APS News

DCMP and DMP Celebrate 50 Years

The APS Division of Condensed Matter Physics (DCMP) and the Division of Material Physics (DMP) celebrated their 50th anniversary at the 1997 March APS meeting in Kansas City, Missouri. Almost 50 past and present officers of these divisions, as well as special APS guests, participated in a dinner and reminiscent discussions Sunday evening prior to the beginning of the scientific sessions.

Originally called the Division of Solid State Physics (DSSP), the unit was formed in 1947, the third society division. (The Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics was established in 1943, and the Division of High Polymer Physics was formed in 1944.) In 1978 the DSSP was renamed the Division of Condensed Matter Physics to recognize that disciplines covered in the division included liquids (quantum fluids) as well as solids. Today the DCMP is the largest of all APS divisions.

In 1984, the Topical Group on Materials Physics was formed from a subset of DCMP scientists. This topical group grew to become the Division of Materials Physics (DMP) in 1990. The DMP, which is just seven years old, is the fifth largest division today.

The chairpersons of the two divisions, David Lang (DCMP) and Slade Cargill III (DMP), were the official hosts of the celebration. The evening began with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres followed by a dinner at the Kansas City Marriott downtown hotel. A highlight of the after dinner discussions was a conference call with two of the original founders of the DSSP, members of the so-called "group of six": Sidney Siegel and Fred Seitz. These individuals spent over half an hour telling about the early days of solid state physics and the formation of the division.

Although solid state physics was a recognized scientific topic in the 1940's, the society was dominated by research on nuclear physics. Dramatic breakthroughs in solid state physics were only beginning to happen.(The transistor was discovered the same year as the DSSP was formed.) The group of six convinced the APS that a division which specifically focused on solid state physics would highlight the importance of this emerging discipline and better serve the needs of this still small, but growing, community. They never suspected that condensed matter would grow to become almost half of all physics activity.

Neil Ashcroft, DCMP chairperson for the 1987 March APS meeting in New York City, spoke of the events leading to the "Woodstock of Physics" meeting, following the discovery of high temperature superconductivity. This meeting clearly fell outside the normal guidelines, with events unfolding long after the final organization and session planning meeting which took place the previous Fall. Other discussions related some of the conflicts between groups of scientists which led to the formation of the DMP in the 1980s. Fortunately, these conflicts are historical events which are not present today and both the DCMP and the DMP are now working amicably together to promote science in their largely overlapping areas of interest.

The 50 celebration was reported on by Donald Gubser, Sectretary-Treasurer of DCMP.

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin