Publications

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

“Collectors and Museums,” in Artefacts, Vol 2, Exposing Electronics. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 2000, pp. 175–191.

Comments on ways that private collections have affected the development of public institutions.

"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.

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.

"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.

"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.

"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 
"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.

"From the social to the moral to the spiritual: the postmodern exaltation of the history of science" in Positioning the History of Science [Festschrift for S.S. Schweber], edited by Jürgen Renn and Kostas Gavroglu. ‘Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science , Vol. 248’ (Berlin and New York: Springer Verlag, 2007), pp. 49-55.

Some consequences for the writing of the history of science following from the demise in postmodernity of disciplinarity, and of every other form of social solidarity, are pointed out.  The rising interest in the moral dimension of history and history of science from the late 1960s through the 1980s, and the coincident decline of interest in the social dimension, is documented bibliometrically and asserted to be indicative of the onset of postmodernity.  The recently surging interest in spirituality is similarly documented and asserted to be indicative of our presently more fully realized condition of postmodernity.

"The First Atomic Clock Program: NBS, 1947–1954," Proceedings of the 17th Annual Precise Time and Time Interval Applications and Planning Meeting, 1985 Dec.3–6 (NASA: Washington, D.C., 1986), 1-17.

Illustrated narrative account of the broadly conceived program to develop several types of atomic clocks built up by Harold Lyons as head of the Microwave Standards Section of the National Bureau of Standards’ (now NIST) military-controlled Central Radio Propagation Laboratory—the first such program, from which also came the first atomic clock.

"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.

"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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"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.

"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.

"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.

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