AIP | Matters
-- -- October 1, 2012

Fred Dylla Director's Matters

By H. Frederick Dylla, Executive Director & CEO

Fifty years of sharing history

On the evening of September 26, 1962, an enthusiastic group met in AIP's building on 335 East 45th Street in Manhattan to hear the iconic physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer address the occasion of the dedication of AIP's Niels Bohr Library and its nascent historical efforts. Philanthropist and engineer Dannie N. Heineman generously provided the start-up funds. The attendees knew that something unique and valuable for the physical science community was in the making, but its importance to the community could not have been accurately predicted from its modest beginnings in 1962. Last Monday evening, AIP held a half-century birthday party for the Center for History of Physics and what is now the Niels Bohr Library and Archives (NBL&A). The event was attended by more than 150 of the History Programs' supporters and researchers. By the party's end, it was clear to all that the promise of a unique and valuable resource for the community had been fulfilled. AIP's History Programs have joined the most valuable international resources for the history of physics and allied disciplines. AIP's collections house more than 18,000 book titles and hundreds of collections of manuscripts, about 1,500 oral interviews from many of the giants of the field in the 20th century, and more than 30,000 photographs. Many of the History Programs' pioneer research tools are now on the web, making them valuable to historians, science writers, teachers and students everywhere. Our collections enable researchers to find information on neglected but important episodes in the history of science.

Many of the books that have received recognition for excellence in science writing cite sources within our collections. AIP’s own science writing award, given recently to Jon Gertner for his fascinating history of Bell Labs (The Idea Factory, published by Penguin Press this year), relied heavily on oral interviews of Bell Labs scientists archived in the NBL&A, as well as the IEEE History Center.

Gerald Holton speaking
Historian Gerald Holton explains how the library came to be named after Niels Bohr.

During the anniversary celebration for our History Programs, Professor Gerald Holton, the distinguished historian of science from Harvard University, presented evidence for the value of AIP’s History Programs. No one could be better suited for the task. Holton has been involved with the library and center since their founding, led by AIP’s second executive director, Elmer Hutchinson. Holton substantially contributed to our historical resources during his long and distinguished career. Your writer and everyone in the audience were mesmerized by Holton’s string of anecdotes, recounting his interactions with most of the world’s great physicists from the first half of the 20th century: Bohr, Heisenberg, Oppenheimer, Rabi, Feynman, Dyson, and Weisskopf—to name a few. Holton even spoke with Einstein himself. These personalities established modern physics and participated in several defining events of the century—the Manhattan Project, the Rad Lab at MIT, and the formation of US agencies dedicated to science, such as ONR, NSF, and the AEC. They also were essential in establishing the preeminence of American science in the latter half of the century. Listening to Holton weave this tale, it became clear that AIP’s History Programs have become international treasures, where the voices of these great physicists and much of their work are archived and available for scholars all over the world.

As I listened to Professor Holton, I wished that our History Programs and modern recording tools had been available in the early 20th century so that historians, students, and the public could now hear the voices of the likes of Einstein, the Curies, and Max Planck. The few fragments of earlier physicists’ voices preserved in news reels pale in comparison to the rich trove that AIP’s historians and librarians have preserved for future generations. But we are fortunate to have recorded and archived Professor Holton’s marvelous talk. You can listen to it at your leisure by download from the event website, and in a few days we will post a video of his talk on this same site.

The continued operation and growth in resources of the AIP History Programs depend on both significant contributions from AIP’s scientific publishing program and also generous donations from our supporters. On the occasion of its 50th year, I was honored to announce that the Avenir Foundation has given $3 million to AIP to allow us to endow the directorship of the Niels Bohr Library and Archives. This new endowed chair will be named for the current holder of this position, Joe Anderson, who has contributed to the center’s success for nearly 20 years and became director of the NBL&A in 2006.

Gloria Lubkin, Greg Good, Roger Stuewer
Gloria Lubkin (left) and Greg Good (right) congratulate Roger Stuewer on being named winner of APS's Abraham Pais Prize for History of Physics.

The second important announcement stemmed from the longstanding, productive relationship between AIP’s History Programs and the APS Forum on the History of Physics. We were honored to share the stage Monday night as the APS Forum on the History of Physics, represented by Alan Chodos, Gloria Lubkin, and Greg Good, announced the 2013 recipient of APS’s Abraham Pais Prize for History of Physics, Professor Roger Stuewer of the University of Minnesota, for his lifetime of work documenting the history of nuclear physics. Since Gerald Holton received the Pais Prize in 2008, the evening’s two main speakers symbolized the collaboration of AIP with its Member Societies in the endeavor “to preserve and make known the history of physics and allied sciences.”

Photo collage from event
Photos of the AIP History Programs 50th Anniversary celebration. For a complete slideshow, see the event website.
Publishing Matters

APL's 50th Anniversary Editor's Picks collection now available online

AIP 50th picks coverApplied Physics Letters (APL) turned 50 this year, and to celebrate the editor has highlighted some of the most recent influential papers published in APL. In January, APL released a collection of the 50 most highly cited papers ever published in the journal, but because newer papers did not have time to build up the number of citations necessary to make it into the top 50, APL’s editor, Dr. Nghi Lam, has also selected an additional 50 notable articles, published from 2009 through 2012, to include in the Editor’s Picks collection. The collection, which was posted online in September, showcases ongoing innovative research activities and is representative of the broad cross section of topics that APL covers. The articles listed in this collection will be freely available online until the end of September 2013. In an editorial written in honor of APL’s golden anniversary, Lam writes: “As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the journal, we look forward to many more years of cutting-edge research and technology, fascinating scientific discoveries, and innovative developments in scientific publishing. We believe that APL is well positioned to make an impact and to meet the needs of the applied-physics community throughout the next 50 years and beyond.”

Physics Resources Matters

HBCU students at PhysCon

Through the AIP Career Pathways project, Education staff have been working to ensure a powerful representation of students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) at the upcoming Sigma Pi Sigma Quadrennial Congress (PhysCon) in Orlando, FL.

As you have read in previous columns, PhysCon is an event that occurs once every four years and is the largest gathering of physics undergraduates in the United States (if not worldwide). The Career Pathways project seeks to increase the size and diversity of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce by equipping physics bachelor's for meaningful careers and supporting departments with tools to better prepare their students to enter the STEM workforce. The project entails campus site visits, sharing effective practices, and workshops for students, faculty, and alumni boards on careers. It is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The grant's principal investigators, Tom Olsen and Kendra Redmond from SPS and Roman Czujko from the Statistical Research Center, have collaborated with leaders of the National Society of Black Physicists to secure additional funding to directly support 40 students from HBCUs to attend PhysCon. At PhysCon Roman Czujko will present preliminary results of the Career Pathways project's site visit program and information about STEM careers that will help participants understand the range of opportunities available to them. This will be the first of a series of regional workshops based on the Career Pathways project.

HBCU physics students at Congress
Left: Students and faculty members from HBCUs at the 2008 Sigma Pi Sigma Congress. Right: Emma Watkins of Chicago State University presents her research at a 2008 Congress poster session.
Around AIP

Countdown to the Congress: ACP silent auction

COnnecting Worlds logoStaff at ACP, including those at AIP, AAPM, AAPT, and APS, are invited to participate in a silent auction sponsored by the AIP Development Office on October 4th. The auction is an opportunity to learn more about Congress and to enable more undergraduate students to attend this important event. Come and bid on several fun items, ranging from Whole Foods Gift cards to Washington Redskins memorabilia, to hotel retreats, golf outings, and more. There will be refreshments and a brief program in the afternoon. See the flyers in the pantries for more details.

Around AIP

Physics Today, October 2012

Cover: This issue of Physics Today takes two different looks at science and elections. In the Quick Study on page 74, Santo Fortunato and Claudio Castellano apply some methods of statistical mechanics to so-called proportional elections in a number of countries and uncover some surprisingly universal results. With the US presidential election looming, David Kramer, on page 22, reports on the candidates' views and records related to science. (Cover design by Donna Padian.)

Coming Up

Monday, October 1

  • “Wow” drawing (Melville)

Tuesday, October 2

  • Lunchtime talk by Francis Slakey of APS, “Science and a Journey of Extremes.” Slakey will describe his decade-long journey of summiting the highest mountain on every continent and surfing every ocean. His experience culminates in a recognition that science is the most powerful tool we have to build a better world. (College Park)

Wednesday, October 3

  • ACP blood drive (College Park)

Thursday, October 4

  • ACP silent auction to support the 2012 Physics Congress (College Park)

October 9–12

  • Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurt, Germany)

Wednesday, October 10

  • Staff birthday breakfasts (Melville and College Park)

Tuesday, October 16

  • Ice cream social to recognize monthly winners "Wow" program (Melville)

Thursday, October 18

  • ACP flu shot clinic (College Park)