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History of the Department

Department of Physics and Astronomy

A Department of Physics was established at York University in 1964, initially at Glendon College and subsequently at the Keele campus in 1965, as one of the three major participants with Biology and Chemistry in the Interdisciplinary Science (IS) Program. Students were first admitted to master’s and doctoral degree Programs in Physics at York in 1968.

In 1981, following growth in the range of undergraduate majors and the eventual closure of the IS Program, a subsection of the Department was severed to form what has become the Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering (ESSE) in the Lassonde School of Engineering. In the late 1980s, the Department decided to expand its presence in astronomy and astrophysics. The resulting growth in astronomical research activity led in 1991 to the introduction of official Streams of study in astronomy in both the undergraduate and graduate Programs. Soon after, to enhance the University's image in astronomy, the names of the Department and the Graduate Program were changed to Physics and Astronomy. In 2007, prompted both by growing appreciation of the relevance of physics to the life sciences and by decanal demands for growth in enrolments, the Department introduced its Undergraduate Program in Biophysics.

Professor Emeritus William (Bill) Frisken has written a memoir entitled WRF - My Life in Physics, which you can download by clicking that link. From the introduction: Educated as an Engineering Physicist, I spent most of my life inventing and building massive detectors for high energy particle physics experiments at international laboratories. This required dividing my time between working at those labs, building and testing detectors back at or near the university and of course teaching physics, helping my dear wife raise a family, occasionally sleeping. Some years we even managed to squeeze a family vacation into this rigorous schedule. I write this long story (after twenty-five years in retirement) as encouragement, or perhaps as a warning, to the young.

Below are listed the Chairs of the Department since its inception.

Chairs of the Department

2020-Patrick Hall
2015-2020Marshall McCall
2014-2015Roman Koniuk
2009-2014Marshall McCall
2008-2009Roman Koniuk
2005-2008Marshall McCall
2004-2005Scott Menary
2002-2004Robert Prince
2001-2002Marko Horbatsch
2000-2001Roman Koniuk
1998-2000Marko Horbatsch
1997-1998Robert McEachran
1994-1997Allan Stauffer
1989-1994Robert Prince
1979-1989W. James Megaw
1969-1979Robert Hobson
1965-1969Ralph Nicholls