Publications

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

"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.

"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.

"Into quantum electronics: the maser as 'gadget' of Cold-War America." In Paul Forman and José M. Sánchez-Ron, eds. National Military Establishments and the Advancement of Science and Technology: Studies in Twentieth Century History (Kluwer Academic Publ.: Dordrecht, 1996), pp. 261–326.

A close examination of the origins of the ammonia beam maser within the military-sponsored Columbia Radiation Laboratory in the early 1950s, together with an examination of the term ‘gadget’ in the parlance of American physicists of that era as indicative of the uneasy relation between their disciplinary self-image and their laboratory practice.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

“(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.

"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.

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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"Scientific Internationalism and the Weimar Physicists: The Ideology and its Manipulation in Germany after World War I," Isis, 64: 151–180 (1973).

Explores internationalism as an element of the ideology of scientists, and the ways in which German physicists and other scholars reconciled that ideology with nationalistic attitudes and behaviors in the decade following World War I.

"Atomic Clocks': Preview of an Exhibit at the Smithsonian," Proceedings of the 36th Annual Frequency Control Symposium (U.S. Army Signal Research and Development Command, 1982), 220–22.

Describes concept and content of exhibition on the history of atomic clocks then in preparation, and on display until 1988.

"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 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”).

"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 Atom Smashers," in The Smithsonian Book of Invention (Smithsonian Exposition Books, 1978), 132–139.

A narrative illustrated by dramatic photographs of the exhibition Atom smashers: fifty years, on display 1977-1988.

"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.

"Behind quantum electronics: national security as basis for physical research in the United States, 1940–1960." Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, 18: 149–229 (1987). Reprinted in Science and Society: The History of Modern Physical Science in the Twentieth Century. Peter Louis Galison, Michael Gordin, and David Kaiser, editors. 4 vols (New York : Routledge, 2001).

Gives various measures of the expansion of physical research in and following World War II and makes a broad case that it had the purpose and the result of reorienting that research toward refined and magnified effects, toward technique rather than toward concept, as this was where lay the interests of the national security agencies sponsoring that research.

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