SMI stands in the tradition of the first institute (“Institut für Radiumforschung”) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, which was opened in 1910 at the time of the emergence of a new field – the field of radioactivity research, which became nuclear physics afterwards. Due to a private sponsor (Karl Kuppelwieser) the Academy was able to set up a new institute which had remarkable success with 2 Nobel laureates (Victor Franz Hess and George de Hevesy).

Stefan Meyer was the first director of the “Institut für Radiumforschung” until the nationalsocialist period terminated his function.

In 1987 the Institute was renamed into “Institute for Medium Energy Physics”, once more at the start of a new field – muonic atoms and molecules. This field gained substantial interest due to high yield for catalyzed fusion, which triggered speculations about applications.

In 2004 the institute was once more renamed to Stefan Meyer Institute, in parallel to the appointment of Eberhard Widmann as director, who substantially enriched the physics profile with experiments using antiproton beams. This research field started at CERN (LEAR and AD) and got a new long-time perspective with the emerging research facilities like FAIR in Europe and J-PARC in Japan.