Profile

Paul Forman

Curator Emeritus
Research Specialties 

The history of physics, especially in relation to environing society and culture.

Projects 

Characterization of the modern/postmodern transition in science, society, and culture.

Awards, Honors, and Special Recognition 
  • 1988: Elected a Fellow of The American Physical Society "for his research on the history and cultural background of modern physics, and for his development of museum exhibits presenting physics to the public."
  • 1997: Elected a Fellow of The American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • 2007:  International conference, "The Cultural Alchemy of the Exact Sciences: Revisiting the Forman Thesis," University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC, March 2007.
  • 2011:  Weimar Culture and Quantum Mechanics: Selected Papers by Paul Forman and Contemporary Perspectives on the Forman Thesis, edited by Cathryn Carson, Alexei Kojevnikov, and Helmuth Trischler (Imperial College Press and World Scientific Publishing).
Professional Affiliations 
  • American Physical Society
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Historical Association
  • History of Science Society
  • Society for History of Technology
    Society for Social Studies of Science
  • Society for History in the Federal Government

Publications

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

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