History of SMP

Leon Lederman brought the idea of Saturday morning physics to Fermilab, and a group of volunteers led by Drasko Jovanovic executed the idea.  The program was an immediate success.  With Drasko’s retirement in 1997, Erik Ramberg and Roger Dixon inherited the program. They continued to follow Drasko’s example of continuous improvement while keeping the fundamental ideal of the program intact.

The idea behind the entire SMP program is to hint at some of the details within physics, but to try to kindle a curiosity in the students that will be self-sustaining. This has been tricky for some of our lecturers as we scientists are fascinated by the details of their science, and we want to pass all of these fascinating details along. There is nothing wrong with this in principle, but the lecturer has to be certain that he is connecting with the students in the process.

In other words, the details must be fascinating to the students as well, and some rigor may have to be sacrificed in order to accomplish this.

Saturday Morning Physics continues into the 21st century the strong tradition set by Leon Lederman and Drasko Jovanovic.


Drasko Jovanovic, center, poses with high school students at our 25th anniversary SMP celebration in 2005.

Dixon’s extended essay on this topic is entitled “The evolution of Saturday Morning Physics.”

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Erik Ramberg, left, and Roger Dixon served as SMP co-chairs from 1990-2016

Leon Lederman, director of Fermilab from 1979-1989, invented the idea of teaching physics to high school students on a Saturday morning in about 1980.