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A physicist is a
scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century. It involves ...

scientist
who specializes in the field of
physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other words, to the regular succession of eve ...

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 A phenomenon (; plural phenomena) is an observable fact or event. The term came into its modern philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge ...
, and usually frame their understanding in mathematical terms. Physicists work across a wide range of research fields, spanning all length scales: from
sub-atomic
sub-atomic
and
particle physics Particle physics (also known as high energy physics) is a branch of that studies the nature of the particles that constitute and . Although the word ' can refer to various types of very small objects (e.g. , gas particles, or even household d ...
, through
biological physics uses protein dynamics#Global flexibility: multiple domains, protein domain dynamics on Nanoscopic scale, nanoscales to walk along a microtubule. Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that applies approaches and methods traditionally used in p ...
, to
cosmological Cosmology (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
length scales encompassing the
universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxy, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and energy. The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological description of the development ...

universe
as a whole. The field generally includes two types of physicists:
experimental physicists An experiment is a procedure carried out to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method ...
who specialize in the observation of natural phenomena and the analysis of experiments, and
theoretical physicists The following is a partial list of notable theoretical physicists. Arranged by century of birth, then century of death, then year of birth. For explanation of symbols, see Notes at end of this article. Ancient times * Thales (c. 624 – c. 546 BCE) ...
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 to developing new technologies (also known as
applied physics Applied physics is the application of physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, its Motion (p ...
or
engineering physics Engineering physics, or engineering science, refers to the study of the combined disciplines of physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and b ...
).


History

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 the work of ancient civilizations, such as the Babylonian astronomers and Egyptian engineers, the Greek philosophers of science and mathematicians such as
Thales of Miletus Thales of Miletus ( ; el, Θαλῆς Thales of Miletus ( ; el, Θαλῆς (ὁ Μιλήσιος), ''Thalēs''; ) was a Greek mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (fr ...

Thales of Miletus
,
Euclid Euclid (; grc-gre, Wikt:Εὐκλείδης, Εὐκλείδης ; 300 BC), sometimes called Euclid of Alexandria to distinguish him from Euclid of Megara, was a Greek mathematics, Greek mathematician, often referred to as the "founder of ge ...

Euclid
in
Ptolemaic Egypt The Ptolemaic Kingdom (; grc-koi, Πτολεμαϊκὴ βασιλεία, Ptolemaïkḕ basileía) was an Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divi ...
,
Archimedes of Syracuse Archimedes of Syracuse (; grc, ; ; ) was a Greeks, Greek Greek mathematics, mathematician, physics, physicist, engineering, engineer, inventor, and astronomy, astronomer. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of th ...
and
Aristarchus of Samos Aristarchus of Samos (; grc-gre, Ἀρίσταρχος ὁ Σάμιος, ''Aristarkhos ho Samios''; ) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient ...

Aristarchus of Samos
. Roots also emerged in ancient Asian cultures such as India and China, and particularly the Islamic medieval period, which saw the development of
scientific methodology Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...
emphasising
experimentation File:Mirror baby.jpg, 160px, Even very young children perform rudimentary experiments to learn about the world and how things work. An experiment is a procedure carried out to support or refute a hypothesis, or determine the efficacy or likeliho ...
, such as the work of
Ibn al-Haytham Ḥasan Ibn al-Haytham (Latinization of names, Latinized as Alhazen ; full name ; ) was a Muslim Arab Mathematics in medieval Islam, mathematician, Astronomy in the medieval Islamic world, astronomer, and Physics in the medieval Islamic world, ...

Ibn al-Haytham
(Alhazen) in the 11th century. The modern scientific worldview and the bulk of physics education can be said to flow from the
scientific revolution The Scientific Revolution was a series of events that marked the emergence of modern science during the early modern period, when developments in History of mathematics#Mathematics during the Scientific Revolution, mathematics, History of phys ...

scientific revolution
in Europe, starting with the work of
Galileo Galilei Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (; 15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the ...

Galileo Galilei
and
Johannes Kepler Johannes Kepler (; ; 27 December 1571 – 15 November 1630) was a German astronomer An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth. They observe as ...

Johannes Kepler
in the early 1600s.
Newton's laws of motion Newton's laws of motion are three law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its ...
and
Newton's law of universal gravitation Newton's law of universal gravitation is usually stated as that every particle In the Outline of physical science, physical sciences, a particle (or corpuscule in older texts) is a small wikt:local, localized physical body, object to which can ...
were formulated in the 17th century. The experimental discoveries of
Faraday Michael Faraday (; 22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was an English scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, d ...

Faraday
and the theory of
Maxwell's equations Maxwell's equations are a set of coupled partial differential equation In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), s ...
of electromagnetism were developmental high points during the 19th century. Many physicists contributed to the development of
quantum mechanics Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory A theory is a reason, rational type of abstraction, abstract thinking about a phenomenon, or the results of such thinking. The process of contemplative and rational thinking is often associated with ...
in the early-to-mid 20th century. New knowledge in the early 21st century includes a large increase in understanding
physical cosmology Physical cosmology is a branch of cosmology Cosmology (from Ancient Greek, Greek κόσμος, ''kosmos'' "world" and -λογία, ''-logia'' "study of") is a branch of astronomy concerned with the study of the chronology of the universe. P ...
. The broad and general study of nature,
natural philosophy Natural philosophy or philosophy of nature (from ''philosophia naturalis'') was the study of and the physical that was dominant before the development of . From the ancient world, at least since , to the 19th century, ''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 William Whewell ( ; 24 May 17946 March 1866) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval Eng ...

William Whewell
(also the originator of the term "scientist") in his 1840 book ''The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences''.


Education

A standard undergraduate physics curriculum consists of classical mechanics,
electricity and magnetism Electromagnetism is a branch of physics involving the study of the electromagnetic force, a type of physical interaction that occurs between electric charge, electrically charged particles. The electromagnetic force is carried by electromagneti ...

electricity and magnetism
, non-relativistic
quantum mechanics Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory A theory is a reason, rational type of abstraction, abstract thinking about a phenomenon, or the results of such thinking. The process of contemplative and rational thinking is often associated with ...
,
optics Optics is the branch of physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other wo ...

optics
, statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, and laboratory experience. Physics students also need training in mathematics (
calculus Calculus, originally called infinitesimal calculus or "the calculus of infinitesimals", is the mathematics, mathematical study of continuous change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape and algebra is the study of generalizations ...

calculus
,
differential equation In mathematics, a differential equation is an functional equation, equation that relates one or more function (mathematics), functions and their derivatives. In applications, the functions generally represent physical quantities, the derivatives ...

differential equation
s,
linear algebra Linear algebra is the branch of mathematics concerning linear equations such as: :a_1x_1+\cdots +a_nx_n=b, linear maps such as: :(x_1, \ldots, x_n) \mapsto a_1x_1+\cdots +a_nx_n, and their representations in vector spaces and through matrix (mat ...
,
complex analysis Complex analysis, traditionally known as the theory of functions of a complex variable, is the branch of mathematical analysis Analysis is the branch of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such ...
, etc.), and in
computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techniques for their application. Computer science is the study of , , and . Computer science ...
. 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 A master's degree (from Latin ) is an academic degree awarded by University, universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of Profession, professio ...
like MSc, MPhil, MPhys or MSci. For research-oriented careers, students work toward a
doctoral degree The cover of the thesis presented by Claude Bernard to obtain his Doctor of Medicine">Claude_Bernard.html" ;"title="thesis presented by Claude Bernard">thesis presented by Claude Bernard to obtain his Doctor of Medicine degree (1843) A doctorat ...
specializing in a particular field. Fields of specialization include experimental and theoretical
astrophysics Astrophysics is a science that employs the methods and principles of physics in the study of astronomical objects and phenomena. Among the subjects studied are the Sun, other stars, galaxy, galaxies, extrasolar planets, the interstellar medium and ...
, atomic physics,
biological physics uses protein dynamics#Global flexibility: multiple domains, protein domain dynamics on Nanoscopic scale, nanoscales to walk along a microtubule. Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that applies approaches and methods traditionally used in p ...
,
chemical physics Chemical physics is a subdiscipline of chemistry and physics that investigates physicochemical phenomena using techniques from atomic, molecular, and optical physics, atomic and molecular physics and condensed matter physics; it is the branch of ...
,
condensed matter physics Condensed matter physics is the field of that deals with the macroscopic and microscopic physical properties of , especially the and which arise from forces between s. More generally, the subject deals with "condensed" phases of matter: syst ...
,
cosmology Cosmology (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approx ...
,
geophysics Geophysics () is a subject of concerned with the physical processes and of the and its surrounding space environment, and the use of quantitative methods for their analysis. The term ''geophysics'' sometimes refers only to solid earth applic ...

geophysics
,
gravitational physics Gravity (), or gravitation, is a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass or energy—including planets, stars, galaxy, galaxies, and even light—are brought toward (or ''gravitate'' toward) one another. On Earth, gravity gives we ...

gravitational physics
,
material science The Interdisciplinarity, interdisciplinary field of materials science, also commonly termed materials science and engineering, covers the design and discovery of new materials, particularly solids. The intellectual origins of materials science ste ...
,
medical physics#REDIRECT Medical physics Medical physics (also called biomedical physics, medical biophysics, applied physics in medicine, physics applications in medical science, radiological physics or hospital radio-physics) is, in general, the application of p ...
,
microelectronics Microelectronics is a subfield of electronics Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. It uses active devices to control electro ...
,
molecular physics Molecular physics is the study of the physical properties of molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scanning tunneling microscopy image of pentacene molecules, which consist of linear chains of five carbon rings. A molecule is an elec ...
,
nuclear physics Nuclear physics is the field of physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related ent ...
,
optics Optics is the branch of physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other wo ...

optics
,
radiophysicsRadiophysics (also modern writing "radio physics") is a branch of physics focused on the theoretical and experimental study of certain kinds of radiation upThe international symbol for types and levels of ionizing radiation (radioactivity) tha ...
,
electromagnetic field An electromagnetic field (also EM field or EMF) is a classical (i.e. non-quantum) field Field may refer to: Expanses of open ground * Field (agriculture), an area of land used for agricultural purposes * Airfield, an aerodrome that lacks the in ...
and
microwave Microwave is a form of electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies mat ...

microwave
physics,
particle physics Particle physics (also known as high energy physics) is a branch of that studies the nature of the particles that constitute and . Although the word ' can refer to various types of very small objects (e.g. , gas particles, or even household d ...
, and
plasma physics Plasma () 1, where \nu_ is the electron gyrofrequency and \nu_ is the electron collision rate. It is often the case that the electrons are magnetized while the ions are not. Magnetized plasmas are ''anisotropic'', meaning that their properties ...
.


Careers

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,
Professor Professor (commonly abbreviated as Prof.) is an academic An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary education, secondary or tertiary education, tertiary higher education, highe ...

Professor
s, Sr./Jr. Scientist, or postdocs. As per the
American Institute of Physics The American Institute of Physics (AIP) promotes science and the profession of physics, publishes physics journals, and produces publications for scientific and engineering societies. The AIP is made up of various member societies. Its corporate ...
, 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 Finance is a term for the management, creation, and study of money In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to King George III are contrasted with the beggar whose legs and arms were amputated, in the left corn ...

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, Research Scientist, Reactor Physicist, Engineering Physicist, Satellite Missions Analyst, Science Writer, Stratigrapher, Software Engineer,
Systems Engineer Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary field of engineering Engineering is the use of scientific method, scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, vehicles, ...
, Microelectronics Engineer, Radar Developer, Technical Consultant, etc. The majority of Physics terminal bachelor's degree holders are employed in the private sector. Other fields are academia, government and military service, nonprofit entities, labs and teaching. Typical duties of physicists with master's and doctoral degrees working in their domain involve research, observation and analysis, data preparation, instrumentation, design and development of industrial or medical equipment,
computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development of both computer hardware , hardware and software. It has sci ...

computing
and software development, etc.


Honors and awards

The highest honor awarded to physicists is the
Nobel Prize in Physics The Nobel Prize in Physics is a yearly award given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for those who have made the most outstanding contributions for mankind in the field of physics. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will ...
, awarded since 1901 by the
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences ( Swedish: ''Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien'') is one of the royal academies of Sweden Sweden ( sv, Sverige ), officially the Kingdom of Sweden ( sv, links=no, Konungariket Sverige ), is a Nordic co ...
. National physical societies have many prizes and awards for professional recognition. In the case of the
American Physical Society The American Physical Society (APS) is a not-for-profit membership organization of professionals in physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , ...
, as of 2017, there are 33 separate prizes and 38 separate awards in the field.


Professional certification


United Kingdom

Chartered Physicist Chartered Physicist (CPhys) is a chartered status and a professional qualification Professional certification, trade certification, or professional designation, often called simply ''certification'' or ''qualification'', is a designation earned b ...
(CPhys) is a chartered status and a professional qualification awarded by the
Institute of Physics The Institute of Physics (IOP) is a UK-based learned society A learned society (; also known as a learned academy, scholarly society, or academic association) is an organization that exists to promote an discipline (academia), academic disci ...
. 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 qualification directives.


Canada

The
Canadian Association of Physicists Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP), or in French Association canadienne des physiciens et physiciennes (ACP) is a Canada, Canadian professional society that focuses on creating awareness among Canadians and Canadian legislators of physics issu ...
can appoint an official designation called the P. Phys. which stands fo
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 distinction. 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 uses the modes of thought (such as the approach to problem-solving) developed in your education 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.


South Africa

Th
South African Institute of Physics
delivers a certification o
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 degree in Physics or a related field; or training or experience which, in the opinion of the Council, is equivalent to any of the above.


Professional societies

Physicists may be a member of a physical society of a country or region. Physical societies commonly publish scientific journals, organize physics conferences and award prizes for contributions to the field of physics. Some examples of physical societies are the
American Physical Society The American Physical Society (APS) is a not-for-profit membership organization of professionals in physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , ...
, the
Institute of Physics The Institute of Physics (IOP) is a UK-based learned society A learned society (; also known as a learned academy, scholarly society, or academic association) is an organization that exists to promote an discipline (academia), academic disci ...
, with the oldest physical society being the
German Physical Society The German Physical Society (German: , DPG) is the oldest organisation of physicists. The DPG's worldwide membership is cited as 60,547, as of 2019, making it the largest physics society in the world. It holds an annual conference () and multiple s ...
.


See also

*
List of physicists Following is a list of physicist A physicist is a scientist A scientist is a person who conducts Scientific method, scientific research to advance knowledge in an Branches of science, area of interest. In classical antiquity, there was no re ...
*
Chartered Physicist Chartered Physicist (CPhys) is a chartered status and a professional qualification Professional certification, trade certification, or professional designation, often called simply ''certification'' or ''qualification'', is a designation earned b ...
*
Nobel Prize in physics The Nobel Prize in Physics is a yearly award given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for those who have made the most outstanding contributions for mankind in the field of physics. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will ...
*
Manhattan Project The Manhattan Project was a research and development Research and development (R&D, R+D), known in Europe as research and technological development (RTD), is the set of innovative activities undertaken by corporations or governments in ...
*
Strategic Defense Initiative The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), derisively nicknamed the "''Star Wars'' program", was a proposed missile defense Phased Array Ballistic Missile Early Warning System at RAF Fylingdales">Ballistic_Missile_Early_Warning_System.html" ; ...


References


Further reading

* * * *


External links


How to become a GOOD Theoretical Physicist
Utrecht University Utrecht University (UU; nl, Universiteit Utrecht, formerly ''Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht'') is a public university, public research university in Utrecht, Netherlands. Established , it is one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands. In 2018, ...

Utrecht University

Physicists and Astronomers
US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physicists and Astronomers
Physicist Careers

Careers through Engineering Physics
{{Authority control Science occupations