APS News

APS Physics Meetings Begin

100 Years of the American Physical Society

To Advance and Diffuse the Knowledge of Physics will be on exhibit in its entirety at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) headquarters in Gaithersburg, MD through the end of 1999. Visitors are welcome.

Speaking of Physics . . .

Scientific communication was the principal object of the early APS and the Physical Review. The journal appeared every other month until 1897, when it became a monthly. APS at first held four to five meetings per year-whether or not anyone had anything to report! Sometimes a telegram from the secretary was the first alert a member had that he was on an upcoming program.

Leo Szilard and E.O. Lawrence at a 1935 APS meeting in Washington, DC.
Leo Szilard and E.O. Lawrence at a 1935 APS meeting in Washington, DC.

The Bulletin of the American Physical Society published reports and abstracts of APS meetings from 1899-1903, when the Physical Review took over this job. BAPS was revived in 1925.

Scientific Announcements at Meetings

The Bulletin of the American Physical Society published reports and abstracts of APS meetings from 1899-1903, when the Physical Review took over this job. BAPS was revived in 1925. (See “Lessons from BAPS” in this issue.)

A. Title page of a 1902 BAPS issue listing important papers by Michelson and Rutherford.
A. Title page of a 1902 BAPS issue listing important papers by Michelson and Rutherford.  **
B. Abstract of a contributed paper by Bohr and Wheeler, which was among the first on fission presented at an APS meeting (April 1939).
B. Abstract of a contributed paper by Bohr and Wheeler, which was among the first on fission presented at an APS meeting (April 1939).  **

Related work by Bohr published in Phys. Rev. (1939)
C. Related work by Bohr published in Phys. Rev. (1939).  **

** Click image for larger photo (new window)

Meetings

Meetings were held at Columbia University, the National Bureau of Standards, and jointly with the physics section of the AAAS. These early venues reveal the Society's roots and ties.
APS conferees in 1910 outside of the National Bureau of Standards in Washington.
APS conferees in 1910 outside of the National Bureau of Standards in Washington.
 

What's in a Name?

Since the inception of Phys. Rev. and APS, some have been misled by the word physical in their titles. They assumed that the institutions promoted good health or physic. The problem persists to the present day, when venture capitalists have tried to buy APS and the U.S. Post Office has compared Phys. Rev. Letters to periodicals such as Boxing World.

Letter from Meyer Brothers Druggist to Phys. Rev. editor, Edward Nichols, 23 Feb 1893.
Letter from Meyer Brothers Druggist to Phys. Rev. editor, Edward Nichols, 23 Feb 1893.

In 1921, APS secretary D.C. Miller introduced a 'sensational device,' a clock to warn speakers that their ten minutes were up.Clocks and Time Slots

In 1921, APS secretary D.C. Miller introduced Until 1999, kitchen timers were a fixture at APS meetings.

The 1920s also saw the introduction of parallel sessions to handle the increased number of papers.

 


Curator: Sara Schechner Genuth
Gnomon Research
Exhibit Director: Barrett Ripin
APS History: Harry Lustig
Journals History: R. Mark Wilson
Researchers: George Trigg
Ruth Kastner
Steven Norton
Amy Halsted
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Fabrication: Malone Displays

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette