The Physics Department

The present Physics Department building dates from the late 1930s. A law passed in 1933 gave Pavia University a grant (increased five years later) to construct some Institute buildings. Construction work began in 1934 and was quite soon completed, giving three buildings to house Hygiene and Physiology, Chemistry and Physics and Mineralogy.

The A. Volta Department of General Physics and the Department of Nuclear and Theoretical Physics were founded in 1982, following the university reform law No.382 of 1980. Then the Department of Nuclear and Theoretical Physics came from combining the Institute of Theoretical Physics (1957-1982) with the Institute of Nuclear Physics (1963-1982). The A. Volta Department of General Physics was born as the Institute of General Physics, which was in turn a transformation of the Institute of Experimental Physics and which also absorbed the Institute of Higher Physics which existed in the 1950s and ‘60s.

In the A. Volta Department of Physics there is still a small archive occupying 10 metal bookshelves and a total of about 11 linear metres.

Two of these shelves contain miscellaneous papers, the archives of Luigi Giulotto (director of the Institute of Higher Physics from 1951 to 1960, the Institute of Experimental Physics from 1960 to 1963 and the Institute of General Physics from 1963 to 1981). The rest of the papers are kept in some fourscore archive containers (76 boxes and 12 folders), each labelled according to the Institute or organisation (e.g. financial) to which the documents refer. Chronologically the papers show a certain regularity in the various Institutes’ activity from the 1950s but there are also older documents, from the ‘30s and ‘40s, and a few registers of copies of bills before that (kept in a separate box).

The majority of the documents are somehow connected with companies outside the University financing research projects. Many deal with scholarships, appointments and various types of payment, which, over the years, enabled personnel, from the University and outside, to be paid for their work on particular projects. There are estimates, accounts and reports on projects.

The papers about financing from the USAF (United States Air Force) provided at the end of the Second World War for Research and Reconstruction, and ARAR (in the ambit of the Marshall Plan), are particularly interesting . The papers include illustrative documents: European Office Air Research and Development Command United States Air Force – help for European and Middle East scientists working on research and development in fields of interest to the United States Air Force.

Other documents concern the normal financial running of the University. There is also a series of papers about personnel (minutes of competitive interviews, communications to the winners), and one about students (marks, averages, thesis subjects).

Some file-boxes contain papers concerning outside bodies connected with the University only by their research, such as C.E.R.N. (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) or G.N.S.M. (National Group on the Structure of Materials), or which had programmes common to the various Institutes or Departments, like L.E.N.A. (Laboratory for Nuclear Energy Application : a nuclear reactor inaugurated 16th December 1966 and run jointly by the Physics and Chemistry Departments and financed by various outside bodies – the C.N.R. and the Ministry of Defence).

Other documents are with the Department Secretariat. Apart from current archive material there are inventories relating to the old Institutes (the oldest was drawn up by Giuseppe Belli starting in 1845) and a few degree theses, including L. Giulotto’s, dating from the 1930s to the 1950s.

In the A. Volta Interdepartmental Physics Library there are over 2000 other theses, which students leave with the Library along with a statement permitting consultability. These are all on the library file cards and may be viewed on the University’s OPAC (for ease of research, document types may be inserted). They cover the academic years 1945/46 to the present (with a few gaps). All may be consulted but not borrowed or photocopied.

The Department of Nuclear and Theoretical Physics archives take up about 21 linear metres. The material is more recent, nothing before the 1960s, apart from the inventory of the Theoretical Physics Institute (dated 1948-1982). There is a section on personnel (strikes, holidays, missions, overtime, competitions, election of representatives), one on accounts (bills, orders, correspondence with suppliers, loading bills, shipments), another on teaching and research activities. There are also some papers about outside bodies like the S.I.F. (Italian Physical Society), C.I.L.E.A. (the Lombardy Inter-university Consortium for Data Computerisation) and C.E.R.N.