Fiftieth Anniversary of AIP's Center for History of Physics and Niels Bohr Library & Archives

By Greg Good

AIP’s Center for History of Physics and Niels Bohr Library & Archives

In September, 1962, J. Robert Oppenheimer spoke at the dedication of the new "Niels Bohr Library" at the American Institute of Physics in New York City. Oppenheimer, already diagnosed with cancer, was keenly aware of the passing of the generation of physicists that had transformed our understanding of the physical world in the early 20th century. He and the audience knew that it would require a dedicated effort to preserve the history of modern physics and they saw AIP as a viable sponsor of that effort.

AIP's History Programs now include the Niels Bohr Library & Archives and the Center for History of Physics. In September 2012, 150 physicists and supporters attended the fiftieth anniversary and listened to distinguished historians of physics Gerald Holton and Roger Stuewer's stories of how these programs grew from a dream to a reality. Professor Holton was not only present at the beginning of these programs, he helped to guide their development. Professor Stuewer provided advice starting in the 1970s.

Today, AIP's History Programs work closely with APS and AIP's nine other member societies "to preserve and make known the history of modern physics and allied sciences." Both Holton and Stuewer represent this guiding principle of mutual support, since both are now recipients of the Abraham Pais Prize for the history of physics. While Holton received the prize in 2008, it was a special honor to witness Roger Stuewer's surprise when he was announced as the Pais Prize recipient for 2013 at the beginning of the anniversary ceremonies.

We at AIP look forward to many more years of close cooperation with the APS Forum for History of Physics! Much history remains to be documented through oral histories and archival collections. And many stories remain to be researched and written. Our job is far from over.

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