History that Matters:
The Life and Heritage of Science

Symposium Program - May 9, 2008

9:00 am

Fred DyllaWelcome and Introduction: H. Frederick Dylla – Executive Director & CEO, American Institute of Physics (AIP)

9:10 am

Gregory A. GoodIntroduction to Speakers: Gregory A. Good – Associate Professor and Graduate Chair, History Department, West Virginia University

9:15 am

Naomi OreskesNaomi Oreskes – Professor of History and Science Studies, University of California, San Diego

The Denial of Global Warming
Abstract: Polls show that nearly one-third of Americans still believe there is “no solid” scientific evidence of global warming, or that if it is occurring it can be attributed to natural variability. Even among those who accept the reality of warming, nearly half think that scientists are still debating the point. These paper explores the reasons for the widespread misunderstanding of the scientific consensus, including the history of organized campaigns designed to create public doubt and confusion about climate science.

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10:00 am

Daneil J. KevlesDaniel J. Kevles – Stanley Woodward Professor of History, Yale University

Genes, Particles, and Patents: Cash and Community in High Energy Physics and the Human Genome Project
Abstract: In 1988, in a report on the emerging Human Genome Project, the National Research Council called for keeping open the data the project would generate, declaring that “. . . access to all sequences and material generated by these publicly funded projects should and even must be made freely available.” The admonitions to openness expressed the scientific community’s longstanding communitarian norms, part ethical and part practical – and, measured against actual practice, part mythological -- that knowledge of nature is to be publicly shared. High-energy physicists have generally adhered to the norms, but they have often been violated in human genomics as a result of the drive of both universities and the biotechnology industry to obtain patents on the proliferating number of genes associated with disease. The violation has led to secrecy in human genomic research and the exploitation of gene patents in ways that run counter to sound medical practice.

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Reprinted from Biomedicine in the Twentieth Century: Practices, Policies, and Politics, Volume 72 Biomedical and Health Research, Copyright 2008, with permission from IOS Press



11:00 am

John L. HeilbronJohn L. Heilbron – Professor Emeritus of History, University
of California, Berkeley

Biographies of People who were not Einsteins
Apparently original ideas and actions of heroes of science often have independent counterparts in the lives of secondary figures. Biographies of these figures can provide comparisons to, provoke contrasts with, and raise questions about the achievements of better-known people. The lecture illustrates these assertions with surprises about Jean-André Deluc (1727-1817) and other contributors to physics once deemed important and now disadvantageously ignored.

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12:30 pm

Past, Present and Future Relevance of the Center for History of Physics

Joe AndersonPanel Introduction: Joseph Anderson – Director, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, AIP

Gerald HoltonGerald Holton – Mallinckrodt Research Professor of Physics, Harvard University

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Charles WeinerCharles Weiner – Professor Emeritus of History of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ronald E. DoelRonald E. Doel – Associate Professor, jointly with Departments of History and Geosciences, Oregon State University

John S. RigdenJohn S. Rigden – Honorary Professor of Physics, Washington University in St. Louis

2:00 pm

Ruth Lewin SimeWalter Isaacson – President and CEO of the Aspen Institute

Einstein's Creativity
Abstract: The author of Einstein: His Life and Universe looks at Einsteins life and what made him so imaginative.

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2:45 pm


3:00 pm

Ruth Lewin SimeRuth Lewin Sime – Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Sacramento City College

The Emigration of Lise Meitner and Marietta Blau
Abstract: In the 1920s and 1930s in Berlin Lise Meitner (1878-1968) was known as a pioneer in nuclear physics while Marietta Blau (1894-1970) in Vienna developed the photographic imaging techniques that would be essential to particle physics. With their forced emigration, which for both women took place in 1938, Meitner’s part in the discovery of nuclear fission was obscured and Blau and her contributions were almost completely forgotten. In this talk I shall look at the context of such forgetting, focusing on the behavior of their former colleagues during and after the National Socialist period, and on the response of the wider scientific community, including the Nobel establishment, to their work.

3:45 pm

David H. DeVorkinDavid H. DeVorkin – Curator, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Sources for History of Modern Astronomy (SHMA): 30 Years and Counting
Abstract: Spencer hired me in 1977 as consultant research associate for his new NSF-funded project "Sources for History of Modern Astronomy." He put a lot of faith in an untested part-time third-year graduate student in the history of astronomy in mid-thesis. But I happily took leave from teaching astronomy full time to commute to the AIP in New York City twice a week over the next two years to prepare and conduct an archival oral history program surveying the state of the astronomical community in that day. Today I'll look back on that effort, and ask: was it worth it?

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4:30 pm

Spencer R. WeartSpencer R. Weart – Director, Center for History of Physics, AIP

Can History of Science Live on the Internet?
Abstract: The internet has greatly aided scholars in gathering information efficiently, but their writings still appear almost entirely in traditional print. Young people are turning away from print media, and Web presentations, brief and graphics-heavy, cannot convey the subtle and complex arguments that are central to history of science. How can historians of science make their scholarship useful for society? I will review the attempts of the Center for History of Physics and some other institutions to address these questions, and speculate about future directions.

5:00 pm

James H. StithWelcome to Reception: James H. Stith – Vice President, Physics Resources, AIP

5:15 pm