150 years of Science, Agriculture and Engineering (SAgE)

A short timeline of Physics at Newcastle University

1871 the Durham College of Physical Science was founded in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Alexander Stewart Herschel begins to work here as the first Professor of Physics and Experimental Philosophy, later elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).

1904 renamed Armstrong College in honour of local industrialist and philanthropist Lord William Armstrong. Armstrong was an eminent scientist, engineer and inventor. In particular, he led the way with new developments in hydraulics, and his home at Cragside was the first in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity.

1937 Armstrong College and the College of Medicine merge to form King’s College.

1952 Teaching of Statistics as a separate discipline starts

1962 Herschel Building and Annex, now the home of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics is built. It is named after astronomer Alexander Stewart Herschel, who was known for his work relating to meteors and comets. Alexander Herschel was also interested in Hamilton’s Icosian game and described solutions for the regular tetrahedron and icosahedron in place of the normal dodecahedron. The Herschel graph is named after him in honour of his pioneering work and describes the smallest convex polyhedron that can be used in place of the dodecahedron to give a game that has no solution.

1962 Spiral Nebula sculpture by sculptor Geoffrey Clarke commissioned, installed in 1963 in front of the Herschel Building, now Grade II listed

Spiral Nebulae sculpture by Geoffrey Clarke in front of the Herschel Building (photo: Cora Uhlemann)

1963 King’s College (having grown way larger than all the Durham division) becomes independent of the University of Durham and becomes the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

1968 Grubb-Parsons Telescope Mirror put in Herschel Foyer

1980 Cosmology Group founded by Paul Davies who is appointed Professor of Theoretical Physics, his contributions include describing how black holes radiate energy and the ripples in the otherwise homogeneous Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation.

2002 School of Mathematics becomes School of Mathematics and Statistics

2007 Mathematics & Statistics moves into the Herschel Building

2015 Relaunch of Physics Undergraduate Teaching Programs using the new facilities in the Herschel Annex.

2017 School of Mathematics, Statistics & Physics forms

Public Lectures on Cosmology

October 2022: Is there any science in science fiction films? by Professor Douglas Scott

April 2022: The state of our Universe by Professor Ed Copeland

October 2020: Everything from nothing: how our universe was made by Professor Carlos Frenk

November 2011: Why is the universe bio-friendly? (Robinson Prize Lecture in Cosmology) by Professor Paul Davies

Robinson Prize & Lectures in Cosmology

Awarded biennially, the prize was established in 1990 through the generosity of Philip Robinson, a Newcastle native and antiquarian book dealer, who had a particular interest in cosmology and in making cosmology accessible to broader audiences. Robinson, the Tyneside, England-born bookseller, gained an international reputation during his lifetime as a bibliographical scholar. The main Newcastle University library was named in his honour in 1989. The recipient gives a public lecture and seminars to students.

Previous Winners

2011-12 Paul Davies, Lecture: Why is the universe bio-friendly?

2008-09 John Mather (Nobel Prize 2006), Lecture: From the Big Bang to the Nobel Prize and on to James Webb Space Telescope

2005-06 Andrei Linde (Gruber Prize 2004), Lecture: The Origin and the Fate of the Universe

2002-03 Kip Thorne (Nobel Prize 2017 with Rainer Weiss & Barry Barish), Lecture: Probing the Universe

1998-99 Alan Guth (Gruber Prize 2004), Lecture: Inflationary Cosmology

1996-98 George P. Efstathiou (Gruber Prize 2011), Lecture: The Fate of the Universe

1994-95 Rashid A. Sunyaev (Gruber Prize 2003), Lecture: Observing Black Holes

1992-93 Jim Peebles (Nobel Prize 2019), Lecture: The Expanding Universe and Wiggles from the Big Bang

1990-91 Martin Rees (Gruber Prize 2001), Lecture: Cosmic Evolution and the Fate of the Universe: Progress and Prospects in Cosmology

Newcastle University Honorary Graduates

2015 Bruce Babbit (served as US senator, did geophysics at Newcastle)

1995 Martin Rees

1994 Arnold Wolfendale

1987 Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking receiving his honorary degree from Newcastle University in 1987

1976 Fred Hoyle

1965 Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

1965 Hannes Alfvén

Notable Newcastle University Graduates

1906 Mary Kingdown Heslop graduates in physics and geology from Armstrong College, she went on to become the first female lecturer in geography at Leeds University and one of the first women Fellows of the Geological Society of London.

1910 Sir Harold Jeffreys (FRS) graduates with distinction from Armstrong College, he went on to publish “A Theory of Probability”, introduced Bayes’ factor and played a prominent role in reviving Bayesian statistics. A plaque in the Herschel Building is dedicated to him.

2002 Lisa Harvey-Smith obtains a Master of Physics degree with honours, majoring in astronomy and astrophysics, now she is Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador and a Professor of Practice in Science Communication at the University of New South Wales

Notable Physicists with ties to Newcastle

Peter Higgs (1929 in Newcastle), Theoretical Physicist, Nobel Laureate, Emeritus at University of Edinburgh

Peter Coles (1963 in Newcastle), Theoretical Cosmologist, Professor at Maynooth University

Oliver Heaviside (1850 – 1925, in Newcastle between 1868-1874), mathematician and physicist, invented technique for solving differential equations (equivalent to the Laplace transform), independently developed vector calculus and rewrote Maxwell’s equations in the form commonly used today

Previous Group Members

Reunion of Newcastle Cosmology alumni for Stephen Hawking’s 70th Birthday Symposium in Cambridge
From left to right: David Wiltshire, David Toms, Mark Hindmarsh, Paul Davies and Ian Moss

Previous Faculty Members

Prof C.W. Paul Davies
(1980-1990 Professor, founded the group, now Professor at Arizona State University).
He is famous for the Bunch-Davies Vacuum which he is demonstrating for a lay audience on the right.

Prof David Toms
(1984-1989 Lecturer,
1989-2012 Reader,
from 2012 Professor,
now Emeritus)

Previous PostDocs & Fellows

Dr Gary (I-Kang) Liu (Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow 2020-2022)

Florent Michel (2016-2019, with Durham)

Jonathan Pearson (2011-2014, with Durham)

James Gray (2001-2003, Research Fellow, now Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech)

James Grant (1995-1997)

Olga Buryak (1994-1995)

Bruce Jensen (1994-1996)

Patrick Brady (1993-1995, now Professor at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee)

Salvatore Mignemi (1991-1993, now Professor at University of Cagliari)

Janaki Balakrishnan (1991-1992, now Professor at National Institute of Advanced Studies in India)

Alan McLachlan (1990-1991)

John McLaughlin (1989-1990)

David Wiltshire (1989-1990, now Professor at University of Canterbury New Zealand)

Mark Hindmarsh (1989-1991, now Professor at Sussex)

John Barrett (1985-1989, now Professor at Nottingham)

Varun Sahni (1986-1988, now Emeritus Professor at Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, India)

Richard Rowher (1987-1988)

Colin Campbell (1987-1988)

Ian Moss (1982-1984 postdoc, 1984-1995 Lecturer, 1995-2002 Reader, since 2002 Professor)

Previous postgraduate students

Ashley Wilkins (PhD 2022, Stochastic Processes in Mesoscale Physics and the Early Universe)

Marios Bounakis (PhD 2021, Cosmological implications of field space geometry)

Mario Gutierrez Abed (MPhil 2020, Bubble Nucleation & Scalar Fields in Numerical Relativity)

Katie Marshal (PhD 2020, Higgs vacuum decay and implications for the Standard Model)

Tim Yeomans (2008-2012, PhD)

Paul Mackay (PhD 2012, Low energy quantum gravity)

Christopher Graham (2006-2009, PhD, Testing Models of Cosmological Inflation, now Director of E-learning)

Cheng-Ji Chang (1999-2003, PhD)

Sam James (2004-2008, PhD, Effective Actions in Brane Scenarios, part of Palace of Science)

Nasr Ahmad (2004-2008, PhD, Brane-worlds and low energy heterotic M-theory)

Chun Xiong (2004-2007, PhD, Warm inflation, dissipation and fluctuations)

James P. Norman (2001-2005, PhD, Applications of low energy superstring theory)

Lisa Hall (2001-2004, PhD, Dissipative Models of Inflation)

Alan Knapman (2000-2003, PhD, Classical and Quantum Fields in Brane Worlds)

Max Giammatteo (2000-2003, PhD, Quasinormal modes of black holes)

Julian McKenzie-Smith (PhD, 2003, Zeta-function methods in curved spacetimes)

Wenceslao Santiago-German (1999-2003, PhD, Space-time structure and hidden dimensions)

Jose de Noronha (PhD, 2002, Statistical mechanics of ideal quantum gases: finite size effects, now Associate Professor at Universidade Lusíada in Portugal

Nino Flachi (1999-2002, PhD, Quantum field theory on brane backgrounds, now Associate Professor at Keio University)

Wade Naylor (1997-2001, PhD, Quantum effects in the early universe)

Noriko Shiiki (PhD 2000, Solitons and black holes)

John Smith (PhD 1999, Scalar fields in quantum field theory and black holes)

Guy Standen (PhD 1998, The charged base gas)

Sergio Goncalves (PhD 1997, now at Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo in Brazil)

Vasilios Zarikas (PhD 1996, Aspects of early universe phase transitions)

Chris Chambers (PhD 1996, Classical aspects of black hole physics)

Gill Neto (PhD 1995, Quantum mechanics of pseudo-spherical universes and Euclidean black holes)

Gary Huish (PhD 1994, Renormalization of interacting quantum field theory in three dimensional curved space)

Andrew Wray (PhD 1993, Topological defects and black holes)

Mark Burgess (PhD 1990, Gauge vacua on multiply connected spacetimes)

Felicity Mellor (PhD 1990, Black holes and quantum cosmology, now Senior Lecturer for Science Communication at Imperial College London)

Steve Poletti (PhD 1989, Geometry, quantum field theory and quantum cosmology)

Ian Russel (PhD 1989, Calculations in quantum field theory)

Hugh Luckock (PhD 1988, Strings, p-branes and Skyrmions in curved space)

Steve Huggins (PhD 1987, Quantum field theory calculations in four- and five-dimensional gravity)

Paul Ellicott (PhD 1987, Geometrical aspects of quantum field theory)

Steve Lonsdale (PhD 1987, Some cosmological aspects of unified theories)

Andy Wright (1982 – 1986, PhD, Quantum Aspects of Inflationary Cosmologies)

Edmund Copeland (1982-1986, PhD, Quantum Aspects of Kaluza-Klein cosmologies)
now Professor at Nottingham)

Ed Copeland exploring the string landscape

W.R. Walker (PhD 1985, Particle and energy creation in curved space quantum field theory)

Kerry Hinton (PhD 1984, Particle detectors in curved space quantum field theory, now  Principle Research Fellow at the Centre for Energy Efficient Telecommunications at the University of Melbourne)

Previous meetings

UK Cosmology Meeting @ Newcastle University, May 16-17, 2022

UK Cosmology Meeting @ Newcastle University, March 14, 2006