John Hall Gladstone, the first President of the Physical Society of London.
The Institute of Physics was formed in 1960 from the merger of the Physical Society, founded as the Physical Society of London in 1874, and the Institute of Physics, founded in 1920.
The Physical Society of London had been officially formed on 14 February 1874 with John Hall Gladstone as its first president. From its beginning, the society held open meetings and demonstrations and published Proceedings of the Physical Society.
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, along with the Faraday Society, the
Optical Society, London, and the
Roentgen Society, started to explore ways of improving the professional status of physicists. In 1920, the Institute of Physics was created under special license from the Board of Trade. Sir Richard Glazebrook was elected first president of the institute. As with the Physical Society, dissemination of knowledge 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, 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, creating a single organization with the unwieldy name The Institute of Physics and the Physical Society, which combined the learned society tradition of the Physical Society with the professional body tradition of the Institute of Physics. Under the leadership of Thomas E. Nevin an Irish branch of the Institute of Physics was formed in 1964. Upon being granted a royal charter in 1970, the organization was renamed as the Institute of Physics.