David C. Cassidy Wins 2014 Abraham Pais Prize

By Gloria B. Lubkin, Chair, 2014 Selection Committee

David Cassidy, 2014 Pais Prize recipient

David C. Cassidy, 2014 Pais Prize recipient.

The 2014 Abraham Pais Prize is awarded to David C. Cassidy “for his foundational studies on the history of quantum mechanics and his nuanced examinations of physics in Germany and the United States with special attention to the scientific work, personalities, and dilemmas of Heisenberg and Oppenheimer.”

David Cassidy, a professor at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, has written two scientific biographies of Werner Heisenberg. The first, more scholarly volume, Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg (W. H. Freeman, New York, 1993), grew out of his doctoral dissertation and subsequent years of research in Germany and other countries. That highly celebrated volume won both the 1993 Pfizer Award of the History of Science Society and the AIP Science Writing Prize. The second volume, Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and the Bomb (Bellevue Literary Press, New York, 2009) was written for a broader audience, and includes fewer details of the development of quantum mechanics. However, the newer book includes information from the “Farm Hall” transcripts, which were only released in 1993. Cassidy also maintains a website on Heisenberg.

Cassidy’s biography of Oppenheimer, J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2009) provides a rich sense of the cultural and historical contexts in which Oppenheimer lived. Cassidy also wrote A Short History of Physics in the American Century (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2011). With Gerald Holton and James Rutherford, Cassidy also wrote the undergraduate textbook Understanding Physics (Springer, 2002). Cassidy’s play, Farm Hall, based on the transcripts made of the captured German nuclear scientists in 1945, received a staged reading at the March 2013 APS meeting.

Cassidy received BA and MS degrees from Rutgers and a PhD in physics from Purdue in 1976 in conjunction with the Department of History of Science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He did a postdoc with John L. Heilbron at the University of California, Berkeley and then was a Humboldt Fellow with Armin Hermann at the University of Stuttgart. He then became an assistant professor in history of science at the University of Regensburg. Cassidy was Associate Editor of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volume I (“The Early Years”) and Volume II (“The Swiss Years: Writings”). He has been at Hofstra University since 1990, where he is now professor of natural sciences. He has served FHP as secretarytreasurer (1995) and as chair (2008).

The articles in this issue represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the Forum or APS.