Publications

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

"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.

"The Doublet Riddle and Atomic Physics circa 1924," Isis, 59: 156–174 (1968).

Argues that the usual accounts of the development of quantum theory have mistakenly supposed that the problems relating to the interaction and the analogies between matter and radiation out of which the quantum mechanics emerged in 1925 were also the problems that in the preceding years quantum theorists regarded as most central and indicative for the failure of classical mechanics.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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 Primacy of Science in Modernity, of Technology in Postmodernity, and of Ideology in the History of Technology" History and Technology, 23:1, 1 - 152.

The abrupt reversal of culturally ascribed primacy in the science & technology relationship—namely, from the primacy of science relative to technology prior to circa 1980, to the primacy of technology relative to science since about that date—is proposed as a demarcator of postmodernity from modernity. Ironically, that prior primacy of science is largely responsible for historians of technology having remained almost wholly unacknowledging of postmodernity’s epochal elevation of the cultural standing of the subject of their studies.
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“(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.

"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.

"How Lewis Mumford saw science, and art, and himself," Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, 38 (2007), 271-336.

Mumford saw himself as a scientist of a sort, a fact ignored by nearly every scholar writing about him in the past thirty years.  Mumford’s estimation of science, of physics especially, was far higher and far more constant than was his estimation of technology, which only during a short period in the late 1920s and early 1930s did he regarded as embodying affirmable values.  Although he deplored nuclear weapons, Mumford’s valuation of science as an element of culture, and of scientists as agents of social progress, rose in the postwar decades.  This was a result of Mumford’s rejection of contemporary art, for after the mid-1930s Mumford could no longer suppress the distaste he felt for abstract art, and could no longer sustain his earlier belief — a common faith in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — that art and the artist were the agents by which new, socially salvific values were created.

"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.

"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.

"The Financial Support and Political Alignment of Physicists in Weimar Germany," Minerva, 12: 39–66 (1974).

Examines the two principal supports for the research of German academic physicists created during the catastrophic inflation following the First World War—the Notgemeinschaft and the Helmholtz Gesellschaft—relating the policies and practices in distribution of funds to the political orientation of those providing the funds and those evaluating applications for funds.

"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.

"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.

Facts About Museums: An Assessment of Data on the Museum Community (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Museum and Library Services, 1998).
"The Redefinition of Historical Scholarship: Calling a Tail a Leg?: Response," The Public Historian 21 (Spring 1999): 95–97.
A Historical Guide to the United States, editor and contributor. (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1986).
“Collections Planning: Pinning Down a Strategy,” Museum News 81 (March/April 2002): 42–45,66–67.
"The Redefinition of Historical Scholarship: Calling a Tail a Leg?" The Public Historian 20 (Fall 1998): 43–57.
The AAM Guide to Collections Planning with Elizabeth Merritt. (Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums, 2004).
"Contested Terrain: History, Museums and the Public," The Public Historian
Public History: Essays from the Field, e.d., with Peter S. LaPaglia. (Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company, 2004).
“September 11 and the Mourning After: Reflections on Collecting and Interpreting the History of Tragedy," with Sarah M. Henry. The Public Historian 24 (Summer 2002): 37–52.

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