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SPENCER R. WEART (), originally trained as a physicist, is a noted historian specializing in the history of modern physics and geophysics. Until his retirement in 2009 he was Director of the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) in College Park, Maryland, USA, and he continues to be affiliated with the Center.
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1942, he received a B.A. in Physics at Cornell University in 1963 and a Ph.D. in Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1968. He then worked for three years at the California Institute of Technology, supported as a Fellow of the Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories. At Caltech he taught physics, did research on the sun's atmosphere and on ground-based and space-based telescope instrumentation, and published papers in leading scientific journals.
In 1971 Dr. Weart changed his field, enrolling as a graduate student in the History Department of the University of California, Berkeley. During his studies he helped write two books: Physics circa 1900: Personnel, Funding, and Productivity of the Academic Establishments (with Paul Forman and John L. Heilbron) and Leo Szilard: His Version of the Facts (edited with Gertrud Weiss Szilard).
In 1974 Dr. Weart took up the direction of the AIP Center for History of Physics and its Niels Bohr Library, institutions dedicated to preserving and making known the history of physics, astronomy, geophysics and allied fields. Among his tasks were conducting and supervising tape-recorded oral history interviews of prominent scientists, working to preserve documentation in appropriate archives, and helping scholars locate and use such materials. He helped to lead major projects preserving the history of modern astronomy, high-energy physics, lasers, geophysics, and solid-state physics, among other fields. One major book stemming from this work is Out of the Crystal Maze: Chapters from the History of Solid-State Physics (written and edited with Lillian Hoddeson, Ernst Braun and Jürgen Teichmann).
During the same years Dr. Weart produced numerous historical articles and three major books: Scientists in Power, a history of the initial development of nuclear science, weapons, and reactors in France; Nuclear Fear: A History of Images (1988), which has been widely praised and used in many contexts, updated and revised as The Rise of Nuclear Fear (2012); and Never at War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another, a historical survey of international relations among democracies, oligarchies and autocracies. His best-known book is The Discovery of Global Warming (2003, revised edition, 2008, translations in five languages), which is a condensed version of his extensive and widely used scholarly website on the history of climate change research.
Dr. Weart has also completed a variety of educational projects, including
two science books for children, a film on the solar atmosphere, an audio-visual
package dramatizing the nature of scientific discovery, and a widely distributed
poster exhibit on Albert Einstein. Much of his recent effort goes into
producing and editing the extensive historical exhibits on the AIP History
Center’s award-winning website.
He co-edits a series of history of science and technology books for Harvard
University Press, has served the History of Science Society in a variety
of offices including Member of Council and Treasurer, and has taught undergraduate
and graduate courses on history of science at The Johns Hopkins University,
the Eugene Lang College of the New School in New York City, and Princeton
University. Meanwhile he has given many public talks before university,
industrial, and other audiences, as well as appearing on radio and television
science and news shows.