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Oral Histories at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives

Picture of Spencer Weart interviewing Martin Schwarzschild in 1977
Spencer Weart interviewing Martin Schwarzschild, 1977

The Niels Bohr Library and Archives of the American Institute of Physics holds more than a thousand tape-recorded interviews. Many of the oral history interview transcripts are now online. The interviews, conducted by the staff of the AIP Center for History of Physics and many other historians, offer unique insights into the lives, works, and personalities of modern scientists.

Most scholars who visit the Library use oral history interviews. While no substitute for original correspondence and other primary source materials, interviews provide invaluable overviews of a subject, offer fresh insights, and suggest directions for further research.

All interviews can be found in our Catalog of Sources (ICOS). You may also read transcripts online or listen to select voice clips.

About the collection

Much of the Center's interviewing has largely been done in connection with projects focused on particular subjects; therefore the oral history collection is particularly strong in the areas of:

  • quantum physics
  • nuclear physics
  • modern astrophysics and astronomy
  • solid state physics
  • laser science
  • multi-institutional collaborations in high-energy physics
  • space science and geophysics
  • physicists in industry
  • science education
  • science societies and institutions
  • science and society

However, a wide variety of other subjects are included as well. To find interviews in these subject areas or others, go to the International Catalog of Sources (ICOS) at http://aip.org/history/icos. Enter the subject heading that you’re looking for (e.g., “quantum physics”) in the subject field under the “Search Archival Resources by” block, and enter in the “Limits” block “Oral History Interviews held at AIP.” For help in finding interviews, contact the Library’s reference staff by phone Monday–Friday, 8:30–5:00pm EST at 301-209-3177 or email nbl@aip.org.

The majority of persons interviewed are Americans, but many Europeans and some others are included.

The collection includes over 3,000 hours of interviews with some 1,500 physicists, astronomers and others. Most of the interviews are transcribed; most have indexes, abstracts, and detailed tables of contents, copies of which are available upon request. The Library also holds the original tape recordings of most interviews.

Information on conducting an interview

The Center's grants-in-aid support interviewing by others in a wide variety of physics-related fields, with copies of the resulting interviews deposited in the Library's collection. The Center occasionally exchanges copies of interviews with other repositories.