History teaches scientists
One might think that scientists would not ordinarily pay much attention to history. After all, isn't the aim of science to push the frontiers of knowledge beyond what we characterize as the past? The most exciting science usually stems from new experimental findings, from fresh knowledge about the universe that alters perceived boundaries, or from a new theory that binds present and past observations into a comprehensive testable model. When we are taught science from grade school to grad school, the path from observations to a theoretical construct that ties them all together often comes across as being too neat—reduced to a series of linked observations leading to a new model or theory describing a particular phenomenon. But the practice of science, like every other endeavor in life, is never this simple. By studying the history of science, we are exposed to the drama of how science is really practiced: the false starts, the wayward paths, the lessons learned barking up the wrong tree, and of course, the personalities that helped or hindered the cause. Science is a human endeavor, subject to all the pain and gain of the often tumultuous journey from start to the rarely attained finish. History lets us see how science is really done.
AIP provides an important service to the scientific community and the public by maintaining its Center for History of Physics and the Niels Bohr Library and Archives. Last week we had a transition in leadership of the center; for more on that, please read the "History in the making" article below.
The history of science has been a hot topic in the press recently. In last week's Nature magazine, astronomer Jay Pasachoff, currently at Caltech, wrote an enticing review of the new exhibit on the history of science ("Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World") that opened at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA, in November. The Huntington Library contains a remarkable collection of books donated by Bern Dibner, who also generously enriched the Smithsonian Institution with priceless artifacts of science. Some of the treasures featured in the Beautiful Science exhibit include artifacts from Edwin Hubble (who first proved that the universe is expanding): a logbook with a 1923 notation of a variable star in the nearby galaxy Andromeda—later found to be a supernova—and Hubble's copy of Newton's fundamental treatise on mathematics, Principia Mathematica, originally owned by Isaac Newton himself. A visitor can trace our understanding of the nature and use of light: from a replica of Robert Hooke's first microscope (ca 1665), to Newton's own copy of his text Optiks (1717), to a display of Newton's key experiment on the dispersion of sunlight through a prism, to Joseph Fraunhofer's identification of solar absorption lines (1816), to three curious examples of Edison's early incandescent lamps. A visually appealing tour of the foundations of modern astronomy, physics, and biology awaits visitors to this Huntington Library exhibit.
During 2009 the scientific community will be celebrating two important historical events: Charles Darwin's 200th birthday and the 400th anniversary of Galileo's telescopic observations of the planets. Galileo's contributions to science are a main focus of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) programs. (Refer to last week's AIP Matters' Member Society Spotlight on the American Astronomical Society.) The IYA website details all planned events. In particular, Philadelphia's Franklin Institute will be the US host for a special exhibit on Galileo, opening April 4. For Darwin's anniversary, London's Natural History Museum offers a superb exhibit on Darwin's life and work—from a replica of his study, to collections of his famous finches, to an array of his notebooks, to video discussions of the evolution–creationism debate that should be given airtime in every classroom.
World-class planned presentations for 2009
Every year, representatives from AIP's Fulfillment and Marketing Services and Publishing Sales groups attend a series of globally recognized events to drive awareness, engage customers, and keep AIP publications and services in the spotlight. This year will be no exception. To exhibit publishing and services materials, AIP will be represented at the following scientific conferences:
- American Physical Society March Meeting
- International Congress on Mathematical Physics
- AVS International Symposium and Exhibition
- Materials Research Society Fall Meeting
- American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
and at the following publishing conferences:
- American Library Association Midwinter Meeting
- Annual Conference of the Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers
- Electronic Resources & Libraries Conference
- Association of College & Research Libraries National Conference
- United Kingdom Serials Group Annual Conference
- Society for Scholarly Publishing Annual Meeting
- Special Libraries Association Annual Conference
- Frankfurt Book Fair
- Charleston Conference
- Online Information 2009—London
For the new Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, AIP may be represented at the World Renewable Energy Congress 2009 in Asia—one of the most important annual meetings for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Our journal Biomicrofluidics is involved in organizing the Electrokinetics and Microfluidics symposium for the joint 13th IACIS International Conference on Surface and Colloid Science/83rd ACS Colloid & Surface Science Symposium. Marketing Services staff is actively exploring a number of other events that might be added to the list.
History in the making
For the first time since 1974, the leadership of the Center for History of Physics is changing. Spencer Weart retires January 16 after 35 years as director of the center. We welcome Greg Good, who officially took the helm on January 5. Greg will continue to work hand-in-hand with Joe Anderson, director of the Niels Bohr Library and Archives, to advance the center's mission of preserving and bringing life to the history of physics. Among Greg's first initiatives are to explore mutually beneficial cooperation with other disciplinary history centers—such as IEEE, the Charles Babbage Institute, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation—and to foster the involvement of younger scientists and scholars in the history of physics and allied fields. Greg's own research focuses on the history of physics and earth science in the 19th and 20th centuries. He is excited to be at AIP and looks forward to promoting the center as a place where people interested in history of physics can meet and exchange ideas.
Who we are – Executive Director's Office
In the December 1, 2008, issue of AIP Matters, we introduced the new AIP organizational chart, with the promise of spotlighting the various business units within AIP to give you a better feel of who we are as an organization. This is the first of a series of articles that will run in the "Around AIP" section through mid-August.
If you navigate to page six of the chart, you will see the structure of the Executive Director's Office. The first photograph here shows Executive Director and CEO Fred Dylla (middle) with AIP officers. From the left are Ben Snavely, Corporate Secretary; Cathy O'Riordan, VP of Physics Resources; Terri Braun, VP of Human Resources; and Richard Baccante, Treasurer and CFO. Missing is the new VP of Publishing—John Haynes—who will join AIP early next month; Fred is filling the role in the interim. As CEO, Fred sets the strategy and vision for AIP, including building its culture. He is also ultimately responsible for operations, marketing, financing, human resources, and compliance with regulations. The Corporate Secretary's office maintains AIP's official records and coordinates meetings of AIP governance and all appointments to AIP committees. Subsequent articles in this column will touch on the work of each AIP officer.
Other functions under the Executive Director's Office are development, strategic planning and corporate communications, Member Society relations, Web management, and information services. A few of these areas will be highlighted in future editions of AIP Matters. In the second photo, from the left, are Luke Heselden, Yvonne Taylor, Fred Dylla, Eva Adams, Jeff Kobilinsky, Margaret Wiley, Melissa Poleski, Liz Dart Caron, and Vivianese Dennis. Jenny Krivanek is not pictured. Consult the organizational chart for more information on each person's role. It's your tool to use!
Watch for new articles spotlighting other departments in upcoming editions . . .
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