AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXVII, No. 2, Fall 1995


American Physical Society and American Astronomical Societies Plan Centenaries

The American Physical Society and the American Astronomical Society will both be celebrating their 100th year in 1999. This is not entirely a coincidence--back in 1899 some hoped for a fusion of disciplines that would embrace an entire astro-physical community, and historians have yet to work out exactly how the present division of professional identification developed.

Already in 1993 the American Physical Society appointed a task force (chaired by Mildred Dresselhaus, with the assistance of Harry Lustig) to prepare a report on how the APS should celebrate its centenary. It was decided that the major centenary celebration would be at a general meeting combining the Society's normal general March meeting and Spring meeting (including the participation of the American Association of Physics Teachers). Preceding the usual 5-day meeting will be a Saturday and Sunday with pomp and circumstances - luncheons, banquets, symposia, evening events, etc. There will also be plenary celebration sessions on Monday and Tuesday, displays and exhibits, etc. The meeting will be held in Atlanta, GA during March 20-26, 1999.

The Society is developing strategies to use the entire centenary year to widely disseminate and celebrate the history and accomplishments of physics and the American Physical Society over the past 100 years. A Centenary Planning Committee was established in February 1995 chaired by Brian Schwartz. The committee's plans include a Centenary Speakers Bureau, offering colloquia, seminars, and general talks on physics and history of physics topics. A booklet listing the speakers, topics, etc., will be distributed to colleges, laboratories, and high school teachers groups, encouraging the recipients to schedule talks. A subsidy could be included. Also planned is a time-line "wall chart" presenting a history of physics with an emphasis on the 20th century. Modern techniques could supplement (or perhaps transplant) the chart, for example with a multimedia CD-ROM and/or an Internet accessible program. The wall chart will be distributed free of charge to physics departments, high school physics teachers, libraries and laboratories.

A number of other projects, including many events at Atlanta, are in the works. Those wishing to volunteer ideas or assistance should contact Brian Schwartz at the American Physical Society, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740; phone (301) 209-3268, Fax (301) 209-0865, e-mail

o The American Astronomical Society's plans are now being formulated by a committee co-chaired by Donald Osterbrock and C. Robert O'Dell. The AAS will hold its centennial meeting in Chicago in the summer of 1999; in connection with this there will probably be a trip to nearby Yerkes Observatory, where the first meeting of the Society was held in 1899. Further plans will be issued next year. Those wishing to volunteer ideas or assistance should contact Donald Osterbrock, University of California, Lick Observatory, Santa Cruz, CA 95064; phone (408) 459-2605, e-mail

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AIP History Center Center for History of Physics
Phone: 301-209-3165
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