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History of Physics and Astronomy at Sussex


Physics at Sussex started at the beginning of the university in 1961, although the first undergraduates were not admitted until October 1962. In 1965, an MSc in Astronomy was started, with what was initially a separate astronomy subject group. The two subjects merged in 1989, into what is now called (since 2003) the Department of Physics and Astronomy. The Department has been part of a number of Schools: Physical Sciences, Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MAPS), Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Science (CPES), Science and Technology (SciTech) and currently Mathematical and Physical Sciences again - but now with the less pronounceable acronym MPS.

The purpose of this history is to trace the development of the two subjects, and the combined department, from its early days to the present, when the university as a whole is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The web pages will contain tables of facts, essays giving reminiscences and accounts of developments in both teaching and research, and a linking narrative following major events in the life of the department.

The founding professors in the department were Roger Blin-Stoyle and Ken Smith, who were involved in the curriculum discussions in the Old Ship Hotel in Brighton in 1961-2. The other founding faculty, who were there during the first year, 1962-63, were Douglas Brewer and Phil Elliott (senior lecturers), Les Allen, Sandy Grassie, Dennis Hamilton and Geoff Jones (lecturers in experimental physics), and Michael Radcliffe, Roy Turner and Maurice Wilford (lecturers in theoretical physics). R V Turley was there for that year only, as a tutor, and Brian Smith joined the department in January 1963 (he was appointed from October 1962, but given leave of absence for the autumn term to lecture throughout Asia and the Middle East for the British Council and the Asia Foundation).

Editorial Policy

The Moderators welcome contributions of any kind relating to the history of the Department - personal reminiscences, summaries of research work, factual information about who was here when (although we have tried to supply most of that ourselves, there will certainly be gaps that need to be filled), summaries of teaching, including teaching policy, both lecture courses and laboratories, and anything else that is likely to be of interest to past and present members of the department. We especially welcome contributions from former students and non-academic staff, who are currently poorly represented on the wiki. There are no guidelines on length or style: we just want what you feel should be recorded. Note also that the inclusion of pictures is welcomed and indeed encouraged; they should preferably be in jpeg format.  Unless you are a registered user (see Access below), any contributions should be submitted by e-mail to the address below.

We will review all new material, and we reserve the right to remove anything that in our judgement might bring the University and/or the department into disrepute. The views expressed on this site are not necessarily the views of the University nor of the department.

If you edit a piece by someone else, please do so by adding a signed comment, either in the text or at the end, rather than by simply changing the text anonymously. This applies even to currently unsigned pages, which will have been written by one of the moderators (we will gradually get round to signing all the pages we have produced).

Moderator:  Robert Smith (The 'we' above reflects the fact that the bulk of the current site was developed jointly by Robert Smith and the late [David Bailin]

Contacting us

If you want to make any comments on this wiki or contribute to it, you can contact the moderators by e-mail: (replace "AT" by "@").


Note: This wiki is now fully viewable to the public. However, it is editable only by registered users; to get an account, please e-mail the moderators (see above for address), giving the username by which you want to be known (for example, your old Sussex username, if you had one - preferably something quite short), your real name (given name and surname), and the e-mail address by which we should contact you.You will then be sent an e-mail with a password, and when you log in using that password you will be prompted to create a password of your own.

Note added 2019-08-11: The automatic process seems not to be working at present. Anyone wanting to register as a user, with editing privileges (apart from the front page) should contact Robert Smith on R.C.Smith"AT" to request a username and password.

Access update

We had to make the site safer by restricting access. We are currently reviewing these policies. Web site administration contact: (replace "AT" by "@").