During the 1746–47 academic year, M.V. Lomonosov, a graduate of the University, gave the first course of physics in Russian. He used a textbook by C. Wolff, which he translated into Russian. Valuable contributions to this science were made by Professor H.F.E. Lenz, who held the Chair of Physics from 1835 to 1862. Lenz’s law of electromagnetic induction and the Joule–Lenz law of heating are now studied at the secondary school level.
In the second half of the XIXth century, one of the first physics laboratories for students in Europe was opened in the University by Professor F.F. Petrushevsky. He became the first director of the first Russian Institute of Physics established on September 9, 1901 at the St. Petersburg University. The institute occupied the first building in Russia constructed especially for physicists. Professor I.I. Borgman, the main enthusiast of the new Institute, became its second director. He was also among the first editors of the physics part of the “Journal of Russian Physical and Chemical Society” established at the St. Petersburg University in 1872. Since 1931, this journal has been being published in Moscow by the Russian Academy of Sciences; it is now well known under the title “The Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics” — JETP.
In 1914–15, the Institute was headed by Professor O.D. Khvolson, who’s textbooks, consisting of many volumes, was used by the whole generation of physics students. Since 1915, the Institute of Physics was headed by Professor (later — Academician) D.S. Rozhdestvensky who was well known due to his outstanding works in atomic spectroscopy, especially in experiments on anomaly dispersion. He made a great contribution to organize the high-class research work at the Department.
The Department of Physics was created in the Leningrad State University in 1933 after the division of the Department of Physics and Mathematics.In 1971–76 the Department of Physics was moved to the new campus in Peterhof (Petrodvorets) situated in 35 km on the southwest from St. Petersburg in a marvelous suburban area. In 1999, when world physical community celebrated centenary of the outstanding theoretician, Academician Vladimir Aleksandrovich Fock (1898–1974), the Institute of Physics got its official name: V.A. Fock Institute of Physics.
During a long period of time the Institute of Physics and the Department of Physics were separate structural units of the University, even though closely linked. They shared buildings, material and human resources and provided a superior highly integrated research and educational environment in physics. In 2007, the Institute of Physics was incorporated in the Department of Physics.
Nowadays, the Department of Physics includes six research institutes in its structure:
Institute of Theoretical and Mathematical Physics;
Institute of Nuclear Physics and Nuclear Methods of Research;
Institute of Physics of Solid State Materials and Nanostructures;
Institute of Molecular Biophysics and Physics of Polimers;
Institute of Optics and Spectroscopy;
Institute of Geosphere Modeling and Monitoring.
The names of such famous scientists as the Nobel Prize Winners N.N. Semenov (1956), L.D. Landau (1962), A.M. Prokhorov (1964), professors V.A. Fock, A.A. Friedmann, V.R. Bursian, P.I. Lukirsky, V.M. Chulanovsky,D.V. Skobeltsyn, Ya.I. Frenkel, E.F. Gross, S.E. Frish, A.N. Terenin, G.A. (George) Gamov, A.B. Migdal, V.N.Gribov, V.N. Tsvetkov, V.K. Fréedericksz, V.A. Ambartsumyan, K.Ya. Kondratyev, L.D. Faddeev, S.P. Merkuriev are connected with the Department of Physics.