Perimeter Institute began as a bold idea to strategically invest in one of the most foundational fields in all of science. The vision was radical, yet simple: build an environment to help foster the breakthroughs that will transform our future, while sharing the power of science with the world. Learn more about Perimeter’s history below.

Foundational theoretical physics is a cornerstone of modern quantitative science, on which so much else rests. The field advances our fundamental understanding of the universe, and its powerful ideas seed the technologies of tomorrow. Solar cells, computers, GPS, wireless technologies, and diagnostic imagery - they are all rooted in breakthroughs made by theoretical physicists.

1999 - The Beginning In 1999, with these bold ideas in mind, Mike Lazaridis, founder of Research In Motion and a leader in the smartphone revolution, hired Howard Burton, Founding Director, and formed a Board of Directors to take on the task of establishing a world-class institute devoted to theoretical physics. With their direction in the months that followed, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics grew from an idea into reality. A small team conducted international visits and interviews at like-minded centres around the world, establishing the research direction and frameworks that govern Perimeter's research operations today. These include:

  • Perimeter is independent, unaffiliated with any university or private company. This gives it the freedom to recruit strategically into key research fields, while giving researchers added academic freedoms to push the boundaries of our current understanding and advance breakthroughs.
  • Perimeter will strengthen physics research throughout Ontario and Canada, emphasizing collaboration and partnerships with the local and global academic community.
  • Perimeter has a flat hierarchy of a true community of scholars, meaning that new and breakthrough ideas are the main focus, encouraging the research community to judge on ability, rather than age, citations, or publicity.

To complement the research and training activities, Perimeter Institute also established an educational outreach team to share the wonder and excitement of science across Canada and beyond. Special programs were designed to engage students, teachers and the general public through a popular public lecture series, summer camps for students and teachers, in-class resource kits, and special events.

2000 - The Announcement

  • Perimeter Institute is officially and publically launched on October 23, 2000, with a $100 million personal commitment from Mike Lazaridis.
  • Jim Balsillie and Doug Fregin, Lazaridis' fellow RIM executives, donate an additional $10 million each.
  • A Scientific Advisory Committee of eight eminent international scientists is established.
  • The City of Waterloo donates a prime site in Uptown Waterloo for the eventual construction of Perimeter Institute's facility.

2001 - Research Operations Begin

  • Research Operations begin in October 2001 with a core scientific staff of nine internationally recognized scientists, which expanded to 24 over the next year.

2002 - A Public-Private Partnership is Forged

  • Perimeter Institute establishes itself as a public-private partnership, with the governments of Canada and Ontario offering strong support for the centre's activities.
  • In January 2002, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) awarded Perimeter Institute a $5.6 million infrastructure grant for its new facility, later matched by a corresponding $5.6 million from the Ontario Innovation Trust.
  • In June 2002, then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien came to Waterloo to announce the Government of Canada's contribution of $25 million over five years through NSERC to support Perimeter's unique research mandate.
  • Also in June 2002, the Government of Ontario pledged a further $15 million in direct support.

2004 - An Award-Winning Facility Opens Its Doors

  • In October 2004, Perimeter Institute opens the doors of its first custom-built facility, specifically designed to foster collaboration, contemplation, and new ideas.
  • Designed by Montreal-based Saucier + Perrotte, the 65,000-square-foot building houses Perimeter's growing research, training and outreach community.

2005 - Celebrating Science with EinsteinFest

  • Perimeter hosts "EinsteinFest", North America's largest public science celebration, during the International Year of Physics. Over 10 days, over 28,000 attendees pass through the building for a wide variety of presentations, screenings and exhibits.

2006 - Audit Time

  • The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) leads an independent assessment of Perimeter Institute's scientific research and educational outreach activity since inception.
  • The audit finds the Perimeter Institute has been a great success on a world-wide scientific scale, for Canadian science, and for education and outreach.

2007 - Shifting Leadership and Growth

  • In March 2007, the Government of Canada renews its support for Perimeter Institute, praising it as a leading centre of excellence fostered through a public-private partnership. Canada commits $50 million over five years for ongoing operations.
  • In May 2007, Faculty member and founding member Rob Myers provides scientific direction after Founding Director Howard Burton leaves Perimeter Institute to pursue other interests.
  • Also in May 2007, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, and other top government officials unveil the Government of Canada's new Science & Technology agenda from Perimeter Institute.

2008 - New Beginnings

  • In January 2008, the second version of PIRSA (Perimeter Institute Recorded Seminar Archive) is released. Most formal presentations at the Institute - from scientific seminars, conferences, and outreach events - are now recorded and posted online in this permanent, free, searchable, and citable archive.
  • In February 2008, Perimeter Explorations is launched, a new series of in-class, educational resources designed to help teachers guide students through a variety of topics in physics.
  • In May 2008, Dr. Neil Turok, a renowned cosmologist, is appointed as Perimeter Institute's Director. Turok leaves a post as Chair of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University.
  • In June 2008, alongside Perimeter's public partners, Mike Lazaridis announces an additional $50 million donation to support growing research, training and outreach operations.
  • In November 2008, Prof. Stephen Hawking joins Perimeter Institute as its first Distinguished Visiting Research Chair, a new position that sees leading international scientists establish a second "research home" at Perimeter. Nine more eminent researchers join in the year ahead.

2009 - Building on Success

  • Under the leadership of Director Neil Turok, Perimeter immediately begins launching and growing new initiatives, which include:
    • Expanding Perimeter's research focus
    • Engaging the international physics community through dynamic new partnerships and linkages
    • Growing its research community through recruitment of new Faculty, Associate Faculty, Postdoctoral Fellows, PhD students, and Distinguished Visiting Research Chairs
    • Scaling up outreach programs
    • Launching Perimeter Scholars International (PSI) - an innovative master's-level program that prepares leading students from around the world for a career in cutting edge research
    • Embarking on a new facility expansion in conjunction with public and private partners
  • Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin donate an additional $20 million each.
  • In October 2009, Perimeter Institute hosts the Quantum to Cosmos festival, the most ambitious onsite and online science outreach event ever held in Canada. It attracted over 40,000 attendees to Perimeter Institute, as well as over one million people online, for lectures, panel discussions, pub talks, cultural activities, a PI documentary premiere, a sci-fi film festival, and the hugely popular Physica Phantastica exhibit.
  • Also in October 2009, the Waterloo Global Science Initiative (WGSI) is formed, a new partnership between Perimeter Institute and the University of Waterloo to advance scientific and technological solutions of the future.
  • Also in October 2009, Perimeter Institute launches its global outreach efforts to serve as a stimulus for theoretical physics globally, and in the process, further enhance Canada's leadership in the promotion of science and innovation worldwide.

 2010 - Investing in Tomorrow

  • In June 2010, Perimeter Institute welcomes Distinguished Visiting Research Chair Stephen Hawking for a six-week research visit and televised lecture.
  • In July 2010, at Perimeter Institute and tied to Global Outreach activities, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, announces new federal funding of $20 million to help support the establishment of a new network of five African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) centres across Africa by 2015.
  • In November 2010, BMO Financial Group invests $4 million to establish the BMO Financial Group Isaac Newton Chair in Theoretical Physics at Perimeter Institute.

2011 - New Centre Opens

  • In March 2011, the Government of Ontario continues to renew its investment in Perimeter Institute's research, training, and outreach by providing $50 million over 10 years.
  • In June 2011, the Government of Canada also renews its support of Perimeter's public-private partnership model, promising $50 million over five years to support continued operations.
  • In July 2011, KPMG leads a third-party review of Perimeter's research, training, and outreach initiatives. The independent review found that “research conducted within PI's core fields are of great importance… some of the research is reaching groundbreaking, revolutionary, and transformative levels.”
  • In September 2011, doors open in the new Stephen Hawking Centre at Perimeter Institute, a new expansion to house Perimeter's growing research, training, and outreach activities. The new centre doubles the square footage of the existing facility, while making room for triple the researchers. The three-day grand opening celebrations welcomed over 10,000 people onsite plus wider online audiences for tours, lectures, the popular Physica Phantastica exhibit, and a taped panel discussion on the power of ideas.

"I am hoping, and expecting, great things will happen here."

Stephen Hawking