A physicist is a scientist who has specialized knowledge in the field
of physics, which encompasses the interactions of matter and energy at
all length and time scales in the physical universe.  Physicists
generally are interested in the root or ultimate causes of phenomena,
and usually frame their understanding in mathematical terms.
Physicists work across a wide range of research fields, spanning all
length scales: from sub-atomic and particle physics, to molecular
length scales of chemical and biological interest, to cosmological
length scales encompassing the
Universe as a whole. The field
generally includes two types of physicists: experimental physicists
who specialize in the observation of physical phenomena and the
analysis of experiments, and theoretical physicists who specialize in
mathematical modeling of physical systems to rationalize, explain and
predict natural phenomena. Physicists can apply their knowledge
towards solving practical problems or developing new technologies
(also known as applied physics or engineering physics).
3 Honors and awards
5 Professional Certification
5.1 United Kingdom
5.3 South Africa
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
Main article: History of physics
In an 18th-century experiment in "natural philosophy" (later to be
called "physics") English scientist
Francis Hauksbee works with an
early electrostatic generator.
The study and practice of physics is based on an intellectual ladder
of discoveries and insights from ancient times to the present. Many
mathematical and physical ideas used today found their earliest
expression in ancient Greek culture (for example by Euclid, Thales of
Archimedes and Aristarchus), Asian culture, as well as the
Islamic medieval period (for example the work of Alhazen in the 11th
century). The modern scientific worldview and the bulk of physics
education can be said to flow from the scientific revolution in
Europe, starting with the work of
Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler
in the early 1600s.
Newton's laws of motion
Newton's laws of motion and Newton's law of
universal gravitation were formulated in the 17th century, Maxwell's
equations of electromagnetism in the 19th century, and quantum
mechanics in the early-to-mid 20th century. New knowledge in the early
21st century includes a large increase in understanding physical
The broad and general study of nature, natural philosophy, was divided
into several fields in the 19th century, when the concept of "science"
received its modern shape. Specific categories emerged, such as
"biology" and "biologist", "physics" and "physicist", "chemistry" and
"chemist", among other technical fields and titles. The term
physicist was coined by
William Whewell (also the originator of the
term "scientist") in his 1840 book The Philosophy of the Inductive
Students observing a demonstration at a laser physics institute
A standard undergraduate physics curriculum consists of classical
mechanics, electricity and magnetism, non-relativistic quantum
mechanics, optics, and statistical mechanics and
Physics students also need training in
mathematics (calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, complex
analysis, etc.), and in computer science and programming.
Any physics-oriented career position requires at least an
undergraduate degree in physics or applied physics, while career
options widen with a
Master's degree like MSc, MPhil, MPhys or
For research-oriented careers, students work toward a doctoral degree
specializing in a particular field. Fields of specialization include
experimental and theoretical astrophysics, atomic physics, molecular
physics, biophysics, chemical physics, medical physics, condensed
matter physics, cosmology, geophysics, gravitational physics, material
science, microelectronics, nuclear physics, optics, radiophysics,
electromagnetic field and microwave, particle physics, and plasma
Honors and awards
The highest honor awarded to physicists is the Nobel Prize in Physics,
awarded since 1901 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
National physics professional societies have many prizes and awards
for professional recognition. In the case of the American Physical
Society, as of 2017, there are 33 separate prizes and 38 separate
awards in the field.
The three major employers of career physicists are academic
institutions, laboratories, and private industries, with the largest
employer being the last. Physicists in academia or government labs
tend to have titles such as Assistants, Professors, Sr./Jr. Scientist,
or postdocs. As per the American Institute of Physics, some 20% of new
physics Ph.D.s holds jobs in engineering development programs, while
14% turn to computer software and about 11% are in
business/education. A majority of physicists employed apply their
skills and training to interdisciplinary sectors (e.g.
finance). Job titles for graduate physicists include
Agricultural Scientist, Air Traffic Controller, Biophysicist, Computer
Programmer, Electrical Engineer, Environmental Analyst, Geophysicist,
Medical Physicist, Meteorologist, Oceanographer, Physics
Teacher/Professor/Researcher, Physiognomist, Research Scientist,
Reactor Physicist, Engineering Physicist, Satellite Missions Analyst,
Science Writer, Stratigrapher, Software Engineer, Systems Engineer,
Microelectronics Engineer, Radar Developer, Technical Consultant,
Physics programs typically deal with meta-theories and its laws
regarding applied science, hence most undergraduate physicists take up
additional careers where their knowledge of physics can be combined
with further training in other disciplines, such as computer science,
information technology, patent laws, engineering diplomas, animation,
teaching, etc. for industry or self-employment. A
typical undergraduate physics program covers essential basic
competence required in areas of physics endeavor like astrophysics,
laboratory knowledge, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics,
optics, modern physics, calculus, etc. and also in computer science
and programming. Hence a majority of
Physics bachelor's degree
holders are employed in the private sector. Other fields are academia,
government and military service, nonprofit entities, labs and
Typical duties of physicists with master's and doctoral degrees
working in their domain involves research, observation and analysis,
data preparation, instrumentation, design and development of
industrial or medical equipment, computing and software development,
Chartered Physicist (CPhys) is a chartered status and a professional
qualification awarded by the Institute of Physics. It is denoted by
the postnominals "CPhys".
Achieving chartered status in any profession denotes to the wider
community a high level of specialised subject knowledge and
professional competence. According to the Institute of Physics,
holders of the award of the
Chartered Physicist (CPhys) demonstrate
the "highest standards of professionalism, up-to-date expertise,
quality and safety" along with "the capacity to undertake independent
practice and exercise leadership" as well as "commitment to keep pace
with advancing knowledge and with the increasing expectations and
requirements for which any profession must take responsibility"
Chartered Physicist is considered to be equal in status to Chartered
Engineer, which the IoP also awards as a member of the Engineering
Council UK, and other chartered statuses in the UK. It is also
considered a "regulated profession" under the European professional
Canadian Association of Physicists can appoint an official
designation called the P. Phys. which stands for Professional
Physicist, similar to the designation of P. Eng. which stands for
Professional Engineer. This designation was unveiled at the CAP
congress in 1999 and already more than 200 people carry this
To get the certification, at minimum proof of honours bachelor or
higher degree in physics or a closely related discipline must be
provided. Also, the physicist must have completed, or be about to
complete, three years of recent physics-related work experience after
graduation. And, unless exempted, a professional practice examination
must also be passed. Exemption can be granted to candidate that have
practiced physics for at least seven years and provide a detailed
description of their professional accomplishments which clearly
demonstrate that the exam is not necessary.
Work experience will be considered physics-related if it uses physics
directly or significantly utilizes the modes of thought (such as the
approach to problem-solving) developed in your education and/or
experience as a physicist, in all cases regardless of whether the
experience is in academia, industry, government, or elsewhere.
Management of physics related work qualifies, and so does appropriate
graduate student work.
The South African Institute of
Physics delivers a certification of
Professional Physicists (Pr.Phys). At a minimum, the owner must
possess a 3-year bachelors or equivalent degree in
Physics or a
related field and an additional minimum of six years experience in a
physics-related activity; or an Honor or equivalent degree in Physics
or a related field and an additional minimum of five years experience
in a physics-related activity; or master or equivalent degree in
Physics or a related field and an additional minimum of three years
experience in a physics-related activity; a Doctorate or equivalent
Physics or a related field; or training or experience which,
in the opinion of the Council, is equivalent to any of the above.
Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft
Physics (UK & Ireland)
Canadian Association of Physicists
List of physicists
Nobel Prize in physics
Strategic Defense Initiative
List of Russian physicists
American Physical Society
^ a b Rosen, Joe (2009). Encyclopedia of Physics. Infobase Publishing.
^ MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY - Simple Definition of physicist: a
scientist who studies or is a specialist in physics
^ "Industrial Physicists: Primarily specializing in Physics" (PDF).
American Institute for Physics. October 2016.
^ "Industrial Physicists: Primarily specializing in Engineering"
(PDF). American Institute for Physics. October 2016.
^ "Industrial Physicists: Primarily specializing outside of STEM
sectors" (PDF). American Institute for Physics. October 2016.
^ Cahan, David, ed. (2003). From Natural Philosophy to the Sciences:
Writing the History of Nineteenth-Century Science. Chicago: University
of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226089282.
^ Donald S. L. Cardwell, James Joule: A Biography, Manchester
University Press - 1989, page 18
^ Wachter, Armin; Hoeber, Henning (2006). Compendium of Theoretical
Physics. New York, NY: Springer. ISBN 0-387-25799-3.
^ Krey, Uwe; Owen, Anthony (2007). Basic Theoretical Physics : A
concise overview (1st ed.). Berlin: Springer.
^ Kompaneyets, A. S. (2012).
Theoretical physics (2nd ed.). Mineola,
New York: Dover. ISBN 0486609723.
^ "Physicist". nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk. National Careers
Service, United Kingdom. 7 October 2016.
^ "The Nobel Prize in Physics". Nobelprize.org.
^ AIP Statistical Research Center. "Industrially Employed Physicists:
Primarily in Non-STEM Fields" (PDF). Retrieved August 21, 2006.
^ "Physicists and the Financial Markets". Financial Times. 18 October
^ American Institute for
Physics (AIP) Statistical Research Center
Physics Doctorates Initial Employment published March 2016.
^ "What can I do with a degree in Physics?" (PDF). Augusta University.
2016. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
Physicist Career Opportunities". Illinois Institute of Technology.
2016. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
Physics Education, Applied to Engineering". National Academy of
Engineering (NAE). 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
Physicist careers". Simon Fraser University, Canada.
2016. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
^ "Physics,what next?" (PDF). University College Cork, Ireland. 2018.
Retrieved January 7, 2018.
^ "Initial Employment Sectors of
Physics Bachelor's, Classes of 2011
& 2012 Combined". American Institute of Physics. Retrieved
September 13, 2016.
^ "2111 Physicists and astronomers". National Occupational
Classification - Canada. 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
Whitten, Barbara L.; Foster, Suzanne R.; Duncombe, Margaret L. (2003).
"What works for women in physics?".
Physics Today. 56 (9): 46.
Bibcode:2003PhT....56i..46W. doi:10.1063/1.1620834 . Archived from
the original on 2013-02-23.
Kirby, Kate; Czujko, Roman; Mulvey, Patrick (2001). "The
Market: From Bear to Bull in a Decade".
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Bibcode:2001PhT....54d..36K. doi:10.1063/1.1372112 . Archived from
the original on 2012-07-16.
Hermanowicz, Joseph C. (1998). The Stars Are Not Enough:
Scientists--Their Passions and Professions. University of Chicago
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Hermanowicz, Joseph C. (2009). Lives in Science: How Institutions
Affect Academic Careers. University of Chicago Press.
Look up physicist in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
How to become a GOOD Theoretical Physicist, Utrecht University
Physicists and Astronomers; US Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physicists and Astronomers
Careers through Engineering Physics
Laureates of the Nobel Prize in Physics
1902 Lorentz / Zeeman
1903 Becquerel / P. Curie / M. Curie
1906 J. J. Thomson
1909 Marconi / Braun
1910 Van der Waals
1913 Kamerlingh Onnes
1915 W. L. Bragg / W. H. Bragg
1922 N. Bohr
1924 M. Siegbahn
1925 Franck / Hertz
1927 Compton / C. Wilson
1928 O. Richardson
1929 De Broglie
1933 Schrödinger / Dirac
1936 Hess / C. D. Anderson
1937 Davisson / G. P. Thomson
1951 Cockcroft / Walton
1952 Bloch / Purcell
1954 Born / Bothe
1955 Lamb / Kusch
1956 Shockley / Bardeen / Brattain
1957 C. N. Yang / T. D. Lee
1958 Cherenkov / Frank / Tamm
1959 Segrè / Chamberlain
1961 Hofstadter / Mössbauer
1963 Wigner / Goeppert-Mayer / Jensen
1964 Townes / Basov / Prokhorov
1965 Tomonaga / Schwinger / Feynman
1970 Alfvén / Néel
1972 Bardeen / Cooper / Schrieffer
1973 Esaki / Giaever / Josephson
1974 Ryle / Hewish
1975 A. Bohr / Mottelson / Rainwater
1976 Richter / Ting
1977 P. W. Anderson / Mott / Van Vleck
1978 Kapitsa / Penzias / R. Wilson
1979 Glashow / Salam / Weinberg
1980 Cronin / Fitch
1981 Bloembergen / Schawlow / K. Siegbahn
1982 K. Wilson
1983 Chandrasekhar / Fowler
1984 Rubbia / Van der Meer
1985 von Klitzing
1986 Ruska / Binnig / Rohrer
1987 Bednorz / Müller
1988 Lederman / Schwartz / Steinberger
1989 Ramsey / Dehmelt / Paul
1990 Friedman / Kendall / R. Taylor
1991 de Gennes
1993 Hulse / J. Taylor
1994 Brockhouse / Shull
1995 Perl / Reines
1996 D. Lee / Osheroff / R. Richardson
1997 Chu / Cohen-Tannoudji / Phillips
1998 Laughlin / Störmer / Tsui
1999 't Hooft / Veltman
2000 Alferov / Kroemer / Kilby
2001 Cornell / Ketterle / Wieman
2002 Davis / Koshiba / Giacconi
2003 Abrikosov / Ginzburg / Leggett
2004 Gross / Politzer / Wilczek
2005 Glauber / Hall / Hänsch
2006 Mather / Smoot
2007 Fert / Grünberg
2008 Nambu / Kobayashi / Maskawa
2009 Kao / Boyle / Smith
2010 Geim / Novoselov
2011 Perlmutter / Riess / Schmidt
2012 Wineland / Haroche
2013 Englert / Higgs
2014 Akasaki / Amano / Nakamura
2015 Kajita / McDonald
2016 Thouless / Haldane / Kosterlitz
2017 Weiss / Barish / Thorne
Branches of physics
Quantum field theory
Physics in life science
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