possible in order to make their positive contribution to the strength of European cultural identity.”

It is hard in the UK at the moment to talk about Europe without mentioning Brexit. But this isn’t anything new for us; the UK has always struggled with its political relationship with Europe. Just in my lifetime I remember four votes on whether the UK should be in or out of various European economic or political frameworks. What I am delighted about though is that this has never had a negative impact on the view of the UK scientific community to remain an integral part of science in Europe. And many of us are working hard at the moment, with support from our European colleagues, to convince the UK government of how important this continued integration is for the good of not just Europe but global communities whatever the political outcome.

So, on behalf of everyone at the Institute of Physics I want to wish EPS a very happy 50th birthday.  50 years on is a good time for all of the EPS membership to re-pledge the commitments made by the founding organisations – long may we all ensure that EPS continues to go from strength-to-strength!

-- Professor Paul Hardaker, CEO of the Institute of Physics

We were delighted to host our 50th anniversary celebration to mark the founding of the European Physical Society on Monday, 19th November 2018 here at IOP headquarters in London. 

Participants at EPS dinner