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Tait Institute

The Tait Institute was founded by Nick Kemmer in 1955 in honour of Peter Guthrie Tait.

The identification of Mathematical Physics as a discipline distinct from physics and mathematics in Edinburgh began in 1922 when the Tait Chair of Natural Philosophy was established using the Tait Memorial Fund endowment. The chair was named after Peter Guthrie Tait, a close colleague of William Thomson and James Clerk Maxwell, and the intention was thus that it should be devoted to the teaching of mathematical physics.

Tait Institute provided an umbrella for both teaching and research in Mathematical Physics. On the teaching side members of the Tait Institute took responsibility for the undergraduate degrees in Mathematical Physics, which have acquired excellent reputation.
Research activity covered a broad range of areas in Mathematical/Theoretical and Computational Physics. It used to hold workshops and schools and host an annual lecture by distinguished mathematical physicists called the Schlapp Lecture. As of 2012, the Higgs Centre is fulfilling these roles.

Find out more about Peter Guthrie Tait

Peter Guthrie Tait
Peter Guthrie Tait
Max Born
Max Born
Nick Kemmer
Nick Kemmer
David Wallace - on left of Peter Higgs
David Wallace (left), Peter Higgs (right)

A Brief History of the Tait Institute


Max Born was appointed the second Tait Professor, after escaping from Nazi Germany. Born was one of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, and won the Nobel prize for the probabilistic interpretation. In Edinburgh he gave his address variously as the Department of Natural Philosophy, and the Department of Applied Mathematics, but by 1943 he had resolved to call it the Department of Mathematical Physics. Find out more about Max Born


Nick Kemmer became the third Tait Professor on Born's retirement and in 1955 moved his department to the Tait Institute of Mathematical Physics in Roxburgh Street. Find out more about Nick Kemmer


The title of the chair was changed to the Tait Chair of Mathematical Physics. Peter Higgs wrote his famous papers while a lecturer at the Tait Institute in the early 1960’s.


The Department of Mathematical Physics merged with the Department of Natural Philosophy to become the Department of Physics as part of the move to King’s Buildings.


David Wallace succeeded Nick Kemmer on his retirement. A shift of interest towards parallel computing led to the formation of EPCC in 1990. Find out more about David Wallace