Lithuanian Physical Society
The Lietuvos Fizikų Draugija
(member of EPS and IUPAP)
Although contemporary Lithuania is a small country on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea with 3.5 million inhabitants, with Vilnius as capital city, it has a rich history. Indeed, in 2009 the country will celebrate a millennium of the first known mention of its name recorded in written sources. In 1579 the University was founded in Vilnius, which became the oldest functioning university in Eastern Europe. Physics was always taught there as a part of the natural sciences. In 1773 the Rector of the University presented to the king a draft of the foundation of the Academy of Sciences, however the initiative did not become a reality at that time.
The recent roots of the Lithuanian Physical Society (LPS) stem from the Scientific Society of Lithuanians (SSL) founded in 1907. At that time Lithuania was still incorporated into the Russian empire. The SSL was active until the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union in 1940, which lasted for 50 years. The scientific research functions of the SSL were taken over by the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences (LAS), established in 1940. But the LAS had to perform within the Soviet model and avoid any signs of the national (“-istic”) aims.
Since 1954 the so-called Meetings of the Physicists of the Republic have been usually organized every second year. Gradually they have become the National Physics Conferences. However, officially the word “National” was not used, since in our understanding it meant “Lithuanian” not “Soviet”. The Meetings were dedicated to the presentation and analysis of physics research and teaching, history of physics in Lithuania, the coordination of research, methodological aspects of teaching physics in secondary and higher schools, the popularization of physics, as well as to the development of physics terminology in the Lithuanian language.
During the 5th National Physics Conference in 1962 the idea of the founding of the Lithuanian Physical Society (LPS) was seriously discussed. Officially the Society was founded in the following year, and it is older than the European Physical Society (EPS) that was founded in 1968. It is interesting to note at that time LPS was the only Physical Society established in the USSR, a country that formally consisted of fifteen (the so-called) “independent” Republics. Indeed, there was no Physical Society of the USSR. Therefore the official creation of a legal National Scientific Society, which had its own registered Statute established in a separate Republic, was a unique event with not only scientific, but also certain political significance.
One of the main and urgent activities of the LPS in the seventies was preparation, in collaboration with linguists, of a comprehensive Lithuanian – Russian – English – German dictionary of physical terms. This dictionary was published in 1979, and its now expanded version is available as a web application. Since teaching in secondary schools and at the universities is in Lithuanian, it was important to have Lithuanian analogues of the new international words of science and technology.
In 1961, with the efforts of physicists, the national physics journal “Lietuvos Fizikos Rinkinys” (“Lithuanian Physics Collection”) was founded. Prior to this, research papers in physics were scattered in various journals, since they were published in the “Proceedings” of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences or in the publications of Vilnius University, for example. Therefore, it was progress to have a collection of physics papers combined in a single national journal. The papers were published in Russian with the summaries in Lithuanian and a “foreign” (usually English) language. It was a quarterly journal until 1968, when it began to be published six times per year.
Since 1974 the journal was simultaneously translated into English and published by Allerton Press Inc. in the USA, however, under a strange (for us Lithuanians) title “Soviet Physics – Collection”; after the historical changes in 1989, it became the “Lithuanian Physics Journal”.
From the very beginning the LPS has been responsible for the publication of this journal, its quality and international recognition. Since 2000 the journal is published only in English with summaries in Lithuanian. Hence the Allerton Press terminated the publication of its translated version, and its present title is “Lithuanian Journal of Physics” (http://www.itpa.lt/~lfd/Lfz/LFZ.html).
In order to reflect the physicist’s everyday life and convey information about the activities of the LPS, EPS, world physics discoveries, physics terminology, anniversaries, since 1990 the LPS publishes in Lithuanian twice a year “Fizikų inios” (“Physicists News”, http://www.itpa.lt/~lfd/fiziku zinios/FizikuZinios.html). The LPS also encourages the publication of physics literature, both pedagogical and popular, and even “humorous” physics. The Board of the LPS may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The LPS rigorously promotes international cooperation. In particular of great importance is the integration of the relatively small number of physicists in Lithuania (the Society membership is approaching 300, including retired physicists and physics students) into the European Research Area using the fact that the country is a member of the European Union.
In 1972 the LPS established a physics school “Photon” where it is possible to study by correspondence. In 1973 it became a popular school across the country, and now about 900 students are admitted to the first course every year. Three times a year (in the fourth year of study, twice a year) its students receive a number of physical problems that they have to solve. The students send the solved problems to the "Photon" Council, which corrects them and sends them back together with a booklet of the correct solutions. The most successful students are invited to participate in summer camps, where they attend lectures delivered by famous professors, and participate in discussions with them. After graduating from this four-year school they receive certificates with the recommendation to study physical sciences (see http://www.fotonas.su.lt/photon.phtml). A number of graduates of this school are now well-known scientists.
The LPS also contributes to the organization of the National Physics Olympiads (the 54th in 2007) and prepares schoolchildren for the competition of the International Physics Olympiads (IPO). The LPS participates in the special school of additional training for gifted students, “Physics Olympus”, founded in 1995 (http://www.olimpas.lt/). Its students quite often get medals and awards at the IPO. In 1995 separate Association of Physics Teachers was founded (http://www.lfma.ivi.lt).
Every year on the first Saturday of April, the students and alumni of the Faculty of Physics of Vilnius University, who often are the members of LPS, organize a festival - the “Day of Physicists” (known in Lithuanian as FiDi, pronounced “Phee-Dee”). Its symbol is a mobile Dinosaur traveling to the Faculty of Philology to scare and devour female philology students, and its slogan is: “The dinosaurs have become extinct, but physicists have survived!” (http://www.fidi.lt).
In summary, the main challenges for the LPS are: to contribute to the development of research in physics in Lithuania and to encourage the international cooperation; to organize the National Physics Conferences and to promote the organization of international physics conferences in Lithuania; to monitor the quality of teaching physics, the studies of the history of physics in Lithuania, and the development of Lithuanian physics terminology; to popularize the achievements of physics, particularly among the students of schools; to encourage interdisciplinary research, contacts with industry, and to attract girls to study physics.
The LPS is ready to participate in the solution of these problems. And last but not least – special attention is directed to the cooperation agreements with a number of Physics Societies in other countries, the American Physical Society included.
Zenonas Rokus Rudzikas
President of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
Past President of the LPS
3 Gedimino Ave