Following the legendary 1911 Conseil Solvay on "Radiation and the Quanta" chaired by Nobel Laureate Hendrik Lorentz, the International Solvay Institute for Physics was founded by Ernest Solvay in 1912. The International Solvay Institute for Chemistry was founded a year later, in 1913. The two Institutes merged in 1970 as the "International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry, founded by Ernest Solvay" with the Belgian legal status of an "Association sans but lucratif
Vereniging zonder winstoogmerk".
The mission of the Solvay Institutes is to support and develop curiosity-driven research in physics, chemistry and allied fields with the purpose of "enlarging and deepening the understanding of natural phenomena".
The central activity of the Institutes is the periodic organization of the celebrated Solvay Conferences on Physics and on Chemistry ("Conseils de Physique Solvay" and "Conseils de Chimie Solvay"). This support to fundamental science is complemented by the organization of open workshops on specific selected topics, international chairs, colloquia and an international doctoral school.
In addition to these activities, the Solvay Institutes also promote the popularization of science through the organization of the annual "Solvay public lectures" devoted to today's big scientific challenges.