Public Release:  The European Physical Society gives special recognition to physics at 69 Hoza Street

Faculty of Physics University of Warsaw

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IMAGE: Professor Luisa Cifarelli, President of the European Physical Society, and professor Marek Trippenbach, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Physics of the University of Warsaw, unveil EPS Historic Site plaque. view more

Credit: FUW/Oskar Jarzyna

The building at 69 Hoża Street in Warsaw has been the site of many fundamental discoveries in the fields of experimental and theoretical physics. A commemorative plaque noting the status of the Faculty of Physics of the University of Warsaw as an EPS Historic Site was unveiled today. The ceremony was attended by Prof. Luisa Cifarelli, President of the European Physical Society (EPS).

"The building at 69 Hoża Street was the first Polish location to be awarded the EPS Historic Site status by the EPS Selection Committee. The site was particularly important during the 1930s; since then, it has witnessed many important discoveries in the fields of molecular, nuclear, and particle physics. Today's ceremony unveiling the commemorative plaque is a way of paying homage to the community of Polish physicists who have contributed to the renown of 69 Hoża Street over the decades," Prof. Cifarelli said during the ceremony.

The European Physical Society was founded by CERN in 1968. It is a non-profit organization focusing on the consolidation of physics research conducted in Europe and promoting its contribution to Europe's economic, technological, and cultural development. The European Physical Society consists of national associations of physicists from 41 countries, 50 institutes and laboratories and also 3,200 individual members. Representing the interests of over 120,000 European physicists, the EPS organizes and co-organizes numerous physics conferences, supports researchers, awards prestigious prizes, and publishes its own journals. The Polish Physical Society, formed in 1920, has been a member of the EPS since 1972.

The EPS has been awarding its Historic Site title for almost two years. The first location to be granted the status was the Fermi Fountain at the Institute of Physics of the University of Rome. On 22 October 1934, the renowned Italian physicist Enrico Fermi used the water from the fountain to slow down neutrons, paving the way for the development of nuclear chain reactions. The second EPS Historic Site plaque commemorates the village of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France, the location of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)'s Refuge des Cosmiques, opened in 1943 at 3613 metres above sea level as a centre for studying cosmic radiation and its applications in nuclear physics.

"The status of EPS Historic Site being awarded to 69 Hoża Street is a major distinction and honor for the entire community of physicists who have links to the location. We hope that the award will encourage future generations of physicists educated at our faculty, and that they will go on to continue writing the history of physics to the same high standards attained so far," stresses Prof. Teresa Rząca-Urban, Dean of the Department of Physics at the University of Warsaw.

The building at 69 Hoża Street was first opened on 30 January 1921, largely thanks to the efforts of Prof. Stefan Pieńkowski. The site was home to the Laboratory of Experimental Physics, which after the war became the Institute of Experimental Physics - during the first half of the 20th century regarded as one of Europe's finest research institutions. Since the war, the Institute of Theoretical Physics has also been located at 69 Hoża Street.

The site has played a remarkable role in the development of physics. During the 1930s, it was the location of one of the most important centers of research in fluorescence, a type of photon emission by atoms. The Jablonski diagram, first devised at Hoża, is still widely used by physicists studying processes of radiation. It was also here that Marian Danysz and Jerzy Pniewski discovered hypernuclei in 1952. This was an achievement with a fundamental significance for the development of nuclear and elementary particle physics: for the first time, researchers observed atomic nuclei in which at least one proton or neutron (particles comprising a combination of three up- and down-type quarks) was replaced by a slightly heavier hyperon (containing a strange quark). The building has also been an important site of research in optics, nuclear physics, elementary particle physics, semiconductor physics, geophysics, astrophysics, biophysics, and medical physics.

In 1936, 69 Hoża Street hosted the First International Congress for Luminescence; in 1938, it hosted the New Theories in Physics conference with the participation of scientists including Niels Bohr, Arthur Eddington, George Gamow, Oskar Klein, Paul Langevin, John von Neumann and Eugene Wigner.

The EPS Historic Site plaque commemorates the work and achievements of researchers who worked at 69 Hoża Street over the decades, including Professors Czesław Białobrzeski (the first scientist to note the significance of radiation pressure on stellar equilibrium), Marian Danysz (co-discoverer of hypernuclei), Leopold Infeld (theoretician working on the general theory of relativity, electrodynamics and field theory, and a collaborator of Albert Einstein's), Aleksander Jabłoński (creator of the Jablonski diagram outlining the levels and quantum transitions of molecules), Stefan Pieńkowski (founder of the Warsaw school of experimental physics), Jerzy Pniewski (co-discoverer of hypernuclei), Wojciech Rubinowicz (expert on diffraction theory), Andrzej Sołtan (creator of Poland's first cyclotron, whose completion was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War), and Leonard Sosnowski (founder of the Warsaw school of semiconductor physics).

Following the official part of the unveiling ceremony, Prof. Andrzej Kajetan Wróblewski delivered a lecture on the role of 69 Hoża Street in the history of physics, while Prof. Cifarelli discussed the past, present and future of the LHC particle accelerator.

69 Hoża Street will not be Poland's only site granted the EPS Historic Site status. In October this year, the distinction will also be officially awarded to Kamień Pomorski, a town in Northern Poland where in 1745 the German physicist Ewald Georg von Kleist constructed the Leyden jar, the first capacitor, independently of Pieter van Musschenbroek.

Physics and astronomy have been taught at the University of Warsaw since 1816, originally within the framework of the Faculty of Philosophy of the time. The Astronomical Observatory was founded in 1825. Currently the Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw consists of: the Institute of Experimental Physics, the Institute of Theoretical Physics, the Institute of Geophysics, the Department of Mathematical Methods in Physics and the Astronomical Observatory. The Institute conducts research in nearly every field of contemporary physics, through a quantum scale to a cosmological scale. The staff consists of over 200 academics, including 76 professors. The Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw has more than 1000 students and about 140 PhD students.

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