Mission & History

An institute run by scientists for scientists

ICTP's mission is to:

  • Foster the growth of advanced studies and research in physical and mathematical sciences, especially in support of excellence in developing countries.
  • Develop high-level scientific programmes keeping in mind the needs of developing countries, and provide an international forum of scientific contact for scientists from all countries.
  • Conduct research at the highest international standards and maintain a conducive environment of scientific inquiry for the entire ICTP community.

Thanks to the generous funding from the Italian Government, UNESCO and the IAEA, ICTP has been able to initiate and implement various schemes of support and assistance to scientists from developing countries.

History

For more than 50 years, ICTP has been ensuring that scientists from the developing world have access to the same resources and opportunities enjoyed by their counterparts in wealthier parts of the world.

Created during the Cold War era in the heart of Europe, a continent separated by the iron curtain, ICTP provided a rare line of communication between scientists from the East and West. Later, ICTP emerged as a focal point of cooperation between the North and South, aiming to help scientists from developing countries overcome their isolation and contribute to state-of-the-art research in physics and mathematics. While details have changed with time, the basic relevance of the Center has remained unchanged.

The importance of ICTP's UN partner, the IAEA, in its creation cannot be overstated. It was in 1960 at the IAEA's Fourth General Conference that a 34-year-old physicist from Pakistan, future Nobel laureate Abdus Salam, suggested the founding of an international theoretical physics institute. In June of that year, the Department of Physics at the University of Trieste organized a seminar on elementary particle physics in the Castelletto in the Miramare Park, also attended by Abdus Salam. The notion of creating an institute of theoretical physics open to scientists from around the world was discussed at that meeting as well.

That proposal became a reality in 1963 when the General Conference of the IAEA signed an agreement with the Italian Government to establish ICTP in Trieste. The following year, the Centre opened its doors, with Abdus Salam as the Centre's director, and Paolo Budinich, a physics professor at the University of Trieste who worked tirelessly to bring the Centre to Trieste, as ICTP's deputy director.

Related links:

Books about the history of ICTP

Photo gallery: Historical photos of ICTP