Physics has existed as a discipline within the University of Helsinki since its foundation in 1640.

The Department of Physics was established in the 1830's on the completion of the main building of the University of Helsinki. In 1911 the Department was given its own premises in Helsinki in Siltavuori. An accelerator laboratory was realized in the 1960's in Siltavuori and a new one in 1982 in Kumpula, about five kilometres north from the city centre, on the future campus of the Faculty of Science.

The tasks of the Department of Physics are to perform physics research at a high international level and to offer basic and post-graduate university level education in physics of the highest possible quality, based on a foundation of a high standard of research.

Today the areas of specialization are materials physics, condensed matter physics, applied physics and particle and nuclear physics.

The Department of Physics is divided into four divisions.

The General Division comprises the experimental and theoretical research groups in X-ray physics, nuclear physics, didactical physics and applied physics - aerosol and environmental physics, electronics and medical physics.

The experimental research groups of materials physics, applied physics, nuclear physics, laser spectroscopy, molecular physics and optics function in the Accelerator Laboratory (founded in 1968).

Both theoretical and experimental particle physics research is performed in the High Energy Physics Division .

The Theoretical Physics Division is responsible for the education in theoretical physics. The main weight of its research is in particle cosmology.