Applied Physics Letters (APL) turns 50 this year! APL was first published in September 1962 as a companion journal to Journal of Applied Physics (JAP), following the lead of Physical Review and Physical Review Letters. The Journal was started to meet the pressing need for rapid publications in areas of applied physics just like Physical Review Letters meets this need in fundamental physics. James H. Crawford, Jr., who had been appointed Editor of JAP in 1960, became joint Editor of both JAP and APL. At the time, he was working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, so the Editorial Office was set up there. In the early years, APL operated with a limited budget; therefore, subsidies from the National Science Foundation were indispensable until the Journal became self-supporting.

Crawford resigned from his editorial duties in September 1964, after four years of effective and much-appreciated service to the journals. With the appointment of Frank E. Myers as Editor, the Editorial Office of JAP and APL moved to Argonne National Laboratory, where it has been ever since. Lester Guttman and Foster F. Rieke were invited to serve as Associate Editors. As Myers stepped down in May 1970, Foster F. Rieke succeeded him as Editor, and David C. Hess was appointed Associate Editor. Unfortunately, after a very brief tenure, Rieke died in that year. Gilbert J. Perlow took over as Editor in October 1970, and both Guttman and Hess continued to function as Associate Editors.

Since its inception in 1962, APL had been under the same editorship as JAP. However, the editorial operations of the two journals split in 1974: Guttman became the Editor of JAP, while Perlow remained Editor for APL, and Thomas H. Braid joined Hess as an Associate Editor. The two journals continued to share the same Editorial Office, maintaining close scientific and operational ties. When Perlow took a six-month sabbatical from Argonne in early 1975, Braid filled in as Acting Editor and Frank Y. Fradin joined as Associate Editor during that period. In 1979, Braid became the Editor of Review of Scientific Instruments and no longer served APL. Gerard H. Lander and Alexander Langsdorf, Jr., replaced him as Associate Editors. Perlow retained his Editorship of APL until the end of 1989, a span of 17 years. During his long tenure, Robert K. Smither (in 1981), F. Paul Mooring (1983), Robert E. Holland (1984), Lynn E. Rehn (1986), Samuel D. Bader (1987), P. James Viccaro (1988), and Charles W. Allen and Hartmut Wiedersich (1989) were added to the APL corps of Associate Editors. In addition, Diane M. Kurtz was named Assistant to the Editor in 1986, after 18 years on the APL/JAP editorial staff.

Wiedersich started his duties as the Editor on January 1990, while Perlow remained associated with the Journal as Consulting Editor and Linda Young became an Associate Editor. Holland retired at the end of that year, and Alan R. Krauss took his position in 1991. Also, two additional Associate Editors, David Long Price and Jules Routbort, joined the Journal during the second half of 1991. In 1993, David S. Kupperman replaced Langsdorf who stepped down as Associate Editor. After nearly five years at the helm of APL, Wiedersich announced his own retirement in fall 1994. During his tenure, the number of manuscripts submitted annually to APL increased from 2840 to 3655, reflecting the increasing popularity of the Journal. Wiedersich, together with Steven J. Rothman (Editor of JAP), were responsible for the successful installation of a computerized editorial management system in the joint APL/JAP Editorial Office, leaving the Journal well positioned to enter the electronic publishing age.

Nghi Q. Lam became Editor in November 1994. The Journal continued to operate at Argonne with its highly professional staff and retained its Associate Editors who were also active researchers. In 1996, Walter Pötz was added as the tenth Associate Editor. In 2000, Krauss passed away and Pötz stepped down after five years with the Journal, and Orlando H. Auciello and Christoph H. Grein replaced them in 2001. As Allen retired from his editorial position at the end of 2002, Paul R. Okamoto became Associate Editor in 2003. The introduction of Peer X-Press, AIP’s online manuscript submission and review system, in September 2005, allowed APL editorial operations to transition from the “paper” to the “paperless” mode and facilitated the diversification of the board of Associate Editors in terms of geographical representation and topical coverage. Eight additional Associate Editors were appointed to the corps of editors over the years after 2005: Shuit-Tong Lee and Qing Hu in 2006; Susan Trolier-McKinstry, Kenjiro Miyano, and Dongmin Chen in 2008; Fabrizio Cleri and Hong-Jun Gao in 2010; and Minn-Tsong Lin in 2011. Submissions to APL increased rapidly from 2001 to 2008 with an average growth rate of approximately 1000 manuscripts per year. By 2008, the number of submitted manuscripts had surpassed the 12,000 mark. To cope with the rapid growth in submissions, a new “Senior Associate Editor” position was created, and Routbort was appointed to this position in February 2008. Routbort passed away in March 2012, after nearly 21 years of dedicated service to the Journal. As a result, Price took over as Senior Associate Editor in May 2012.

The Journal has become large and established, as the years have passed. For half of a century, APL has continually evolved to follow trends in the field of applied physics, to embrace new developments in scientific publishing, and to meet the changing needs of the physics community around the globe. In the process, many milestones have been achieved:

  • Publication frequency of APL changed from semimonthly to weekly, starting 1 January 1986.

  • The first computerized editorial management database was installed in the joint APL/JAP Editorial Office at Argonne in 1991.

  • APL was the first AIP-published electronic journal. APL Online made its debut with the January 1995 issues.

  • A major revamp of the Journal’s Table of Contents became effective with the 4 January 1999 issue, reflecting the changes in the importance of different fields in applied physics. In addition to expanding the “Optics” section to include “Lasers” and “Optolectronics,” several new sections were created: “Dielectrics and Ferroelectricity,” “Device Physics,” “Applied Biophysics,” and “Interdisciplinary and General Physics” (which replaces the “Papers in Other Fields” section).

  • A new section, “Nanoscale Science and Design,” was added to the Table of Contents on 1 January 2001, to enhance the visibility and capture the excitement of this emerging field.

  • APL started to feature a color image on the front cover of each issue on 1 January 2003. The same image also appears in the Table of Contents of the online version as well.

  • The successful switchover to Peer X-Press (PXP)—AIP’s online manuscript submission and review system—took place on 1 September 2005. APL’s authors, reviewers, and editorial staff have been able to perform all tasks associated with the peer-review process over the Internet in a user-friendly environment.

  • Organic Electronics and Photonics was added to APL’s Table of Contents to provide a common field for manuscripts in this subject category in the Journal on 1 January 2008. APL: Organic Electronics and Photonics (APL: OEP)—APL-branded online Spotlight Publication—made its debut in the same year.

  • Bio-inspired Systems—a fascinating field emerging from both advanced understanding of biomolecular principles and innovations in modern technology—was added to the Table of Contents on 1 July 2009.

  • The first January 2012 issue displayed APL’s redesigned, modern cover, which has new color and artwork.

  • The Journal’s Table of Contents was updated to reflect recent changes in topical coverage within the applied physics community, effective 1 January 2012. Exciting, timely topics, including Energy Conversion and Storage, Multiferroics, Spintronics, Superconducting Electronics, and Surfaces and Interfaces, are now brought into focus and given better visibility in APL.

  • APL’s length limit increased from a strict 3 pages to 3500 words (approximately 4 printed pages), starting 1 January 2012. The new limit allows authors more space and flexibility to enhance the comprehensiveness and clarity of the text as well as the figures.

The Journal continues to function as the leading disseminator of timely research findings in applied science and play an important role within the applied-physics community. Based on Thomson Reuters’ Journal Citation Reports, APL was, once again, ranked as the most highly cited journal among the 116 titles indexed in the “Applied Physics” category in 2010. (As this goes to press, Thomson Reuters has not yet released rankings for 2011.) APL alone shared approximately 20% of all applied-physics citations. All this success is only possible through enriching contributions from the physics community, as advisers providing guidance on the Journal’s Editorial Board, as authors submitting good work to APL, as referees dedicatedly participating in the time-consuming peer-review process, and as Associate Editors maintaining the Journal’s high standards of publication. Their time, efforts, and devotion are very much appreciated by APL and the American Institute of Physics.

As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Journal, we look forward to many more years of cutting-edge research and technology, fascinating scientific discoveries, and innovative developments in scientific publishing. We believe that APL is well positioned to make an impact and to meet the needs of the applied-physics community throughout the next 50 years and beyond.