Report on Internship at the Center for History of Physics

By Amy Fisher

This year, I spent six months at the Center for History of Physics as an intern. It was a valuable experience. In addition to learning more about Center activities and the Niels Bohr Library & Archives, I had the opportunity to work with many scholars in the history of the physical sciences and in physics.

I participated in a variety of projects. I learned how to make computer animations. I surveyed online resources in the history of physics. I had many interesting conversations with Raina Khatri, an undergraduate summer intern, about history and historical methods. (She spent her summer designing a new web exhibit on the history and science of solar activity and storms.) I also learned more about the history of amateur astronomy in the Capitol region.

I spent the majority of my summer, however, working on two larger projects, both of which are still ongoing. First, I assisted Greg Good, director of CHP, and Ada Uzoma, web specialist, in developing an online community for students of all ages interested in the history of the physical sciences. I developed a database of scholars working in the field and helped to integrate new content into the existing website.

Second, I helped to organize an international conference for early-career scholars, to be held July 28–31, 2011 at the American Institute of Physics in Maryland. In the spring, I sent out a call-for-volunteers to a number of listservs and societies. The response was tremendously positive. Many graduate students, postdocs, and faculty, from all over the world, offered to not only participate in the conference, but also to help with the behind-the-scenes fund raising, advertising, and general planning.

Dr. Good has been a supportive advocate for this conference from the beginning. Although he has provided guidance, he has also showed restraint, wanting it to be mainly organized by and for junior scholars in the field. As a result, I have been involved in almost every stage of the planning process. I helped to put together the organizing committee, assisted in writing grant applications and making local arrangements, and corresponded with a number of junior scholars and established historians. It has been a rewarding experience, and I appreciate the confidence Dr. Good has placed in the organizing committee and me.

I’m particularly proud of our organizing committee, representing six different countries and four continents. Together, we discussed potential conference themes and devised an interesting and relevant set of topics. We deliberately chose a broad conference theme — Continuity and Discontinuity in the Physical Sciences Since the Enlightenment — to encourage dialogue across diverse fields of study.

Both of these projects reflect the CHP's grass roots efforts to build a stronger community among historians of the physical sciences. Historians and scientists are often separated by geography and subject matter, but we share a number of common interests. By promoting dialogue across disciplinary boundaries, I believe scholarship can be enhanced. I hope the conference and website will encourage new collaborations and conversations.

If you would like to know more about the conference or are interested in participating, please feel free to contact me at .

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