AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXIV, No. 1 Spring 2002


Selection of Great American Physicists' Papers on the Web

The Center for History of Physics has mounted a new Web exhibit with a selection of outstanding papers by great American physicists. The chosen papers are both important and readableindeed most can be read without much physics knowledge. The aim is to give a convenient and intimate look into the variety, ingenuity and insight of physicists since the 18th century. Examples of the papers include Benjamin Franklin's reports of experiments on electricity (with a charming account of an electrical "party of pleasure on the banks of the Schuykil"), Henry A. Rowland's encyclopedia article "Screw" (explaining the methods he used in scribing his spectroscopic gratings) as well as his famous essay on "The Highest Aim of the Physicst," and Arthur Holly Compton's classic paper on X-ray scattering. The other physicists featured are Joseph Henry, Albert A. Michelson, Josiah Willard Gibbs, and Robert A. Millikan.

For each physicist the exhibit includes a direct reproduction of one or more classic papers, which can be read online or downloaded in PDF format. For each physicist there is also a brief introductory essay and a portrait. The exhibit is reproduced with little change from a book edited by Spencer Weart, Selected Papers of Great American Physicists: The Bicentennial Commemorative Volume of The American Physical Society 1976, published by the American Institute of Physics for the APS. The book was widely distributed as a US Bicentennial homage to the pioneers of American physics. Much appreciated by physicists, both for their own entertainment and for the instruction of students, the material is now presented to a still wider audience at

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