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The Nominating Committee of the Forum on History of Physics has chosen a slate of candidates for the 2009 elections. You will soon be asked to vote for Forum Vice Chair and two at-large members of the Executive Committee. One of the at-large positions provides, for the first time within the Forum, representation specifically for current or recent students, who constitute about 25 percent of the Forum membership. The person elected to be Vice Chair will become the new Chair-Elect in 2010 and Chair of the Forum in 2011. 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.
If you have an email address registered with APS, you will receive a message inviting you to vote electronically. If you do not have an email 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
(email@example.com) 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 for this election is 29 March 2009. Please vote!
American Physical Society and Brookhaven National Laboratory
Biography: Martin Blume is Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the American Physical Society and Senior Physicist Emeritus at Brookhaven National Laboratory. He received his A.B. degree from Princeton in 1954 and a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard in 1959. He was a Fulbright Fellow at Tokyo University in 1959–1960, and Research Associate at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, UK, in 1960–1962.
In 1962 he came to Brookhaven, where his research centered on condensed matter theory, particularly on the theory of magnetism, phase transitions, neutron scattering, and synchrotron radiation. He held many research and management positions at Brookhaven, including head of condensed-matter theory, Deputy Chair of the Physics Department, Chair of the National Synchrotron Light Source Department, and Deputy Director of the Laboratory. In addition he was Professor of Physics at Stony Brook University from 1972 to 1980. In 1996 Blume took a leave of absence from Brookhaven to become Editor-in-Chief of the APS, with responsibility for all the Society’s journals. He served two five-year terms as Editor-in-Chief, retiring in March of 2007. During this period he oversaw the transition of the Physical Review to electronic distribution, including putting all the journals on-line, back to the origins of Physical Review in 1893, and reworking the operation of the editorial process to completely electronic form, with a virtually paperless office.
Blume received the 1981 E. O. Lawrence Award in Physics of the Department of Energy for his research on Neutron Scattering and Synchrotron Radiation, and the Argonne National Laboratory Advanced Photon Source A. H. Compton Award for his theoretical research on resonant X-ray scattering in 2003. In 2005 he received from the Council of Science Editors their highest award for his innovations and accomplishments in scientific publication. He has served on many committees of the APS, including election to the Council and Executive Board as well as Chair of the Nominating Committee. He has served also on committees of the National Research Council, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Institute of Pure and Applied Physics, and on many visiting committees of institutions around the world. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the British Institute of Physics.
Statement: During the past year I have served as Editor of the Milestones of Physical Review Letters, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of PRL. This has involved, first, selecting for each year from 1958 to 2000, one or two significant developments that merit designation as worthy of doing honor to PRL. Then a brief writeup was given, to attract readers to look at the articles. It was important to try to give a balance to the many different areas of physics in this effort. This means that many very important developments were not selected, but it also shows the importance of PRL. This effort is now complete.
My interest and involvement in the history of physics goes back to my administrative positions at Brookhaven, which required justification for locating research efforts at national laboratories, and the history of the national laboratories provided such justification. My interest intensified during my terms as Editor-in-Chief: The on-line availability of all of the content of the APS journals is a treasure trove of historical information about both the Society and the physics of the 20th (and now 21st) century. During the 2005 celebration of the World Year of Physics, I gave a well-attended invited talk on “Scientific Publication Since Einstein” at the German Physical Society meeting in Berlin, where Einstein’s involvement with the Physical Review was highlighted.
The often standing-room-only status of the Forum’s invited sessions shows the great interest in the history of our science, and we should take advantage of this, first to increase membership, and then to arrange more such sessions at the smaller meetings of the Society, focusing on historical developments relevant to the location and topics of the meetings. Also important is the relationship between the history of physics and the policy, international, and educational programs of the Society. Joint sessions with the other forums in these areas should be promoted, and an aggressive campaign is needed to obtain more nominations for APS Fellowship through the Forum, separately and with other APS divisions.
George O. Zimmerman
Biography: George O. Zimmerman received all his degrees from Yale University. His Ph.D., with H. E. Fairbank and C. T. Lane on the low-temperature properties of helium-3, was completed in 1963. (His initial bout with experimental physics was scanning nuclear emulsions from the Brookhaven Cosmotron at a time when mesons were being discovered.) That year he joined the faculty of the Boston University Physics Department, from which he retired in 2000. His research interests are in condensed-matter and solid-state physics. More specifically, they involve low-temperature properties of helium-3 and paramagnetic systems, phase transitions and critical points, superconductivity and its applications, intercalated graphite, and theoretical studies of perovskite colossal magneto-resistive materials.
Zimmerman was Physics Department chair for 12 years (during which time a new physics building was constructed and the faculty doubled), chaired the Faculty Council (during the only strike in Boston University’s history), and was a member and chair of several other influential university committees, such as the University Planning Committee and the Computer Facilities and Research Board. His research collaborations included the Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory at MIT, Brookhaven, UC San Diego, Leiden, and Harvard. He is still active in research and writing. A summer research internship program for high-school students that he established over 30 years ago is still going strong. Students who complete physics in their junior year spend the summer in research laboratories at Boston University, Harvard and MIT. He is currently a Member-At-Large of the Forum Executive Committee and its ad hoc Webmaster.
Statement: History is worth preserving. Not only for historians but also for the professionals who can make use of ideas that were occasionally ahead of their time. I have seen many good physicists being forgotten within a few years of retirement, even within their own departments.
We are at a point in time when a very productive generation of physicists, both in academia and industry, is about to retire or has retired, and its contributions are in danger of being lost. Many worthy contributors to the various fields of physics may be forgotten. Moreover much of what goes on in forums and talks at APS meetings is lost to memory because the proceedings are rarely recorded (other than through the abstracts). The context of the talks is lost as well. As Vice Chair, I will attempt to preserve history in a systematic and accessible manner. I will continue to collaborate with the AIP Niels Bohr Library and Archives in urging the writing of histories of physics departments and research laboratories so that they can be preserved. Recorded interviews of retiring or retired researchers should be part of the process. I will also continue to organize APS history sessions, which will include sponsored lecturers, where the younger generation of physicists (and astronomers) can learn about previously proposed ideas, developments, and the context in which these events occurred, told by the people who lived them and were contributors to those events. I will also continue to chronicle those sessions and publish them on the Web, as has already been done with some of the 2008 March and April Forum sessions. We should preserve our past for the future.
Biography: Paul Cadden–Zimansky received a B.A. from the Great Books program of St. John’s College and an M.Sc. in history and philosophy of science from the London School of Economics. His master’s thesis focused on how Max Planck’s understanding of thermodynamic laws played a role in introducing the concept of inherent probabilities of microscopic events into the early quantum theory. After studying physics and mathematics at UC Berkeley and University of Wisconsin, Madison, Cadden–Zimansky received his Ph.D. in experimental condensed matter physics from Northwestern University where he was a Presidential Fellow. His doctoral work, which included a research appointment at Argonne National Laboratory, involved novel manifestations of quantum coherence in superconducting nanostructures. Cadden-Zimansky currently holds a joint post-doctoral fellowship at Columbia University and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory working with Philip Kim and Yong-Jie Wang on transport and infrared measurements of graphene. His historical interest at present focuses on the early development of quantum statistical mechanics.
Statement: As a physicist with a background in the history of science, the Forum newsletter and sponsored talks have provided me with an excellent way to stay in touch with my earlier academic passions. The work of the Forum has reinforced my views that physics history provides an invaluable pedagogical tool for introducing students to science, and can remind active researchers of important questions of the past that are still relevant today. Since the Forum has a dual mission to preserve and disseminate physics history, let me offer concrete proposals in each of these areas that I believe will help to continue its success in the future.
With physics, the history of physics, and the APS itself becoming more international, the Forum should make an active effort to promote scholarship on history outside the purview of North America and Western Europe. While the great majority of Forum members are rooted in this tradition, the increasing national diversity of physicists will require a proportional increase in studies on the history of physics in countries outside of these areas. A specific concern at present is the number of leading lights of Soviet physics whose recollections have yet to be preserved.
With regard to the dissemination of physics history, as more individuals pursue their interest in the subject online, it is imperative that the Forum website undergo continued improvements. The reformatting of the electronic version of the newsletter to mimic established online periodicals will make it more accessible, an important step now that the spring edition is to become entirely web-based. A number of APS events relevant to Forum members could be more prominently announced and documented on the website; the historic site dedications in particular are sometimes historic gatherings in their own right, and posting pictures of these gatherings will help to increase the number of images in the Forum gallery.
Biography: Josué Sznitman is a fluid dynamicist whose interests lie in experimental fluid mechanics at small scales and flow phenomena relevant to biology and physiology. Sznitman received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT in 2002 and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 2007 from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). His Ph.D. thesis focused on respiratory flows in the lungs in relation to the deposition of inhalation aerosols. For such work, he received the Silver Medal from the ETH Zurich and the Annual Award from the Swiss Society of Biomedical Engineering. After spending a year as a Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania during 2008, Sznitman recently joined Princeton University in 2009 as a Teaching Fellow appointed by the Princeton Council of Science & Technology. He has been an active member of APS and the Division of Fluid Dynamics since 2005. More recently, he received a John Bardeen Studentship to present a paper on the history of physics at the March Meeting in 2007.
Statement: One of the ways in which I strive to share my passion for science and history is through teaching. My experience has been that from early on physics taught in high school up until physics courses in university, scientific subjects are much too often taught by neglecting to include the history and life of the people who have contributed to the fields and to our knowledge. Indeed, scientific ideas and theories that have surfaced throughout history are often intricately connected to scientists’ and researchers’ lives, personal experiences, and their contemporary times. In some sense, physics and its discoveries also reflect the complex stories of people. My desire, as a Forum member, is to place an emphasis on the pedagogy of teaching science, in particular to students coming from different backgrounds including non-scientific ones. I believe that the Forum’s role can help to promote the appeal of physics to non-physics crowds through this social link with history.
University of California, Berkeley
Biography: Cathryn Carson is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Office for History of Science and Technology at the University of California, Berkeley. She currently chairs the editorial board of Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (formerly Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences). Her undergraduate training was in history of science, physics, and mathematics at the University of Chicago, and her Ph.D. was in history of science from Harvard University. Her past research has dealt with conceptual issues in quantum theory, relations between science and culture in twentieth-century Germany, and the institutional and political history of post-World War II physics. She is co-editor with David A. Hollinger of Reappraising Oppenheimer: Centennial Studies and Reflections, and her book Heisenberg in the Atomic Age: Science and the Public Sphere will be published later this year by Cambridge University Press. Her current research examines the history of the science behind nuclear waste management. Most years she teaches (and podcasts) an upper-level undergraduate course on the history of physics.
Statement: The history of physics is my full-time occupation. I teach it and I work in it actively. For physics education, I have learned, the history of physics can have real usefulness – as long as it is not just feeding students stories of geniuses and breakthroughs, but helping them grasp the discipline’s conceptual structure and sociopolitical context. At the same time, the history of physics, at least as historians practice it, has moved away from straight-ahead stories of unbroken advance. Although this sensibility sometimes grates on practicing physicists, I think it is a more realistic way of understanding the discipline’s progress. As a member of the Forum executive committee I hope to work with other Forum participants to advance projects that cross the boundaries between physicists and historians. One critical effort is to encourage local ventures to preserve historical materials and memories. Another is to help generate support for institutionalized historical programs, such as the AIP Center for History of Physics and Niels Bohr Library.
Clayton A. Gearhart
St. John’s University
Biography: I am currently Professor of Physics at St. John’s University in Minnesota. I did my undergraduate work at Rensselaer, and my graduate work at the University of Minnesota (Ph.D. 1979 on experimental liquid helium with William Zimmermann). I became interested in the history of science in my undergraduate years, and after leaving graduate school, began pursuing it as a research interest. That transition was aided when, in 1981, I had the good fortune to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar at Yale University, directed by Martin J. Klein. I have also benefited from the support and encouragement offered by the History of Science Program at the University of Minnesota. Currently, my research focuses on the history of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and early quantum theory. I am a long-time member of APS, American Association of Physics Teachers, the Forum (serving on the 2005–2006 Nominating Committee), and the History of Science Society.
Statement: The history of physics has much to offer physicists. Physics students 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 (and 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. And personally, I often understand the physics better when I learn its history; and I always find the history fascinating. The Forum has over the years done an outstanding job of bringing physicists and historians of physics (who are often themselves physicists) together. It gives historians an audience, particularly for the more technical history, an aspect historians of science all too often neglect. It shows physicists how their discipline actually developed, and helps to instill in us a more sophisticated sense of our history, in contrast to the oversimplified and inaccurate picture often found in texts and in the folklore we hand down from one generation of physicists to the next. 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.