The University of Sydney Physics Foundation reaches 60-year milestone.

14 March 2014

2014 marks the 60th year of the University of Sydney Physics Foundation. This anniversary was celebrated on Wednesday, 12th March at an intimate and elegant reception held at Government House, which was hosted by Her Excellency Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of NSW, and Sir Nicholas Shehadie AC OBE.

The reception included guests from the University of Sydney, Physics Foundation council members past and present, and key supporters of the Foundation such as donors, science journalists, and the consuls-general from China, the United States, Thailand and Japan. The guest of honour at the event was Emeritus Professor Harry Messel AC CBE, founder and figurehead of the Physics Foundation.

Harry established the Physics Foundation in 1954, whilst he was Head of the School of Physics. The Physics Foundation, originally known as the Nuclear Research Foundation and subsequently the Science Foundation of Physics, had been formed as a voluntary philanthropic association of individuals and private organisations dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in science education, research, training and communication. It was the first foundation of its kind within the Commonwealth and the first foundation established within the University of Sydney.

Some of the key initiatives of the Physics Foundation have included the construction of SILLIAC - the first super-computer built within an Australian University - which was switched on in 1956, the ongoing support of research and projects within the School of Physics, and the Professor Harry Messel International Science School (ISS). Harry, passionate about science education in high schools, wanted to support senior high school students. As a result, Harry created the ISS program with the support of the School of Physics academics and staff. The first ISS was held in 1958 and the program still runs today with now over 4,500 ISS alumni from all over the world.

The Governor's speech at the 60th Anniversary reception highlighted the Foundation's many initiatives and Professor Messel's unwavering objective of encouraging and rewarding excellence. Following on from the Governor's speech, the current Physics Foundation President, Mr Albert YL Wong, reiterated the groundbreaking achievements of the Foundation and also the remarkable group of people who were there at the beginning and who have been involved with the Foundation since.

Harry reminded the guests of his initial aims when setting up the Foundation as a vehicle to support and promote excellence in the School of Physics and in the greater community, particularly in primary and high schools. He also remarked that he felt the Foundation's greatest achievement is its continued promotion of excellence in a culture that is increasingly 'dumming down'.

Government House was a beautiful venue to celebrate the longevity and successes of the Physics Foundation. Guests were also very lucky to experience a particularly lovely example of physics in action towards the end of evening. Views from the balcony and garden allowed guests to witness a gorgeous sunset over Sydney Harbour - a very fitting tribute to the Physics Foundation indeed.

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Contact: Tom Gordon

Phone: 02 93513201

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