The purpose of the Solar Physics Division (SPD) is the advancement of the study of the Sun and the coordination of such research with other branches of science. As of May 2005, there are 566 members of the SPD from all around the world. The SPD holds annual scientific meetings, awards several different prizes, and supports students in various ways.

The beginnings of what was to become the SPD came from an initiative in the mid-1960s to organize a series of special AAS meetings devoted to solar physics. Henry J. Smith of NASA and Leo Goldberg of Harvard College Observatory initially proposed these meetings in 1965, and they approached John Firor of HAO to become the first chair of an Organizing Committee. By 1968, there was growing momentum within the AAS for the establishment of special divisions for sub-disciplines of astronomy, and the membership adopted the idea formally at the Victoria meeting of the AAS in August 1968. In 1969 the SPD Organizing Committee drafted the first by-laws, which were approved by the 61 founding members of the Division by mail in July of that year. The first annual meeting of the now fully formed SPD Division was held in Huntsville, Alabama in November 1970.

Additional historical information about the SPD can be found in The Solar Physics Division (PDF version here) by Jack Thomas, a chapter in The American Astronomical Society’s First Century, edited by David H. DeVorkin (AAS, 1999), and Exploring the Sun: Solar Science since Galileo, by Karl Hufbauer (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1991).