The next Solvay Conference in Physics will be held on 19 - 21 October 2017
1932 Physics Nobel Laureate
What are the Solvay Conferences ?
The Solvay Conferences ("Conseils Solvay") are probably the most famous conferences in physics and chemistry. They are a key part of the history and development of science. They were responsible for initiating the first meeting between Einstein and Poincaré; they were highly instrumental in the understanding of the theory of quantum mechanics and later, of many other areas of modern physics and chemistry; and through the decades they have been associated with an astonishing number of Nobel Laureates.
In fact, the 1911 Solvay Conference in Physics was the first international conference in physics ever organized. It was held at the invitation of Ernest Solvay, who received scientific advice from W. Nernst and H. Lorentz.
The key to the success of the "Conseils Solvay" lies in their organization: an international scientific committee has « carte blanche » for defining the general theme of the conferences and selecting the chair person. The conference chair sets up the programme (i.e., decides specific subjects and sessions) as well as the invitations.
One characteristic feature of the Solvay Conferences is the emphasis on discussions over presentations. Typically, Solvay Conferences are divided into half-day sessions. Each session begins with one or two reports reviewing the state-of-the-art of the subject (and distributed to the participants before the start of the Conference), followed by vivid discussions steered by the chair of the session.
Participation to the "Conseils Solvay" is by invitation only. In addition to the guests selected by the chair of the conference, a number of Belgian scientists working in the field of the conference are invited to attend as auditors.
The Solvay Conferences go in principle through a three year cycle:
Year 1: the Solvay Conference in Physics;
Year 2: no conference;
Year 3: the Solvay Conference in Chemistry.
This cycle has been perturbed by many factors in the past. It has been decided to adhere to it more strictly in the future, with a prominent role played again by the scientific committees and the chairs of the conferences.
Each Solvay Conference leads to the publication of proceedings containing both the reports of the speakers and the ensuing discussions. The proceedings of the first Solvay Conferences are out of print. It is intended to re-edit these unique volumes. More historical information concerning the Conseils Solvay can be found in the article by Niels Bohr in the Proceedings of the 1961 Solvay Conference in Physics.