Publications

The list of selected staff publications may be searched by keyword or author and can be sorted by year.

"Working at Menlo Park." in William S. Pretzer (ed.), Working at Inventing: Thomas A. Edison and the Menlo Park Experience. Dearborn, MI: Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, 1989 (reprint 2002), pp. 32–47.

Edison was supported in his work at Menlo Park by a number of assistants. This is an analysis of their backgrounds and their reasons for coming and leaving.

"Alexander Graham Bell's Experiments with the Variable-Resistance Transmitter." Smithsonian Journal of History 1, no. 4 (1966), pp. 1–16.

Experiments with Bell's instruments (and reproductions of them), combined with remarks made in his notebooks, provide fresh insights into the origins of his invention.

Artefacts, Vol 2, Exposing Electronics Principal editor. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 2000.

There are several essays on the history of electronics, with an emphasis on the importance of loking at objects. There is also a section on museums with electrical collections.

"Summary Remarks." Choices and Challenges: Collecting by Museums and Archives. Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, 2002.

Comments on eight papers that examine issues in the acquisition of artifacts and archival materials by museums and archives. Urges attention to the social and civic role of our institutions and their holdings.

"Reaching the Mass Audience: Business History as Popular History," in James O'Toole, ed., The Records of American Business (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1997)

Discusses the role of archival records, especially audio-visual materials, in such popular business history forms as exhibitions, licensed product reproductions, and print publications.

"Greeting Cards and American Consumer Culture," in The Gift as Material Culture (Yale-Smithsonian Reports on Material Culture, No. 4, 1995)

Greeting cards are associated with gift exchange and sentimentality while simultaneously belonging to a vast consumer industry.

"The Last Revolution and the Next," Journal of Archival Organization, 2 (number 1/2), 2004.

Information and communications technologies have transformed the archival enterprise, changing the way we work and our relationship with the wider society. Access to archives has increased immeasurably and spurred demand for use of archives. At the same time, in a painful irony, public support for archival work is under attack. Archivists must continue to assert the case for archives in our larger civic life.

"How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Artifact," Museum Archives Section Newsletter, Summer, 2005 
"The Archives Center at the National Museum of American History: Connecting Archival Materials and Artifacts," Collections, 3 (number 2, Spring, 2007)
"Clocks, atomic." Instruments of science: an historical encyclopedia. Robert Bud and D. J. Warner, eds. (Garland Publishing Co.: New York and London, 1998), pp. 118–121.

An overview of the several types of atomic frequency standards with some attention to the historical sequence and context of their development.

"Inventing the Maser in Postwar America," Osiris, 7: 105–134 (1992).

A critical examination of the concepts and assumptions regarding radiation fields and their interaction with matter underlying the invention of the ammonia beam maser by Charles Townes and his collaborators at Columbia University in the early 1950s, emphasizing particularly that the merits of the device as ‘atomic clock’ were not anticipated, and that until it actually worked the maser was not a priority project in Townes laboratory.

"Researching Rabi's Relics: Using the Electron to Determine Nuclear Moments before Magnetic Resonance, 1927–1937." Artefacts: Studies in the History of Science and Technology. vol.2: Exposing Electronics. Bernard Finn, editor. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 2000. pp. 161–174.

An overview of the technique of magnetic deflection of molecular beams employed by Columbia University physicist I. I. Rabi to determine spins and magnetic moments of atomic nuclei in the years before he invented the technique of nuclear magnetic resonance.

"The Discovery of the Diffraction of X-rays by Crystals: A Critique of the Myths" Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 6: 38–71 (1969).

Argues that the usual accounts of the discovery of diffraction of X-rays by crystals in Munich in 1912 have rationalized that discovery by reading back into the minds of the discoverers an explanation of the observed effect that none of them then held, and that was only gradually and haltingly worked out after the discovery.

"Truth and objectivity. Part 1: Irony. Part 2: Trust." Science, 269: 565-567, 707–710 (1995).

An essay review of A. Megill, ed., Rethinking objectivity (1994); J. Appleby, L. Hunt, and M. Jacob, Telling the truth about history (1994); S. Shapin, A social history of truth (1994);T. Porter, Trust in numbers (1995). It makes the point that as challenges to belief in truth and in objectivity have escaped from academic discussion, becoming axioms of popular culture, many scholars who previously contributed to undermining that belief are becoming alarmed at the consequences of wholesale voluntarism.

Einstein: a Centenary Exhibition with Paul A. Hanle. (Smithsonian Institution Press for National Museum of History and Technology, 1979), 48 pp.

Catalog of an special exhibition, 1979–80, in the Dibner Exhibition Gallery of the Museum featuring artists portraits of Einstein, manuscripts by him, and apparatus connected with tests of his special and general theories of relativity – notably a large torsion balance to test equivalence of gravitational and inertial mass constructed for Lorand Eötvös (lent by Museum for History and Science and Technology, Budapest), and a 1300 Kg aluminum cylinder deployed by Joseph Weber as gravitational wave antenna.

"Atomichron®: The Atomic Clock from Concept to Commercial Product," Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, 73: 1181–1204 (1985).

Illustrated narrative account of the concept and realization of atomic frequency standards, 1873–1953, and, in greater detail, of development, 1953–56, of the first commercial atomic frequency standard. This device, tradenamed Atomichron®, incorporating the first vacuum-sealed cesium beam tube, resulted from the collaboration of MIT physicist Jerrold Zacharias, and his student R.T. Daly Jr, with the National [Radio] Company of Malden, Mass.

"The Fall of Parity." The Physics Teacher, 20: 281–88 (1982).

Illustrated narrative account, elaborating the descriptive labels in a like-named Museum exhibition, 1981–82, in which was displayed the apparatus used in 1956 by Ernest Ambler and collaborators at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to confirm experimentally the theoretical prediction by C.N. Yang and T.D. Lee of the non-conservation of parity in some nuclear processes (“weak interactions”).

"In the Era of the Earmark: the Recent Pejoration of Meritocracy—and of Peer Review" in Recent Science Newsletter, v.2, nr 3 (Spring 2001), pp. 1, 10–12.

The modern/postmodern transition as reflected in the changing connotations of the word ‘meritocracy’ and in the recent turn away from expert peer review, formerly regarded as the optimal way to allot funds for scientific research.

"P. R. Gross, N. Levitt, and M. W. Lewis, eds., The flight from science and reason" Science, 276: 750–53 (1997).

Essay review of the proceedings of a conference called to refute postmodern intellectual positions, pointing out how ineffective the contributions are in doing so, and how largely the contributions themselves give evidence of the postmodernization of contemporary thought, including that of scientists.

"Swords into ploughshares': breaking new ground with radar hardware and technique in physical research after World War II." Reviews of Modern Physics, 67: 397–455 (1995).

A review of the many different areas of physical research in which the electronic hardware and the microwave techniques developed in World War II radar programs were fruitfully applied after the war. Special attention is given to the question of continuity vrs discontinuity in research directions from pre- to post-war as test of disciplinary autonomy. Some 500 references given.

"The First Atomic Clock Program: NBS, 1947–1954," Proceedings of the 17th Annual Precise Time and Time Interval Applications and Planning Meeting, 1985 Dec.3–6 (NASA: Washington, D.C., 1986), 1-17.

Illustrated narrative account of the broadly conceived program to develop several types of atomic clocks built up by Harold Lyons as head of the Microwave Standards Section of the National Bureau of Standards’ (now NIST) military-controlled Central Radio Propagation Laboratory—the first such program, from which also came the first atomic clock.

"What the Past Tells Us about the Future of Science" in La ciencia y la tecnologia ante el tercer milenio. José Manuel Sánchez Ron, ed. Madrid: Sociedad Estatal España Nuevo Milenio, 2002. pp. 27–37.

The future of science cannot be predicted by extrapolating current scientific concepts but can, to some extent, by considering the general social and cultural conditions under which scientific knowledge is being produced at present and is likely to be produced in the future.

"Atom Smashers: Fifty Years': Preview of an Exhibit on the History of High Energy Accelerators," IEEE Trans. on Nuclear Science, NS-24: 1896–99 (1977).

Describes concept and content of a large exhibition on the history of particle accelerators and detectors, then in preparation, and on display until 1988.

"From the social to the moral to the spiritual: the postmodern exaltation of the history of science" in Positioning the History of Science [Festschrift for S.S. Schweber], edited by Jürgen Renn and Kostas Gavroglu. ‘Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science , Vol. 248’ (Berlin and New York: Springer Verlag, 2007), pp. 49-55.

Some consequences for the writing of the history of science following from the demise in postmodernity of disciplinarity, and of every other form of social solidarity, are pointed out.  The rising interest in the moral dimension of history and history of science from the late 1960s through the 1980s, and the coincident decline of interest in the social dimension, is documented bibliometrically and asserted to be indicative of the onset of postmodernity.  The recently surging interest in spirituality is similarly documented and asserted to be indicative of our presently more fully realized condition of postmodernity.

"Lock-in detection/amplifier." Instruments of science: an historical encyclopedia. Robert Bud and D. J. Warner, eds. (Garland Publishing Co.: New York and London, 1998), pp.359–361.

Consideration of the signal/noise ratio became widespread, indeed mandatory, in physical research only in the years following World War II, largely as a result of analyses and techniques developed to detect a ‘real’ signal in the noisy output of a radar receiver. "Lock-in detection,” most influentially embodied in R. H. Dicke’s microwave radiometer, 1943, is a procedure for noise reduction through subtraction of inputs followed by frequency specific amplification and detection.

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