Fostering curiosity-driven research in physics and chemistry
The mission of the Solvay Institutes is to support and develop curiosity-driven research in physics, chemistry and allied fields for the purpose of "enlarging and deepening the understanding of natural phenomena."
The International Solvay Institute for Physics was founded by Ernest Solvay in 1912, just after the legendary 1911 Council Solvay on “Radiation and the Quanta,” chaired by Nobel Laureate Hendrik Lorentz. The International Solvay Institute for Chemistry was founded a year later in 1913. The two Institutes merged in 1963 and, in 1970, became known as the "International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry, founded by Ernest Solvay."
The central activity of the Institutes is the periodic organization of the celebrated Solvay Conferences ("Conseils Solvay") on Physics and Chemistry in support of fundamental science. In addition to hosting open workshops on specifically selected topics, the Institutes are known for their sponsorship of international chairs, colloquia and an international doctoral school.
The Solvay Conferences are probably the most famous conferences in the history of physics and chemistry, playing a major role in the development of science when it initiated the first meeting between Einstein and Poincaré about the theory of quantum mechanics. An astonishing number of Nobel Laureates have been associated with the Solvay Conferences.
The Solvay Institutes have also been successful in popularizing science through the organization of the annual "Solvay public lectures,” which are devoted to today’s greatest scientific challenges.
The key to the success of the "Conseils Solvay''
The International Scientific Committees have carte blanche in defining the general theme of the Solvay Conferences ("Conseils Solvay'') and selecting the chairperson. The conference chair sets up the program as well as the invitations.
“What is our ambition? To help kindle the flame of curiosity that feeds on such fascinating subjects as dark matter, quantum gravity, cosmology, new findings coming from CERN, high-temperature superconductivity, turbulence, the structure of water, the chemical origins of life... To continue to provide the most challenging and creative meetings for the brightest minds focused on the most pertinent questions of our time.”
Jean-Marie Solvay, President of the Institutes