Publications

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

"Franklin as Electrician." IEEE Proceedings 64 (1976), 1270–1273.

In many ways Franklin benefitted from his isolation in America and was free to develop new concepts.

"Growing Pains at the Crossroads of the World: A Submarine Cable Station in the 1870s." IEEE Proceedings 64 (1976), pp. 1287–1292.

How the introducton of new technologies and hardships in a remote Newfoundland station interacted.

"History of Thermoelectricity." in Advances in Electronics and Electronic Physics, 50 (1980), 175–240.

A detailed discussion of experimental and theoretical work, based on Ph.D. dissertation.

"Output of Eighteenth-Century Electrostatic Machines." British Journal for the History of Science 5 (1971), pp. 289–291.

By measuremnt and analysis of published accounts it is possible to determine the voltage levels of these machines and (by measuremnets on Leyden jars) their energy output.

"Telegraph Practice in the 19th Century." Actes du XIIIe Congrès International d'Histoire des Sciences (1975).

A look at how practice was determined (or not determined) by the design of the instruments.

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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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 Archives Center at the National Museum of American History: Connecting Archival Materials and Artifacts," Collections, 3 (number 2, Spring, 2007)
"How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Artifact," Museum Archives Section Newsletter, Summer, 2005 
"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.

"Tunnels!' —A talk through the exhibition." In Going Underground: Tunneling Past, Present, and Future. Jeffrey K. Stine and Howard Rosen, eds. (Public Works Historical Society: Kansas City, Mo., 1998), 142–49.

An overview of the exhibition in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ Dibner Gallery in the Museum, August 1993 to May 1994. The last exhibition to be curated by Ellen Wells, it traced the history of tunneling technology, from antiquity to the present, with particular emphasis on the 19th century.

"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.

"Weimar Culture, Causality, and Quantum Theory, 1918-1927: Aadaptation by German Physicists and Mathematicians to a Hostile Intellectual Environment," Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, 3: 1–115 (1971).

Argues that the acausal character of the quantum mechanics discovered in 1925–26 was not a matter of chance. Rather, in the years before its discovery, German physicists, prompted by and participating in strong cultural currents antipathetic to the concept of causality, had identified the abandonment of causality as the principal desideratum for the theory to replace classical mechanics.

"Molecular beam measurements of nuclear moments before magnetic resonance: I. I. Rabi and deflecting magnets to 1938. Part I." Annals of Science, v.55: 111–160 (1998).

A close examination of the earliest phases of I. I. Rabi’s scientific life and work, through his postdoctoral research at Hamburg University with Otto Stern, 1927-29, and of the techniques for magnetic deflection of molecular beams employed by Stern and Rabi in that laboratory.

"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.

"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.

“(Re)cognizing postmodernity: helps for historians -- of science especially,” Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte, 33 (2010), 157-175.

This paper resumes the argument of “The Primacy…” that faith in procedurism and a low valuation of technology (relative to science) were distinctive for modernity and demarcated it from postmodernity. It extends that argument by drawing attention to the demise of disinterestedness as cultural value in postmodernity. Further, it underscores the distinction between the reality that is postmodernity and the ideology and practice that is postmodernism by drawing attention to the fact that the postmodernists’ contention that contemporary personhood is essentially and characteristically fragmented is contradicted by our exaltation of the single-minded, rule-breaking entrepreneur above all other ideals of personhood, in particular above the open-minded but rule-following scientist.

"Recent science: late-modern and post-modern." In The Historiography of Contemporary Science and Technology. Thomas Söderqvist, editor. (Harwood Academic Publications: London and Chur, 1997), pp. 179–213. Reprinted, with a few revisions, in Science Bought and Sold: Rethinking the Economics of Science. Philip Mirowski and E.-M. Sent, editors. (University of Chicago Press, 2002), pp. 109–148.

Essays identifying the features that distinguish knowledge production in postmodernity from the modern era, stressing the overproduction of all cultural goods, and the acceptance of bound and interested knowledge as fully legitimate knowledge. Direction of knowledge production by moral considerations is thus likewise legitimated, with ‘responsibility’ then appearing to gain primacy as normative category.

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.

"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.

"Alfred Landé and the Anomalous Zeeman Effect, 1919–1921," Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, 2: 153–261 (1970).

An account of the early career of German theoretical physicist Alfred Landé, with a close examination of the process by which he came to provide a quantum-theoretical, phenomenological accounting for the anomalous (classically inexplicable) effect upon the light emitted by atoms placed in magnetic fields – together with some reflections upon the inherent impossibility of retracing the conceptual steps to a discovery.

"Schrödinger, Erwin." in The Oxford Companion to the History of Science. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. pp.733–34.

Brief biography of this early 20th -entury Austrian theoretical physicist with appraisals of his work, in particular disparaging his highly influential What Is Life? as of little value.

Pages