Publications

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

"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.

“Context and Controversy.” in Svante Lindqvist (ed.), Museums of Modern Science; Nobel Symposium 112. Canton, MA: Science History Publications, 2000, pp. 151–158.

A discussion of how and why exhibitions at technical museums have increasingly had the potential to be controversial.

"An Appraisal of the Origins of Franklin's Electrical Theory." Isis 60 (1969), pp. 362–369.

Word analysis is used to speculate on where Franklin got some of his ideas.

"Edison and the Style of Invention." Rassagna: Problemi di architettura dell'ambiente, 13, 46/2 (1991), 44-53.

This is an attempt to analyze Edison's work as a matter of "style."

Artefacts, Vol. 4, Presenting Pictures. Principal editor. London: Science Museum, 2004.

There are essays on the history of technologies for reproducing and transmitting images and also one on museums of printing and photography.

"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.

A Retrospective Technology Assessment: Submarine Telegraphy. with Vary Coates, et al. San Francisco: San Francisco Press, 1979.

A history of submarine telegraphy with emphasis on the period from the 1850s to the 1950s, including speculation about what people in the 1860s might reasonably have projected the impact of the cables to be.

"The Incandescent Electric Light." in Margaret Latimer and Brooke Hindle (eds.), Bridge to the Future, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 424 (1984), pp. 247–263.

This is an anlaysis of the symbolic use of the incandescent lamp in religious writings, cartoons, art (including Picasso's Guernica).

The History of Electrical Technology: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Press, 1991.

There are over 1500 entries in this international survey, with author and subject indexes.

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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

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