Physics Today's Web Watch

July 97: Four History Sites

This year is the centennial of the experiments that led J. J. Thomson to announce the discovery of the first fundamental subatomic particle. Two major sites commemorate this event. We also look at an on-line Einstein museum and contributions to physics made by 20th-century women.

Life, the Universe, and the Electron, a collaboration between the Science Museum, London, and the Institute of Physics (UK), includes a movie clip that reconstructs Thomson's experiment, an interactive animation of the experiment and a sound file of Thomson speaking in 1934 about his discovery. The exhibit covers all aspects of the electron at a simple level, with links to sites such as Fermilab and NASA that provide more detailed information.

The Discovery of the Electron is a site prepared by the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. A text based on recent historical studies is accompanied by photographs, animated diagrams, quotes and an audio clip of Thomson's voice. Science teachers and students in particular should profit from viewing the site. Links are provided to full texts of Thomson's scientific paper (October 1897) and Nobel Prize address.

Einstein: Image and Impact. The AIP Center for History of Physics also offers this guided tour through the life of Albert Einstein. Numerous pictures along with quotes and voice clips illustrate an authoritative text by historians. Topics include Einstein's formative years, his revolutionary works such as relativity ("A great storm broke loose in my head"), his world fame (with period cartoons), the nuclear age (showing Einstein's letter to President Roosevelt about atomic bombs) and many other subjects. The exhibit has links to much additional information on the Web about Einstein's life and science.

Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics is an archive of citations of women who have made original and important contributions to physics this century. Over 180 women are already in the database and there are more than 30 edited citations, including those for giants such as Marie Curie, Lise Meitner, Emmy Noether and Chien-Shiung Wu. The citations include brief descriptions of the physicists' contributions and some biographical information. Forms are provided for feedback, corrections and the adding of more names by the physics community. The goal is to have a reasonably complete set of citations through 1975 in time for the 1999 American Physical Society centennial celebrations. The Committee on the Status of Women in Physics and the Forum on the History of Physics of APS sponsor the site.

Compiled by Graham P. Collins

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