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 construct a new building in the 9th district of Vienna in Boltzmanngasse 3. The new institute 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.

The European Physical Society honoured the location of the Radiuminstitute as “EPS Historic Site” with a commemorative plaque in 2015

SMI shared the building in Boltzmanngasse 3 since 2004 with the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information IQOQI of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. From 2012 the available space was not sufficient, and some of SMI groups had to use rooms in Reichsratsstraße 17. Due to further increasing space problems, the Stefan Meyer Institute moved in July 2020 to a newly refurbished building in Kegelgasse 27 in the 3rd district of Vienna, with provides adequate space for all research groups of SMI and fully equipped laboratories to continue the modern experimental research in subatomic physics.