AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XL , No. 2, Fall 2008
Vanity Fair caricature "chemistry"
Greg Good will assume directorship of the History Center and step into an endowed position. Photo Credit: Hillary Schwab.

Center Will Have New Director, Greg Good, in Newly Endowed Position

Spencer Weart is retiring as director of AIP’s Center for History of Physics, having served in this capacity since 1974. His successor was chosen after an international search by a committee of distinguished historians of modern physics and astronomy. We are very pleased to say that in January 2009, Gregory A. Good will assume directorship of the Center. Like Spencer, he will work closely with Joe Anderson, director of the Niels Bohr Library & Archives, in pursuit of their joint mission “to preserve and make known the history of physics and allied fields.”

Greg steps into an endowed position. In honor of Spencer’s 35 years of contributions to the history of science, the Avenir Foundation made a gift of three million dollars to endow the Spencer R. Weart Directorship of the Center for History of Physics. This is the largest gift ever given to AIP and establishes the first endowed position at the Institute. “With support like this from our friends,” Spencer says, “the new director will be taking the Center in exciting new directions.”

Greg is currently the chair of the Department of History at West Virginia University in Morgantown. His professional interests include the history of physics and of the earth sciences in the 19th and 20th centuries. Greg’s research, publications, and teaching have focused on the interactions of the various geosciences disciplines, shifting research programs, and the commitments (social, institutional, and political) that affect progress in geosciences. Among his published works is The Earth, the Heavens and the Carnegie Institution of Washington (1994). He has also served as editor of the two-volume encyclopedia Sciences of the Earth (1998). Greg has helped local schools write grants for science and environmental education, is a member of the International Commission on the History of Geological Sciences and is director of graduate studies in the History Department at WVU.

“There are a lot of disciplinary history centers, and I plan to work with all the ones I can, and even to work with ones that may seem counterintuitive,” said Greg. “One thing I hope to do is to have the Center function as a physical meeting place.” He also hopes to reach out to DC-area universities to coordinate programs and projects with historians of science at those universities, and also throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

Greg received a B.S. in physics from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA in 1974, and a Ph.D. in history of science from the University of Toronto, Canada in 1982. He is no stranger to the American Institute of Physics, its Member Societies, or the History Center. He has used the Niels Bohr Library & Archives extensively for his research and has served on its Archives Gr ant s Commi t t e e in 2000, has chaired AIP’s History Advisory Committee since 2004, and most recently, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the symposium on May 9 that honored Spencer’s accomplishments.

The current director, Spencer Weart, is perhaps best known for his 2003 book The Discovery of Global Warming, which has informed many scientific debates about the history of climate science—when we knew what we know about global climate change. Greg will continue the tradition of bringing information into the public sphere with his upcoming book on the history of the discovery of Earth’s magnetic field.

Spencer received a B.A. in physics from Cornell in 1963 and a Ph.D. in physics & astrophysics from the University of Colorado in 1968. After work as a postdoc at Caltech, Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories, he studied history of science as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. He became Director of the Center for History of Physics in 1974. In his retirement Spencer plans to continue to write historical works; a new edition of his book on global warming is in press, and he has begun work on The Rise of Nuclear Fear, a greatly revised and updated version of his well-known 1988 work Nuclear Fear: A History of Images. He will also assist in the continuing development of the Center’s Web exhibits.

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