News Release

AIP Gives UMD $1 Million to Endow Professorship in History of Natural Sciences

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Robert Friedel, Professor, Dept. of History, UMD; Philip Hammer, Interim Director, AIP Foundation; Peter Wien, Interim Chair, Department of History, UMD; Michael Moloney, CEO, AIP; Dean Bonnie Thornton Dill, Arts and Humanities, UMD; Greg Good, Director, Center for History of Physics

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 25, 2019 -- The American Institute of Physics (AIP) confirmed a $1 million pledge to the University of Maryland’s College of Arts and Humanities (ARHU) yesterday to help uncover stories of scientific discovery while illuminating complex societal issues that scientists and scholars in the humanities both face.

The gift will establish an endowed professorship in the history of natural sciences and support the appointee’s humanistic and scientific research and scholarship through a partnership with AIP’s Center for History of Physics. Collaborations with AIP staff and Members Societies will encourage deeper insight into the nature and origin of the physical sciences and their impacts on society.

“Bringing the sciences and humanities together is important for telling not only the compelling history of discovery, but also inspiring the next generation of scholars in both fields,” said Michael H. Moloney, AIP's chief executive officer.

“This partnership will help us cultivate a diverse and inclusive community. The professorship is an important opportunity to apply interdisciplinary approaches to some of the most complex issues facing the world today, like the renewed debate on nuclear energy,” said Peter Wien, professor and interim chair of the history department.

“Both humanists and scientists are rooted in the concerns and debates of contemporary culture,” Wien said. “A scientist might measure the impact of nuclear contamination or devise new methods for storing nuclear waste, whereas a historian might show the history of how nuclear energy was developed or trace how popular opinion about certain kinds of energy have changed over time. When we put these two approaches in conversation with each other, real innovation can happen.”

 Thai Nguyen of University of Maryland“Universities nationwide, including Maryland, are exploring new ways to integrate arts and humanities disciplines with the sciences; the AIP gift supports efforts by the College of Arts and Humanities to increase interdisciplinary learning opportunities,” said Bonnie Thornton Dill, ARHU dean as well as a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s committee on the integration of STEM, humanities and arts.

“Intellectual cross-training bridges knowledge and inspires learning,” said Thornton Dill. “History helps us understand the processes and people that have shaped science. AIP's generosity will provide extraordinary learning opportunities for students, preparing them with the diverse competencies and knowledge that employers today seek.”

In addition to collaborating with AIP on conferences and public lectures, the appointee will have access to AIP’s Niels Bohr Library and Archives, as well as the recently acquired Wenner Collection of rare books and manuscripts that contains nearly 4,000 books and publications documenting the important discoveries in physics and physical sciences going back 500 years.

The Wenner Collection is still being catalogued and integrated into the other treasures held at AIP’s Niels Bohr Library and Archive, but AIP hopes the appointee will contribute to new ways of thinking about the collections. “There are many stories in the history of science that have not been told,” said Moloney. “In collaboration with UMD, one challenge is to use these collections to tell the story of discovery in a way that we hope will inspire the next generation of scientists and historians and especially contribute to our goal of greater inclusion of women and underrepresented minorities in our field.”

A search is under way for a senior scholar to assume the professorship in fall 2019.



The American Institute of Physics is a nonprofit federation of professional societies that serves the broad physical science community through programs in news, advocacy, student programs, careers, awards, outreach, statistics, history and more. AIP publishes Physics Today, the most closely followed magazine in the physical sciences, and it owns AIP Publishing, a nonprofit scholarly publisher that serves the physical sciences community through scholarly publishing activities. More:


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