The Department of Physics began in 1951 as a teaching unit, having as its main objective to provide all services related to physics, theory and laboratory courses for all the academic programs at the Universidad de Los Andes that required them; such as majors in engineering, science (biology) and architecture. Since the beginning of activities of the Universidad de Los Andes in 1949 and 1950, this physics teaching service was part of the Department of Mathematics and Physics. In 1951, this department was organized into two departments, having Professor Dr. John Horvath as Head of Mathematics until 1957, and Professor Dr. Henry Yerly as Head of Physics from 1951 to 1960. Since then, leading the Department of Physics, as department heads were Professors Dieter Wild (1960 to 1962), Alberto Cortes (1963 to 1965) and John Herkrath (1965 to 1973). Service teaching has been the main activity of the Department over the years and it is distinguished by its excellence.
In the 1970´s, the enlisting of active research professors, such as Dr. Alfonso Rueda, first Ph.D. arriving to the department, allows for the self-development of the academic unit. Having brilliant students of engineering and mathematics and starting with the Physics seminar and then with the option in Physics since 1976, the department rapidly evolves into an undergraduate program in physics. The Physics major starts in 1978, with Professor Steven Moore leading the academic program. It conducts research in theoretical physics, stochastic electrodynamics (Professors Alfonso Rueda and Steven Moore), elementary particles physics (Professors Antonio Rodriguez Vargas, Galileo VIolini and Franz Jürgen Weinert) in special relativity (Professor Jose Vargas) and astronomy (Professor Wolfgang Gieren).
In the 1980's, research groups are organized with the arrival of new doctoral Professors: Condensed Matter Physics (Professors Angela Camacho, Jorge Galán, Hans Nowak and Luis Quiroga). High Energy Physics (Professors Bernardo Gómez, Juan Pablo Negret, José M. Rolando Roldán and Patrick Mooney), Biophysics (Professor Ramón Fayad), Astronomy (Professor Benjamín Oostra). As far as teaching, exceptionally outstanding Professors are Aldona Gabriunas and Rafael Bautista. During this decade, the Undergraduate Physics program establishes itself as an outstanding program of excellence in Colombia, so that a good number of its graduates are successfully enrolled in doctoral programs in prestigious universities abroad. Many of them return in the 1990´s, after finishing their PhD and postdoctoral studies, to be part of the department. Ferney Rodriguez (condensed matter, since 1994), Carlos Avila (high energy, since 1998), Juan Carlos Sanabria (high energy and nuclear physics, since 1999), Alonso Botero (quantum mechanics and information physics, since 2000).
The development of research in the Department leads to creation of the graduate programs in Physics towards the end of the 1990´s and the 2000 decade: The MSc in Physics in 1997 and the PhD in Physics from 1998. Thus, the Department of Physics begins a period of rapid development. Since then, young Professors with doctoral and postdoctoral experience have joined the department. These Professors are active researchers in the following areas: Condensed matter, high energy and nuclear physics, biophysics, theoretical physics, quantum mechanics and information physics, astronomy and quantum optics.
Graduate programs involve greater demands on infrastructure, resources and physical facilities for offices and laboratories. Progress in the last 10 years is remarkable: Our own astronomical observatory since 1999, renovated teaching laboratories in Building B, an office building in Block H shared with Mathematics, and more recently, since 2010, a complete building with offices and meeting rooms in Block IP, and of vital importance for the development of experimental physics, research facilities in Block Q including laboratories for each research area.