APS News

Member Input Needed for Historic Sites

The committee in charge of the APS Historic Sites initiative is reaching out to the membership and asking for future site recommendations. In doing so, the members of the committee hope to broaden their pool of potential sites to include places they may not have otherwise considered.

The initiative, started in 2005, aims to raise public awareness of the importance of physics by commemorating important people and landmarks. Already they have dedicated plaques at 19 sites across the country, with two more scheduled to be installed by the end of this year.

“The basic idea is that physics is probably as important as anything that has ever happened in American history, and people really don’t understand it,” said committee chair Ben Bederson, adding the aim was also, “to educate the public of what physics has accomplished in America and to give physicists pride in what they have accomplished.”

The committee is specifically looking to the membership for more suggestions than the five members of the committee may have been able to come up with themselves.
“We’re only five people, what do we know?” Bederson said, “There are thousands of APS members and there may be vital sites that we don’t know about, or may be only vaguely aware of.”

The committee members are looking for sites with either a national or local significance to the history of physics. Such sites can include places associated with either experimental or theoretical work that dramatically impacted the field. Sites can also highlight the lives of individuals who have played major roles in physics history.

So far the sites chosen have reflected a wide range of physics disciplines. The committee members have also made an effort to include less well known sites that have historic merit that the public might not necessarily be aware of. One such site, due to be dedicated on October 15th, is the Bronx High School of Science in New York, which has produced an astonishing seven Nobel laureates in physics.  

“That’s more than most countries,” Bederson said.

Another site recently commemorated was the Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu California where Theodore Maiman built the world’s first working laser. The plaque honoring this achievement was installed on May 16th,  2010, the fiftieth anniversary of the first successful demonstration of the laser. A picture of the event appeared in the July APS News (available online).

Other Historic Sites
Other sites have included the birthplace of the Physical Review at Cornell, the first cyclotron at University of California Berkeley, the invention of the transistor at Bell Labs, and the discovery of the first antiparticle at Caltech. The full list of selected sites can be found on the initiative’s website.
Gray arrow   Historic Sites Initiative

Nominating a Site
Members who are interested in suggesting a location for the committee to look at can find a link on the initiative’s website or can send an email to any of the members of the committee.
Gray arrow   Historic Sites Nominating Form


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Editor: Alan Chodos