Our Story

Our Story


“My motto has always been honouring excellence, and the ISS has honoured that beautifully.” ~ Harry Messel



The first ISS was held in 1958. The initial program was developed for high school teachers, but after four years the ISS shifted its focus to science education for senior high school students, in order to encourage talented young people to pursue further studies and careers in science.

The ISS has always welcomed and encouraged international students to attend. One student from New Zealand came to the first science program, and many more have since attended from Britain, Canada, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and the USA.

Since 2005 at least five scholarships have been offered to Indigenous students as part of the Indigenous Scholars Program, designed to encourage participation in science. For the first time in its history, eight Indigenous scholars participated in the 2011 ISS program.

Between 1960 and 1979 the ISS lectures were shown on television, with audiences of up to 100,000 people. Many will recall waking up early on Sundays to make sure they didn’t miss the telecast.

Our Story

In 2003 part of the lecture series was broadcast on the Internet as a trial run, and in 2007 the entire series was made available as both video webcast and audio podcast. This continues today. The books of recent ISS lecture series are also available online, to encourage a truly international science readership.

Over the past 50 years the ISS has welcomed more than 4,000 students, inspiring and changing the lives of many science scholars.

To ensure that this unique program can continue, the Physics Foundation is building the Messel Endowment, a fund to secure the future of the ISS in perpetuity.