The Array of Contemporary American Physicists is Online

By Will Thomas

The AIP History Center’s newest initiative, the Array of Contemporary American Physicists (ACAP), is now public, and can be found at http://www.aip.org/history/acap/. ACAP gathers together and interlinks career data on over 800 physicists who have worked in the United States between 1945 and the present.

If a physicist is in ACAP, in almost all cases you can find out where that person was and when, and for many major American institutions, you can find out who was there and when. Biographical entries are also connected to chronological lists of major prize winners.

ACAP presents only a bare-bones view of the physics profession, but through links and references to physicists’ home pages, memoirs, obituaries, oral histories, online videos, and other historical resources, a fuller, multifaceted picture of physics can emerge. To aid this process, we have begun putting together “topic guides” that will help organize physicists according to the work they have done rather than just the places they have worked. At the moment, these topic guides cover only a very small time frame and a small fraction of the scientists in the ACAP project, but we expect their scope and number to expand.

We also expect the scope of ACAP itself to expand with time to cover additional physicists, including those from prior eras and other countries.

We believe that ACAP will serve the needs of a variety of users. In addition to being a reference for professional historians, we anticipate that its easy and intuitive navigation will stimulate ideas for new historical topics to write about.

We also hope that ACAP’s coverage of the present as well as the past will make it interesting to physicists working today and will provide them a broader understanding of what the “history” of physics consists of, including their own connection to it. We hope this will stimulate additional interest in historical preservation and in helping us keep the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives growing.

In addition, as a means of organizing some of the holdings of the Niels Bohr Library and Archives in a more historically coherent way, we hope to improve the usefulness and awareness of our collections.

The Array of Contemporary American Physicists is two years in the making, and it will not stop changing and growing now that it is finally public. To help us build it up in the most useful ways, we would greatly appreciate any feedback users might be able to offer.

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