Abraham Pais Prize for History of Physics

Jürgen Renn, 2023 recipient
Jürgen Renn, 2023 recipient

The Abraham Pais Prize for History of Physics recognizes outstanding scholarly achievements in the history of physics. The prize is given annually and will consist of $10,000 and a certificate citing the contributions of the recipient, plus an allowance for travel to an APS meeting to receive the award and deliver an invited lecture on the history of physics.

Rules and eligibility

Outstanding scholarly achievements are reflected primarily in the publication of one or more scholarly books or a series of scholarly articles on any topic or chronological period in the history of physics. These can include significant editions of works of physicists that display outstanding editorial scholarship; other edited books or collections of previously published articles will be considered but given less weight. Further outstanding professional achievements such as teaching, lecturing, editing of journals, organization of conferences, and productions on the Web or in other electronic media may be considered if they have contributed significantly to fostering excellence in the history of physics. The Award usually is given to a single person but to no more than three individuals. It is granted without restriction. It is open to scholars of all nationalities; membership in a scholarly or professional society is not required. Nominations will be considered for three review cycles provided the nominator re-certifies the nomination before the next deadline. Selection Committee members and current FHPP Executive Committee members are not eligible for the Award.

Process and selection

The nomination package must include:

  • A letter of not more than 5,000 characters evaluating the qualifications of the nominee(s)

In addition, the nomination should include:

  • A biographical sketch
  • A list of the most important publications
  • At least two, but not more than four, seconding letters
  • Up to five reprints or preprints

Selection Procedure:

The FHPP Chair will recommend to the APS President individuals who will serve on a five-member Selection Committee with staggered terms. AIP will be represented on the Selection Committee by one member whose name has been previously recommended by the AIP Executive Director. After approval by the APS President, the Selection Committee will recommend an Awardee to the FHPP Executive Committee, which must approve the Awardee by a two-thirds vote; otherwise the recommendation will be returned to the Selection Committee. After approval by the FHPP Executive Committee, the FHPP Chair will propose the Awardee to the APS Executive Board for its approval. If the APS Executive Board does not approve the Awardee, it will communicate the reasons for this decision to the Selection Committee for further consideration.

Establishment and support

The American Physical Society (APS) through its Forum on the History and Philosophy of Physics (FHPP) and the American Institute of Physics (AIP) through its Center for History of Physics (CHP) established the prize in 2005. Notable contributors to this award include the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, along with the generous support of John and Elizabeth Armstrong.

Recent recipients

Virginia Louise Trimble

2024 recipient

For extensive contributions to the history of astrophysics, particularly for reference works, articles, and biographical essays, especially works that include female astronomers, and for supporting the history of the physics community.

Jürgen Renn

2023 recipient

For contributions to the historiography of modern and early modern science, in particular, studies of Albert Einstein; and for contributing scholarship and taking public stances that directly raise the social relevance of science historiography.

Patricia Fara

2022 recipient

For outstanding and wide-ranging scholarship on the history of science, especially regarding the physical sciences in the 17th through the 20th centuries, and for bringing attention to neglected contributors to the physical sciences, including female physicists and practical workers such as navigators and instrument makers.

Hasok Chang

2021 recipient

For innovative and influential studies on the history and philosophy of the physical sciences, including scholarly works on scientific evidence, the physics-chemistry interaction, and historical and epistemic aspects of thermal physics.

Dieter Hoffmann

2020 recipient

For insightful, determined, often courageous biographical and institutional studies of the history of German physics and technology, from Weimar through the Nazi and East German regimes.

See all recipients

The membership of APS is diverse and global, and the nominees and recipients of APS Honors should reflect that diversity so that all are recognized for their impact on our community. Nominations of members belonging to groups traditionally underrepresented in physics, such as women, LGBT+ scientists, scientists who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), disabled scientists, scientists from institutions with limited resources, and scientists from outside the United States, are especially encouraged.

Nominees for and holders of APS Honors (prizes, awards, and fellowship) and official leadership positions are expected to meet standards of professional conduct and integrity as described in the APS Ethics Guidelines. Violations of these standards may disqualify people from consideration or lead to revocation of honors or removal from office.

Abraham Pais Prize for History of Physics

Nominations deadline
June 3, 2024
Richard Lounsbery Foundation
John and Elizabeth Armstrong
Virginia Trimble
$10,000, a certificate, and travel allowance

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