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American Association of Physics Teachers

Program, Organizational Structure, Membership, History and Development

The fundamental objectives of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) are the advancement of the teaching of physics and the furtherance of the role of physics in our culture. The association serves as the spokesperson for physics teachers at all levels of education and welcomes to membership all physicists who are interested in education.


The AAPT is one of the founding-member societies of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) and elects five members to the AIP government board. The AAPT also works closely with the American Physical Society (APS). There is close cooperation among the three organizations in educational programs. Some projects, such as the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) and the National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics, are conducted jointly by the AAPT, the AIP, and the APS.

The AAPT publishes two journals, The Physics Teacher, published nine times per year, and the monthly American Journal of Physics. The AAPT also publishes the quarterly Announcer, which addresses association news and issues. In addition, the AAPT maintains the "Physical Sciences Resource Center," a website that provides resources and materials useful for teaching physics and astronomy in elementary, middle, and high schools.

The AAPT also gives several awards. The annual Oersted Medal, which recognizes notable contributions to the teaching of physics, is the association's most prestigious award. The annual Millikan Medal is awarded to a man or woman who has made creative contributions to the teaching of physics; the recipient of this medal gives the Robert A. Millikan Lectures at the AAPT's summer meeting. At the winter meeting another lecture, the Richtmeyer Memorial Lecture, is given by a selected member of the physics community. Other AAPT awards include the Klopsteg Memorial Lecture, the Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Teaching Award, the Excellence in Pre-College Physics Teaching Award, and the AAPT Distinguished Service Citation. The citation is given to four to six people each year. Past AAPT award winners have included Carl Sagan, Shirley Anne Jackson, Murray Gell-Mann, Enrico Fermi, and Richard P. Feynman.

The AAPT also awards numerous grants, endowments, and scholarships, and sponsors various workshops, conferences, task forces, competitions, and contests related to the study of physics.

Organizational Structure

The AAPT is made up of forty-six sections representing parts of the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Each section elects its own president and board of officers. The national association is governed by a president and a president-elect, who serve one-year terms, and a secretary and a treasurer, who serve two-year terms.


The AAPT offers the following categories of individual membership: regular, junior (students), emeritus, and honorary. Members of AAPT include physics teachers in universities, colleges, and high schools; graduate and undergraduate students enrolled full-time in accredited degree-granting programs; and scientists in industrial and government laboratories. Industrial organizations interested in improving the teaching of physics join the association as sustaining members.

History and Development

The AAPT was organized in December 1930 by a vigorous and influential group of physicists. In 1958 the association was incorporated under the laws of the state of New York, and in 1959 it was granted tax-free status. Starting with forty-two members in 1930, the organization has now grown to a membership of thousands.


FRENCH, A. P., and GREENSLADE, THOMAS B., eds. 1995. Physics History from AAPT Journals II. College Park, MD: American Association of Physics Teachers.

NEWELL-PHILLIPS, MELBA, ed. 1985. Physics History from AAPT Journals. College Park, MD: American Association of Physics Teachers.




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Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineEducation Encyclopedia: AACSB International - Program to Septima Poinsette Clark (1898–1987)