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Physics Department History: Remembering Matter and Energy

The overlooked contributions of the Physics Department and its faculty shaped the City College of New York from past to present. This scientific research that interacts with our environment are founded on the discoveries from our faculty and students for challenging matter and energy.

Historical Notes

Physics was part of the free Academy of New York curriculum, later known as City College, from the first class in 1849. Laboratory work in 1883 that was composed of physics and chemistry increased in popularity creating new forms of lectures and learning curriculums. Physics learning curriculums taught by Professor Robert Ogden Doremus and Professor Alfred Compton laid the foundations for the college school of Engineering. New facilities and departments were created by 1911 that included classes that revolved around mechanics heat light sound electricity and magnetism. The expansion of classes on new topics formed a research club in 1921 sponsored by one series of four lectures by Albert Einstein. By 1958 courses in the Physics Department were open as an elective to non-physics majors.  

In 1968 the department received a large multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation for departmental development. As part of this multi-year grant, new faculty were recruited, and improvements were made to the science building. In 1980 the science building was named in honor of Robert E. Marshak, a theoretical physicist who served as college president from 1970 to 1979. 

 CCNY Libraries News and Events: Dr. Albert Einstein's Visit to City CollegeThumbnailAlbert Einstein (far left), faculty, and students in Lewisohn Stadium pose for a panoramic photograph, April 21 ,1921



The Study of Physics within the Liberal Arts - Hillsdale College

ThumbnailTime Capsule display at the Marshak Building

ThumbnailStudents of the Physics Department

This project was created by Thaddea Delancey as part of the Rockefeller Archives Center - CCNY Internship Program, using sources available in the CCNY Archives.