Acquisitions Spotlight 2020

Acquisitions Spotlight 2020

Collection Development in an Unusual Year

Page 15 of the Greenham Women's Common Camp zine, 1983. 

Courtesy of Allison Rein

I don’t think there’s much left to write about 2020 that hasn’t already been written. We can all agree that it was a challenging year. We spent the months of March - July with almost no access to our physical collections. And from July - December we had very limited access. But we didn’t let that stop us from growing our collections in exciting new ways. This blog is hopefully the first in a series that will shine a spotlight on some of the library’s newest acquisitions. 

We acquire new books by both purchasing and donation. When we purchase books we divide those up into new or modern purchases and rare books, though the lines are often blurred (for more see our blog on rarity) for our purposes we define rare books as anything published before 1920. However, most of our collection has actually been built through donations from former physicists. We’ll spotlight some of those in the future. Email us at [email protected] if you want a more exhaustive list of recent additions.

2020 by the numbers:

  • We purchased 146 books (about 22 were rare books)
  • We cataloged 1,146 books (while mostly or entirely working from home)
  • We received about 1,000 books from 16 different donors

Here are just a few of our favorite acquisitions from the past year:

Jane Marcet, Conversations on Chemistry, 1809.

We had the 1813 edition of this work, but we wanted to purchase this earlier edition of one of the most important chemistry textbooks ever published. Marcet wrote for the general public, and even other women. Explaining scientific concepts in simple language and encouraging people to conduct scientific experiments at home. Catalog link. 

Further reading: Rosetti, Hazel. “The Woman That Inspired Farady.” Chemistry World, May 24 2007.

Image Caption: Picture of writer Jane Marcet, courtesy of Edgar Fahs Smith Collection (University of Pennsylvania). 

Emma Willard, Astronography; or Astronomical Geography: With the Use of Globes. Arranged Either For Simultaneous Reading And Study In Classes, Or For Study In The Common Method; John Cassell's Educational Course, 1860.

Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870) was an American teacher and geographer who founded the Troy Female Seminary, a secondary school for girls. Catalog link.

Image caption: An illustration (fig. 17) from Emma Willard’s Astronography showing Earth’s rotation, courtesy of Allison Rein

Mary Swift, First Lessons on Natural Philosophy for Children. Part second, 1837

An American primer for children on “natural philosophy” that was later translated and used by missionaries in Asia. Mary Swift is a little known science textbook author from the early 19th century who taught at the Litchfield Female Seminary in Connecticut. Catalog link. 

Many editions are available online, like this 1850 edition

Image Caption: The cover of Mary Swift’s First Lessons on Natural Philosophy for Children. Part second, 1837, courtesy of Allison Rein

Further Reading: Palmer W.P. (2011) Forgotten Women in Science Education. In: Chiu MH., Gilmer P.J., Treagust D.F. (eds) Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Madame Marie Sklodowska Curie’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry. SensePublishers.

Arabella Buckley, A Short History of Natural Science, 1910.

Arabella Buckley wrote popular scientific and science history books aimed at children. This particular work is not quite as magical as her Fairy-Land of Science, but takes a scholarly approach to the history of science from the Greeks to the “present day” which for Buckley was the 19th century. Catalog link.

Image Caption: Cover of Arabella Buckley’s A Short History of Natural Science, 1910, courtesy of Allison Rein.

Joseph Lecornu, La Navigation Aerienne, 1903.

This beautiful book is a history of flight before the era of the airplane. In fact, it was published the same year as the first Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk. It includes a portrait of Sophie Blanchard, the first woman to become a professional aeronaut. Sophie was France’s Chief Air Minister for Ballooning for Napoleon. The illustrations throughout the book are marvelous and even cover pre-Wright brother's airplane, though few of the air-crafts pictured could ever have been successfully flown. It's a beautiful depiction of the many ways humans have tried to launch themselves into the air. Catalog link. 

Image Caption: The cover of Joseph Lecornu’s La Navigation Aerienne, 1903, courtesy of Allison Rein. 

Further reading on Sophie Blanchard: Dunlop, Doug. “Sophie Blanchard: Pioneer Aeronaut.” Unbound. Smithsonian Library & Archives, March 28, 2016.


Caroline Molesworth, The Cobham Journals, 1880.

Caroline Molesworth spent over 25 years writing down her observations of the natural world, including the weather. This abridged work, edited by Eleanor Omerod includes “observations for the Meteorological Society, to which she was elected a fellow in 1878, the first woman to be so. Two years later, she edited Caroline Molesworth’s Cobham Journals of meteorological and phenological observations.” Caroline Molesworth is relatively obscure, but her editor was better known. Eleanor Omerod, in addition to being a meteorologist was also an entomologist. She was especially interested in agricultural pests.  Catalog link. 

Further reading on Eleanor Omerod: Latty, Tanya. “Hidden Women of History: Eleanor Anne Ormerod, the Self-Taught Agricultural Entomologist Who Tasted a Live Newt.” The Conversation, August 13 2009

Image Caption: Page from The Cobham Journals, courtesy of Allison Rein. 

John Wilkins, A Discovery of a New World, or a Discourse Tending to Prove, that 'tis Probable There May be Another Habitable World in the Moon: with a Discourse Concerning the Probability Thither: Unto Which is Added, a Discourse Concerning a New Planet, Tending to Prove, that 'tis Probable Our Earth is One of the Planets: in Two Parts , 1684.

A promoter of Copernican and Galilean concepts before they were widely accepted, John Wilkins also speculated that the moon could be capable of supporting life and might in fact be inhabited. In this edition he also discussed the possibility of traveling to the moon and what the difficulties of such a voyage might be. Catalog link. 

Image Caption: The frontispiece of John Wilkins’ A  Discovery of a New World…, 1684 depicting Copernius, Galileo, and Kepler, courtesy of Allison Rein

Roger Cotes, Hydrostatical and Pneumatical Lectures, 1747.

In addition to Roger Cotes’ lectures on hydrostatics, this volume also includes the first English translation of Newton’s Law of Cooling in the appendix. Roger Cotes is most famous for revising Newton’s second edition of Principia in 1713. Edmund Halley’s “Account of the Rising and Falling of the Mercury in the Barometer, upon Change of Weather” is also included in the appendix. Catalog link. 

Image Caption: Title page of Roger Cotes, Hydrostatical and Pneumatical Lectures, 1747, courtesy of Allison Rein 

Colin Hines, Murder at Arecibo, 2008.

Arecibo Observatory, in Puerto Rico, has sadly shuttered, but we wanted to keep the magic alive by purchasing this mystery novel set at the Observatory. The author, Colin Hines, also happens to be an atmospheric physicist who spent much of his career at the Observatory. He passed away in 2020 (obituary). NBLA is the only library in the world that has this book in its collections, according to Catalog link. 

Jarita Holbrook, African Cultural Astronomy, 2008.

This is the first published scholarly collected volume on cultural astronomy, or the study of the sky without instruments, in Africa. The first part of the book is devoted to lessons and exercises for students of cultural astronomy research in Africa. Catalog link. 

Sevan Terzian, Science Education and Citizenship: Fairs, Clubs, and Talent Searches for American Youth, 1918-1958, 2013.

Sevan Terzian explores how extracurricular science programs became the enduring and popular fixture in American education that they are today through a detailed look at their place in civics during the first part of the 20th century. Catalog link. 

Nancy Thorndike Greenspan, Atomic Spy: The Dark Lives of Klaus Fuchs, 2020.

Klaus Fuchs was first and foremost a physicist, but he was also Communist and anti-Nazi in conviction. Read this gripping biography of this physicist-spy and watch AIP’s fascinating Trimble lecture with the author. Catalog link.

Leona Marshall Libby, Past Climates: Tree Thermometers, Commodities, and People, 1983.

Leona Marshall Libby worked on the Manhattan project but was also a pioneer in modern climatic research. This work takes a look at tree ring-based temperature data and its implications on climate science. Catalog link. 

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islamic science : an illustrated study, 1976.

Originally written for the 1976 World of Islam Festival, this book brings the history of Islamic science to life through detailed illustrations. Catalog link. 

Elizabeth A. Wood, Crystal Orientation Manual, 1963.

Elizabeth Wood was a leader in the emerging American Crystallographic Association and was also the first female scientist at Bell Labs. From the author’s introduction: “Many chemists, physicists, engineers, and technicians who are today confronted with the problem of obtaining a slice or rod of suitable orientation for their experiments have not had crystallographic training: it is for these that the manual was written.” Catalog link. 

Image Caption: Portrait of Elizabeth Wood, AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection

Victor Stenger, Physics and Psychics, 1990.

Is it supernatural or can it be explained by physics? This work is part history of psychic research and occult beliefs and part rebuttal to the idea that physics and mystical truths are linked. Catalog link. 

James E. McClellan, Colonialism and Science: Saint Domingue in the Old Regime, 2010.

This work examines how the character and history of science has been shaped by colonialism through the lens of Saint Domingue (now Haiti) and its active society of science. Catalog link. 

Sandra Harding, Sciences From Below: Feminisms, Postcolonialities, and Modernities, 2008.

Esteemed feminist science studies scholar Sandra Harding explores how technological and scientific pursuits can be productively linked to social justice projects worldwide. Catalog link. 

Patricia Fara, A Lab of One's Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War, 2018.

Patricia Fara gives a detailed account of the role of suffragists in the emergence of independent women scientists during World War I. Catalog link. 

Monique Frize, Laura Bassi and Science in 18th Century Europe, 2013.

Part biography, part history of 18th century Italian society, this work tells the story of physicist Laura Bassi, who defended upwards of 61 theses at the University of Bologna and had an extraordinary career. Catalog link. 

Louise Jenison Peet & Lenore Sater Thye, Household Equipment, 1961.

Chemistry and nutrition scholar Louise Jenison Peet teamed with head of USDA’s Bureau of Home Economics Lenore Sater Thye to write this seminal textbook on household equipment from a scientific perspective, which went through 8 editions. More about the Louisa Peet here.  Catalog link. 

Jim Al-Khalili, The House of Wisdom How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance, 2011.

Jim Al-Khalili places historic western scientific achievement in the context of the Islamic scientific innovations that made the European scientific Renaissance possible. Catalog link. 

Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp zine, 1983.

This 1983 zine-style newsletter was made by the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, a coalition of women in the United Kingdom protesting the placement of nuclear cruise missiles at the RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, England. Protests started in 1981 and continued for many years, despite the missiles arriving in 1983. We’re excited to add this more ephemeral publication from an anti-nuclear women’s social movement to our collection. Even though it’s not a scientific publication, we think it adds important context to the conversation around scientific achievement in weapons creation and nuclear science. Catalog link. 

Further reading: Imperial War Museums "The Women Who Took on the British Government's Nuclear Programme"

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About the Author

Allison Rein

Allison Rein

Allison Rein is the Associate Director of the Niels Bohr Library & Archives. She has a B.A. in history from UMBC and an MLS from the University of Maryland. She spent nearly 10 years working in libraries and archives before coming to AIP. She manages the book collection at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives and if she had to pick a favorite book in the entire collection it would be Radium Girls by Kate Moore. Her favorite thing about working at the Library (and any institution she’s ever worked) is how much she’s constantly learning. 

Caption: Maria Goeppert Mayer posing in a bat costume

See all articles by Allison Rein

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