AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXI, No. 1, Spring 1999

 

New History of Physics Exhibits on the Internet

"Werner Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle," and "Andrei Sakharov: Soviet Physics, Nuclear Weapons and Human Rights," two new historical exhibits on the World-Wide Web, have recently been announced by the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The exhibits, richly illustrated, are designed to be useful for educational purposes to a wide spectrum of audiences including high school and college students, teachers, physicists, and historians. Besides many outstanding photographs and other illustrations, both exhibits include supplementary documentation and audio clips of the physicists' voices. They add to the Center's existing award-winning exhibits "Albert Einstein, Image and Impact" and "The Discovery of the Electron," and can all be accessed from the Center's homepage: /history/

Heisenberg (1901-1976), one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century, is best known as a founder of quantum mechanics and especially for the uncertainty principle in quantum theory. He also played a controversial role as a leader of Germany's nuclear fission research under the Nazi regime. After World War II he was active in elementary particle physics and West German science policy. All these topics are covered in the profusely illustrated exhibit written by professor David Cassidy of Hofstra University, the author of the major biography Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg (New York: W.H. Freeman, 1992).

Sakharov (1921-1989), the Soviet physicist who became, in the words of the Nobel Peace Committee, a "spokesman for the conscience of mankind," was fascinated by fundamental physics and cosmology, but first he spent two decades designing nuclear weapons. He came to be regarded as the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, contributing perhaps more than anyone else to the military might of the USSR. But gradually Sakharov became one of the regime's most courageous critics, a defender of human rights and democracy. He could not be silenced, and helped bring down one of history's most powerful dictatorships. The exhibit, which includes numerous photos provided by Sakharov's family, is authored by Dr. Gennady Gorelik, who is currently working on a scholarly biography of Sakharov.

Several further historical exhibits are in planning, including ones on Marie Curie, Max Planck and the quantum, and twentieth century cosmology. The Center invites comments on the existing exhibits and encourages historians to consider cooperating and using our services for additional projects in their areas of expertise. (See the Website for contact information.)


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