APS News

UN Declares 2005 the International Year of Physics

World Year of Physics logoNext year will be not only the World Year of Physics, but the International Year of Physics as well, by declaration of the General Assembly of the United Nations on June 10.

By convention the UNGA is the only body entitled to name an International Year. 2005 had previously been declared the World Year of Physics by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) in 2002 and by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2003. The action by the General Assembly is the final step in achieving international status for the WYP.

The resolution was co-sponsored by Lesotho, Monaco, France, the UK, Brazil, Portugal, St. Kits and Nevis and Croatia, and was passed by acclamation. The effort was spearheaded by the representatives of Lesotho and Monaco, both of whom are physicists. "It feels good that we have achieved what we had set out to do," said the permanent representative of Lesotho to the UN, Lebohang K. Moleko, after the resolution passed.

Efforts to obtain US co-sponsorship ran afoul of general State Department policy. Last summer, in a letter to Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, Kim R. Holmes, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs stated that "we have established a general practice of not encouraging the UNGA…to designate and celebrate the anniversary of historical events… . We seek to have them focus their limited time and resources on the priority issues currently before them." The World Year of Physics celebrates the centennial of Einstein's "miraculous year" of 1905.

Martial Ducloy, past president of the European Physical Society and Chair of the International Steering Committee for the World Year of Physics, said "We are all very happy that finally the WYP draft resolution has been put on the UN agenda, and then approved by acclamation. It gives us a lot more confidence for all the events which have been planned worldwide."

Ducloy also addressed the issue of whether the logo of the World Year of Physics should be officially changed. He noted that the logo has been in use worldwide for two years now, and therefore should remain substantially the same. He suggested that a suitable inscription be added underneath the logo to reflect the UN's action. One possibility would be "endorsed by the UN as the International Year of Physics".

The text of the UN resolution follows:

The General Assembly of United Nations,

  • Recognizing that physics provides a significant basis for the development of the understanding of nature,
  • Noting that physics and its applications are the basis of many of today's technological advances,
  • Convinced that education in physics provides men and women with the tools to build the scientific infrastructure essential for development,
  • Being aware that the year 2005 is the centenary of seminal scientific discoveries by Albert Einstein which are the basis of modern physics,
  • 1. Welcomes the proclamation of 2005 as the International Year of Physics by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization;
  • 2. Invites the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to organize activities celebrating 2005 as the International Year of Physics, collaborating with physics societies and groups throughout the world, including in the developing countries;
  • 3. Declares the year 2005 the International Year of Physics.