AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXX, No. 2, Fall 1998


American Physical Society Develops Historical Programs and Resources to Commemorate its Centennial

The American Physical Society is developing a number of ways to use history as it celebrates its hundredth year in 1999. The Centennial Meeting will not only present the largest technical meeting program ever for any physics society, but will include many special events and exhibits. Beyond this, the Society is planning major outreach programs that should leave a lasting national impact long after the event itself is concluded.

At the Centennial Meeting, to be held jointly with the American Association of Physics Teachers in Atlanta, Georgia, 20-26 March 1999, there will be an array of special symposia and roundtables with distinguished speakers including many Nobel Laureates. A Nobel Laureate Luncheon (Saturday, March 20, 1999), which will also honor outstanding high school teachers, is designed to inspire, educate and recognize hundreds of thousands of students and their teachers, and is expected to attract broad-based media coverage. A related "Nobel Discoveries Exhibit: Exploring Nature, Saving Lives, Driving Technology" will be placed at the Georgia World Congress Center. Designed for a general audience, especially high school students, the exhibit will include interactive components. Following the Centennial Meeting, the exhibit will travel to science museums across the country. Visitors will start with an introductory section on the Nobel Prize and its history, then enter a main exhibition area focusing on the achievements of Nobel Laureates in physics to date. Visitors will exit the exhibit through a gallery of historic photographs of Nobel laureates in physics. A wide variety of other exhibits are planned for the Centennial meeting. In addition to major corporate displays, most of the APS divisions, topical groups, and forums are developing their own special exhibits, many with some historical content.

There will be a number of related activities around Atlanta, such as entertaining physics demonstrations and events in Centennial Park, art gallery special exhibits, and receptions for the public. At the Fernbank Museum of Natural History a physics exhibit entitled "Wonders of the 20th Century" is in development, and will travel to other locations after its Atlanta opening.

A Century of Physics Time Line Wall Chart & Website: As an educational outreach project to high school and university students, The American Physical Society is producing a 27-foot printed wall chart presenting a time line of the history of physics with an emphasis on the 20th Century. Five themes run in parallel through the chart: Exploring the large (galaxies, stars and space-time), Exploring the mid-size (the human to global scale), Exploring the small (atoms, quarks and quanta), Making technology (devices and techniques), and Exploring the living world (biomolecules and medicine). The wall chart will be released in advance of the Centennial Meeting and will be distributed free of charge to high schools and physics departments around the country. A complementary Website will extend the depth of information which can be offered via the chart and give access to a still larger audience.

Other Resource Programs: A number of other programs are being tied to the celebration. The APS has prepared a booklet listing over 200 outstanding speakers. Each of these speakers was nominated by a group of their peers as someone who would give an exceptional talk of a more general nature than a usual physics department colloquium. Some of the talks emphasize the historical aspects of a field while others may stress the broader contributions of the field to society.... A special collection of approximately 200 portraits of physicists, the most prominent 20th-century figures who are not still living, has been assembled to commemorate the Centennial and will be made available on CD-Rom. It should be particularly useful for speakers who seek illustrations for historical talks.... The APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics and the APS Forum on the History of Physics are co-sponsoring compilation of an online historical archive on the Contributions of Women to Twentieth Century Physics. The archive, searchable by name and field, documents over 60 twentieth-century women who have made original and important contributions to physics before 1976.... A short multi-media program commemorating Centennial 1999 will be available to be shown at a variety of locations, including the Georgia World Congress Center. The program will celebrate the importance of physics yesterday, today and tomorrow, using state of the art special effects and interviews.... Under discussion is a physics documentary for television, to begin with a brief historical summary and proceed to show how physics has influenced our daily lives.

Further information on all this is available at the APS's public Website,

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AIP History Center Center for History of Physics
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