Election 2010 Candidate Biographies

The Nominating Committee of the Forum on History of Physics has chosen a slate of candidates for the 2010 elections, which are being held at the end of 2009 because the forum's 2010 Regular Meeting comes so early – the APS "April" meeting is being held two months earlier in 2010, in February. You will be asked to vote for Forum Vice-Chair and two at-large members of the Executive Committee. The person elected to be Vice-Chair normally becomes the new Chair-Elect in 2011 and Chair of the Forum in 2012. The primary responsibilities of the Vice-Chair and Chair-Elect are to decide upon timely topics for invited and contributed sessions at APS and divisional meetings, often in collaboration with other forums, and to arrange these along with sessions of contributed papers. The incumbent Secretary-Treasurer was renominated to run unopposed.

If you have an email address registered with APS, you will receive a message inviting you to vote electronically. If you do not have such an address, you should receive a paper ballot by mail. If you want a paper ballot but have not yet received one, please either email your request to the Secretary-Treasurer, Tom Miller or contact him postally (Boston College Institute for Scientific Research, Air Force Research Laboratory/RVBXT, Hanscom AFB, MA 01731-3010) or by telephone (781-377-5031). The closing date of the election is 13 December 2009. An additional week will be allowed for receipt of paper ballots.

Please Vote!


Peter Pesic (Institution: St. John's College, Santa Fe)
George O. Zimmerman (Institution: Boston University)

Executive Committee Member-at-Large

Elizabeth Garber (Institution: State University of New York, Stony Brook)
Clayton Gearhart ( Institution: St. John's University)
Danian Hu (Institution: City University of New York)
Daniel Kennefick (Institution: University of Arkansas, Fayetteville)


Thomas M. Miller (Institution: Boston College & Air Force Research Laboratory)


(Vote for one)

Peter Pesic
Institution: St. John's College, Santa Fe

Resume: Peter Pesic received a bachelor's degree in physics from Harvard and a doctorate from Stanford, where he worked in the SLAC theory group with Sidney Drell. He was a Lecturer at Stanford from 1976-80 but has spent most of his career at St. John's College in Santa Fe, NM, where he has devoted much attention to shaping the study of physics from a historical and philosophical point of view within a "great books" curriculum. A concert pianist, he is also the Musician-in-Residence there.

He has edited a series of classic works in physics and mathematics for Dover Publications, providing introductions and detailed notes for reissues of works by Max Planck, James Clerk Maxwell, and Carl Friedrich Gauss. He also edited the anthology Beyond Geometry: Classic Papers from Riemann to Einstein (Dover, 2007) and Hermann Weyl's Mind and Nature: Selected Writings on Physics, Philosophy, and Mathematics (Princeton, 2009). His work in physics has mainly concerned the significance of indistinguishability in the foundations of quantum theory. MIT Press published his four books: Labyrinth: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science (2000), Seeing Double: Shared Identities in Physics, Philosophy, and Literature (2002, named as one of Choice Magazines Outstanding Academic Books for that year), Abel's Proof: An Essay on the Sources and Meaning of Mathematical Unsolvability (2003), and Sky in a Bottle (2005). His books have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, and Turkish. A contributing editor of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he received the Peano Prize (2005) and was named a Fellow of the AAAS and a Guggenheim Fellow. He served as a Member-at-Large of the FHP Executive Committee (2007-2009).

Statement: I think that presenting physics in a historical and philosophical light is the royal road to sharing our excitement with the broadest possible public by emphasizing the striking and surprising aspects of physics as it emerges, tests itself, and takes new forms. I have had much experience doing this at St. John's College and also in my books, which try to be both serious and engaging, both historical and physical.

I also feel that the study of the history of physics can have a deep interest for physicists themselves doing their own current work. Many physicists are curious about how theories, experiments, or insights really came about, both regarding the human stories and the interplay of fundamental ideas. The study of history can help us think more clearly and penetratingly in our own research as we contemplate those moments when physicists before us struggled with great puzzles. These crucial dilemmas often fascinate students and young physicists, who implicitly hope that they might learn from them something that would help them to make the transition from being textbook problem-solvers to original thinkers capable of finding new and powerful insights.

I enjoyed serving as a member of the FHP Executive Committee and would like to help FHP find new ways to engage the attention of our colleagues as well as the larger public in the history of physics. Given the remarkable interest in the history of physics sessions evidenced at recent APS meetings, I would like the FHP to augment these activities, perhaps by including a high-profile historical/conceptual lecture at future meetings. I am also interested in continuing efforts to help educational institutions to find thoughtful and appropriate ways to include the historical dimension in the study of physics at all levels.

George O. Zimmerman
Institution: Boston University

Resume: George Zimmerman received his Ph.D. in Physics from Yale University in 1963. His thesis was in experimental low temperature physics. After a few months as a post-doc with C.T. Lane at Yale, he joined the Physics Department at Boston University. At the time he joined the Boston University Physics Department, the Department had a strong component of faculty whose interests were in the history and philosophy of science.

At Boston University, Zimmerman was department chair for 12 years, chaired the Faculty Council, and was a member and chair of sev­eral other influential university committees. A Summer Research Internship Program for High School students which he established over 30 years ago is still going strong.

His research interests are in Condensed Matter and Solid State Physics. More specifically, some of the topics of interest are phase transitions, some at ultra low temperatures, magnetically intercalated graphite compounds, Jahn-Teller materials, and applied superconductivity and modeling.

His research collaborations include the Fran­cis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory at MIT, and sabbaticals at Brookhaven, UC San Diego, Leiden, Holland, Harvard University, Cambridge, and Imperial College, London.

He is currently a Member At Large of the Governing Board of the Forum on the History of Physics (FHP) and its Webmaster ad hoc. He is also conducting oral history interviews which are being archived at the Niels Bohr Library and Archives.

Statement: We live in a time of extraordinary and rapidtechnological and societal change. Much of the change has its origins in ideas and techniques developed by physics for fundamental research purposes. One of these is the internet, another is the development of the transistor which led to integrated circuits which made rapid computation and communication possible. Our ideas about the world were changed when we saw pictures of the earth from the moon and realized that our planet's resources are finite. Diagnostic instruments with physics origins, MRI, PET etc. have revolutionized medicine. It is time to make the public, as well as the physics community, aware of this contribution.

Moreover, a very productive generation of physicists, both in academia and industry, is about to retire or has recently retired, and the story of those contributions is in danger of being lost. It is important that that part of history be preserved.

These objectives will be achieved through the organization of history sessions at APS meetings, where the younger generation of physicists (and astronomers) can learn the history of ideas and developments, and the context in which events occurred, told by the people who lived and were contributors to those events. The sessions will chronicle discoveries, schools of thought, and scientific efforts and developments. They will also record the achievements and lives of outstanding physicists. Those sessions will be published on the web, as has already been done with some of the recent FHP sessions.

In collaboration with the Niels Bohr Library and Archives, we will urge members of the physics community to write histories of Departments and Research Laboratories so that those can also be preserved. We will urge those who retire from the profession to write their personal histories so that those are not lost to future generations.

The stated objective of the Forum on the History of Physics is "to encourage scholarly research in the history of physics and the diffusion of knowledge of this history and its relation to other scholarly disciplines." Those objectives will be advanced through the above efforts.

Executive Committee Member-at-Large

(Vote for two)

Elizabeth Garber
Institution: State University of New York, Stony Brook

Resume: Elizabeth Garber graduated from London University with a BSc in Physics and Mathematics and a Minor in Geology. In 1960 she entered Case Institute of Technology, finishing with a PhD in the History of Science with a dissertation on the James Clerk Maxwell's work on kinetic theory and statistical mechanics. She retired two years ago from the History Department at SUNY Stony Brook. She was active in the APS forum for the History of Physics in the 1980's, working closely with Martin Klein and Al Wattenberg.

Together with Stephen G. Brush and Francis Everitt, she published an edition of Maxwell's letters and papers on kinetic theory and statistical mechanics as well as papers in the same area by Maxwell. Her recent research resulted in a book on the history of the ways in which mathematicians and physicists used mathematics and physics in different ways for very different ends and their intellectual interactions, especially during the transformation of higher education around 1900.

Statement: The Forum is important as it enables us to examine the roots and origins of the research disciplines to which we belong and to better appreciate the often convoluted routes to our current intellectual understanding and professional structures. Without the Forum these contact with our past might well be lost and the complexities of our history forgotten. I hope to aid in keeping our knowledge available through the meetings of the Forum.

Clayton Gearhart
Institution: St. John's University

Resume: Clayton Gearhart is Professor of Physics at St. John's University in Minnesota. His undergraduate degree is from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota (1979, in experimental liquid helium physics with Bill Zimmermann). He became interested in the history of science as an undergraduate, and after leaving graduate school began pursuing it as a research interest. That transition was aided when, in 1981, he participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at Yale University, directed by Martin J. Klein. He has also benefited from the support and encouragement offered by the History of Science Program at the University of Minnesota. His research focuses on the history of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and early quantum theory.  One recent (2002) paper analyzes Max Planck's introduction in 1900 of finite "energy elements" to describe black-body radiation, and challenges Thomas Kuhn's controversial interpretation. Another, just completed, gives a history of the attempts in early quantum theory to understand the behavior of the specific heat of hydrogen gas at low temperatures: A 1912 experiment provided one of the earliest experimental supports for quantum theory; but an accurate theoretical description eluded physicists for over 15 years, in spite of persistent attempts by some of the most famous names in 20th century physics. (See his website for details, including a few reprints and slide shows for talk). He is a long-time member of APS, AAPT, the Forum on History of Physics (serving on the 2005–2006 Nominating Committee and the 2007­­–2008 Program Committee), and the History of Science Society.

Statement: The history of physics has much to offer physicists. The physics majors I have taught for many years are often surprised and encouraged to learn that physics was not handed down from on high, but developed a step at a time, often in much more confusing and disorganized (but also more creative) ways than textbooks sometimes suggest. Students outside the sciences often find science more interesting when they can also study its historical and philosophical underpinnings. The history of physics shows all of us how our discipline actually developed, and helps to instill in us a more sophisticated sense of our past, in contrast to the oversimplified (and sometimes inaccurate) picture often found in textbooks and in the folklore we hand down from one generation of physicists to the next. For me, there are additional attractions: I often understand the physics better when I learn its history; and I always find the history fascinating. The Forum over the years has done an outstanding job of bringing physicists and historians of physics (who are often themselves physicists) together. It gives historians an audience, particularly for more technical and detailed history, an aspect that historians of science often neglect; and its newsletter is a helpful guide for both physicists and historians. As someone with a foot in both camps, I would be honored to contribute to the Forum's work through service on the Executive Committee.

Danian Hu
Institution: City University of New York

Resume: Although trained as a civil engineer at a college in Beijing, Danian Hu pursued his graduate study in the history of modern physics, first at the Institute for the History of Natural Science in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, then at Case Western Reserve University, and eventually received his Ph.D. under Professor Martin Klein at Yale University in 2001. After teaching at University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Morgan State University successively, he joined the faculty of history department at The City College of The City University of New York in 2003.

He has published China and Albert Einstein: The Reception of the Physicist and His Theory in China, 1917-1979 (Harvard, 2005) and its expanded Chinese version (Shanghai Shiji, 2006). He is currently working on projects involving the history of quantum physics in China and the Chinese development in physics education at Christian colleges. In particular, he is exploring the early career and contributions of William Band (1906-1993), a former Chair of Physics Department at Washington State University in Pullman, who served in Christian Yenching University between 1929 and 1945.

Statement: I consider the Forum on History of Physics (FHP) a very significant and effective platform, where physicists and historians may work together to preserve and promote valuable individual experiences and institutional histories. Over the years, members of the FHP have not only created a rich reservoir of primary historical materials but also produced some most distinguished works in the history of physics. It is a great shame, as Martin J. Klein incisively pointed out to me shortly before his passing, that such a group of distinguished workers and their excellent contributions have apparently not been recognized by the History of Science Society, the most famous academic home for professional historians of science. If elected, I wish to work on promoting the FHP and its great contributions to the history of science. Through the FHP, I also wish to help advance the international study of the history of modern physics, especially the impacts of American physicists in the world.

Daniel Kennefick
Institution: University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Resume: I obtained my undergraduate degree and a masters in physics at Cork in Ireland before attending Caltech where I worked on gravitational waves for my doctorate. While there I took several courses in the history of science, which prompted me to ask my advisor, Kip Thorne, if I could combine some historical work with my Ph.D. Not only did he agree to this, he even proposed my topic, the history of the quadrupole formula controversy, which I researched under the direction of Diana Buchwald, who had sparked my interest in the subject in the first place. After finishing at Caltech I spent nearly three years working with Harry Collins at Cardiff University on the sociology of the field of gravitational wave theory, especially the numerical relativity community. Then I returned to history, and to Caltech, joining the Einstein Papers Project to help edit Einstein's Collected Papers, under the direction of Diana Buchwald again. I was fortunate at both Cardiff and Caltech to be able to continue research on gravitational wave physics on a part time basis with the strong groups at those institutes. I have since reversed the time share between physics and history, by continuing to work part time with the Einstein project after taking up an appointment in the physics department at the University of Arkansas. While there I published a book on the history of gravitational waves based on the project originally suggested by Kip Thorne for my thesis research. I have recently branched out from gravitational waves by beginning a collaboration on the mass function of supermassive black holes with my wife, the astronomer Julia Kennefick. This has grown quickly to encompass a large group, with four professors, two postdocs and seven graduate students. It also fulfils a lifetime ambition of mine to work in astronomy in some capacity, in spite of an inability to actually observe anything. My interest in the history of astronomy led to my recently appearing in a documentary about Einstein and the 1919 eclipse (about which I have written), on which show I was referred to, with my connivance, as an "astronomer." This has led my wife to tell friends that I'm not really an astronomer, but I play one on TV.

Statement: The Forum of the History of Physics appears to me as a rare and very welcome patch of native heath, as I'm sure it does to most others who wander the boundary between physics and history. I have really enjoyed the sessions put on at recent APS meetings. At our department in Arkansas we are fortunate to have people like Raj Gupta who take a very active interest in the history of the department and its equipment, and this has really impressed upon me the usefulness of the Forum's focus on encouraging this sort of local history. Although I am a complete novice to the work of the Forum, I would certainly be happy to help in whatever way I can to help it thrive and grow.


(Vote for one)

Thomas M. Miller
Institution: Boston College & Air Force Research Laboratory

Resume: Tom Miller spent nearly a decade at Georgia Tech, emerging with a Ph.D. degree in 1968. He served on the physics faculty at New York University for over six years, followed by four years at Stanford Research Institute and 16 years on the physics faculty at the University of Oklahoma, with temporary duty at the University of Birmingham (UK) and the Joint Institute of Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) in Colorado, before settling in the Boston area and working for Boston College at the Plasma Chemistry Laboratory of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). He has served on various APS committees and was Secretary-Treasurer of the Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics in the 1970s. His research is in chemical physics, with an emphasis on low-energy electron and ion interactions with molecules. His interest in the history of physics stems from colloquia at Georgia Tech with the likes of Peter Debye and William Bragg. In recent times he was curator of the collection of Lord Rayleigh's school and lab notebooks at AFRL (until a former commander had the collection moved to his new post at the Air Force Academy).

Statement: I like the Forum on History of Physics because it enables physicists who are not professional historians to take part in preserving and communicating the history of our field—any interested physicist can present a contributed paper to the FHP sessions. I think Forum activities, from the popular sessions at APS meetings, providing student travel grants for presenters, selection of the Pais Prize awardees, to efforts encouraging histories of physics departments, are valuable. I wish to be active with the Forum in accomplishing these missions.