Publications of Stephen G. Brush
EBSCOHost, Elsevier ScienceDirect, IEEE Xplore, JSTOR, Kluwer, OCLC ECO, SpringerLink, and Wiley Interscience are collections of online journals available by subscription
HMPP = revised version is included in item #265
KMWCH = revised version is included in item #114
KTG = reprinted in item #300
SPATM = revised version is included in item 181
(Sub) = online journal available only by subscription
(XT) = title was not chosen by SGB
For articles and notes published in the University of Maryland Faculty Voice (quarterly newspaper) go to www.facultyvoice.umd.edu
For summary of Nachlass go to http://www.lib.umd.edu/archives
1. Water Contamination. (XT)
Maine Teachers Digest, 2, no. 9: 21 (May 1951).
Effects of human and industrial pollution on chemical composition of the Penobscot River were determined at 18 places along the river. Lincoln and Old Town appear to contaminate the river more, though the Bangor-Brewer area has a larger population. Ammonia, bacteria and sulfites increase sharply after major sources of pollution and then gradually decrease; other components increase steadily. (Summary of project for Westinghouse Science Talent Search; SGB was a finalist).
2. Dipole Moments and Dielectric Polarization in Solutions. (By F. E. Harris & SGB).
Journal of the American Chemical Society, 78: 1880-7 (1956).
The statistical-mechanical theory of dielectric polarization is extended to mixtures and applied to dilute solutions of polar molecules in non-polar solvents. The resulting equation, which differs significantly from that of Debye, permits unambiguous experimental determination of a precisely defined effective dipole moment in solution. The relation between the solution moment and vacuum moment is discussed in terms of an ellipsoidal molecule-continuous solvent model, and it is shown that it is necessary to consider the induced polarization of both the polar molecule and surrounding solvent. The solvent effects calculated on the basis of this model differ from earlier results of others based on the same model, and are in qualitative agreement with experiment. Alternative ways of calculating the distortion polarization are discussed and it is concluded that the Clausius-Mossotti expression is, though not ideal, adequate for this purpose.
3. A simplified Method for Integrating over Feynman Histories.
Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 53: 651-3 (1957).
In Feynman’s “space-time” formulation of quantum mechanics, the Green’s function for the Schrödinger equation is defined by an integral over all histories of the system. By integrating over one-parameter sets of functions, one gets the same Green’s function as by integrating over a Fourier series, in simple cases. The method may be used for estimating the result in cases where the integration over all histories cannot be performed exactly.
4. The Transition Temperature in Liquid Helium.
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 242: 544-57 (1957). JSTOR
The partition function for an imperfect Bose-Einstein assembly of atoms is evaluated following Feynman’s path-integral method (1948) as modified by R. Kikuchi for a lattice model. The “effective mass” approximation is avoided, and instead a factor depending explicitly on interatomic forces is introduced. This factor is evaluated approximately for pairs of atoms interacting with a Lenard-Jones potential. The calculation involves only the properties of the individual helium atoms and disregards collective excitations. No adjustable parameters are used. A peak in the specific heat at 2.0°K is found (experimental value, 2.2°K), and this transition temperature decreases with density. There is another transition at about 3.0°K which is probably a liquid-gas transition. If the interatomic forces are very weak one would get only this second transition; the 8 transition does not occur at all unless the forces are of the order of magnitude of those actually found in helium.
The Transition Temperature in Liquid Helium, II. ibid. 247: 225-36 (1958). JSTOR
The Feynman-Kikuchi theory of the 8-transition is improved in various respects. A more general formulation of the approximate path integral for two-atom permutations gives the result that these permutations should be unimportant except below about 1°K, where they may become more important than the other kinds of permutations.
The lattice model is generalized by allowing vacant lattice sites (holes) so that there is a gas-liquid transition as well as a 8-transition. If one assumes that the lattice spacing is fixed and the only effect of pressure is to change the number of holes, then one finds that the transition temperature decreases with pressure if the “effective mass” for many-sided polygons is taken to be more than twice the real mass. On the other hand, with such a large effective mass the transition temperature itself comes out too low. If one allowed the lattice spacing and effective mass to vary with pressure, one could obtain better numerical agreement with experiment, but with so many adjustable parameters such agreement would not be significant.
The effective of lattice structure on the transition is also discussed, and it is found that the product of effective mass, square of lattice spacing, and transition temperature should increase with the coordination number of the lattice.
The treatment can also be extended to mixtures of helium isotopes; the effect of small amounts of 3He or 6He is similar to that predicted by other theories.
Theory of the Lambda Transition.
Proceedings of the Kamerlingh Onnes Conference on Low Temperature Physics at Leiden on 23-28 June 1958 [supplement to Physica 24: S 137 (September 1958)]. Abstract only
5. The Development of the Kinetic Theory of Gases, I. Herapath.
Annals of Science. 13: 188-98 (1957). KMWCH
The British scientist (later a railway journalist) John Herapath (1790-1868) was the first important kinetic theorist in the 19th century. He postulated that the heat of a fluid composed of particles is proportional to the momentum of its particles, and defined the absolute temperature as the total momentum divided by the number of particles. Thus the pressure is proportional to the square of the absolute temperature. He argued that this conclusion was con firmed by experiments of de Luc on the mixing of equal portions of water at 32°F and 212°F, although experiments by Crawford seemed to contradict de Luc’s result. He also calculated from his theory the rate of diffusion and the velocity of sound in gases.
6. The Development of the Kinetic Theory of Gases, II. Waterston.
Annals of Science, 13: 273-82 (1957). KMWCH
John James Waterston (1811-1883) submitted a paper to the Royal Society in 1845, presenting a theory similar to that of Clausius, but it was refused publication and remained unknown until after his death. The published abstract contains the first statement of the equipartition theorem.
Because of a computational error he obtained the wrong theoretical value (4/3) for the ratio of specific heats of a gas, which happened to agree with experimental values available at the time, so he missed the “paradox of specific heats.” In 1893 Rayleigh found the paper in the Society’s archives and had it published.
7. Statistical Thermodynamics of Mixtures.
Transactions of the Faraday Society, 54: 1781-5 (1958).
Guggenheim’s “quasi-chemical approximation” for the Ising problem is formulated. The implicit equation determining the critical solution temperature is given (confirming a result of Barker) and it is shown how the energy and entropy of mixing may be calculated. Two new results are given for the square lattice.
8. The Development of the Kinetic Theory of Gases, III. Clausius.
Annals of Science, 14: 185-96 (1958). KMWCH
Having established by his experiments in the preceding five years the equivalence of heat and mechanical work, J. P. Joule proposed in 1848 to revive Herapath’s kinetic theory. He used it to calculate the velocity of a hydrogen molecule. August Karl Krönig is usually credited with reviving the kinetic theory after 1859 (although he did not advance beyond the work of Herapth and Joule). The 1857 paper of Rudolf Clausius (1822-1888) initiated the modern development of the kinetic theory. In 1858, in response to an objection by the meteorologist C. H. D. Buys-Ballot, he introduced the mean-free-path concept.
9. The Development of the Kinetic Theory of Gases, IV. Maxwell.
Annals of Science, 14: 243-55 (1958). KMWCH
Russian translation in Dshems Klerk Maksvell, Stati I Rechi (Moscow, 1968), pp. 288-304.
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) proposed his velocity distribution function in 1860 along with a mean-free-path theory of transport processes based on the elastic-sphere model. The reception of the kinetic theory in the 1860s is surveyed.
Viscosity of a Hard-sphere Fluid (by SGB, T. E. Wainwright & B. J. Alder). Presented at the Montreal meeting of the American Physical Society, June 1960.
10. (Letter to the editor on Davy and Herapath).
Scientific American, 203, no. 3: 16 (Sept. 1960).
In a comment on L. Pearce Williams’ article on Humphry Davy, it is noted that Davy was partly responsible for the Royal Society’s rejection of Herapath’s kinetic theory, even though it was based on the view, accepted by Davy, that heat is molecular motion.
11. Functional Integrals and Statistical Physics.
Reviews of Modern Physics, 33: 79-92 (1961).
Review of Feynman’s path-integral theory applied to statistical mechanics, including its relation to Norbert Wiener’s theory of Brownian movement and the mathematical theory of Gel’fand and Yaglom. The quantum-mechanical partition function can be written as a series in powers of Planck’s constant, thus showing how it reduces to classical statistical mechanics when that constant goes to zero. The application to superfluid helium by Feynman and Kikuchi is summarized. The most extensive application of the path-integral concept is R. Abé’s theory of the electron-phonon system (1954). Feynman’s theory restores to the physicist some of the conceptual advantages of classical mechanics, in which one could imagine atoms following definite trajectories even if one could not actually see them. Feynman’s path integral does not imply that the particle “really” executes the motions over which one integrates; it simply means that the particle behaves as if it did, and therefore it is legitimate to use physical intuition in looking for valid approximation methods.
12. Development of the kinetic theory of gases, V. The Equation of State.
American Journal of Physics, 29: 593-605 (1961). KMWCH
Some early attempts to explain deviations from the ideal gas law are discussed. After a general survey of 19th-century work, the works of E. Ritter (1846), R. Clausius (1870), and J. D. Van der Waals (1873) are discussed in detail. Ritter used Poisson’s formula to include the virial of interatomic forces in the caloric theory of gaseous pressure; Clausius introduced similar methods in the kinetic theory. Combined with the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution law, the virial theorem provided a systematic procedure for calculating the pressure from any assumed force law. Van der Waals used more intuitive methods for taking account of the effect of finite molecular size and attractive forces. The success of his equation of state led to a large amount of work on the equation of state, but rigorous deductions from definite molecular models did not begin until around 1900
13. John James Waterston and the kinetic theory of gases.
American Scientist, 49: 202-14 (1961).
This paper falls into two sections: the first is an outline of the major developments in the kinetic theory from about 1820 to 1920; the second is a more detailed discussion of the work of Waterston (based on item 6).
14. Origin of the word “neutron.”
Nature. 190: 251 (1961).
William Sutherland used it in 1902.
15. Correction to the Debye-Huckel theory. (By J. G. Trulio and SGB).
Physical Review, 121: 940 (1961).
The correlation energy of a classical one-component electron gas is estimated by the method of Abé. The results are compared with those recently obtained by a different method by D. L. Bowers and E. E. Salpeter.
16. On the Optimum Distribution of Income.
Trabajos de Estadistica, 12: 155-70 (1961).
The central problem of welfare economics is to find the best way to distribute the goods produced by a society among its members. Yet there seems to be no quantitative solution accepted by the majority of economists, probably because of the lack of agreement on the meaning of “best.” I develop a method whereby the consequences of various definitions of “best” may be deduced, provided one is willing to accept certain additional assumptions.
Maximum-welfare solutions are found for 3 kinds of distribution functions: “Pearson type III” functions; a function suggested by Champernowne (1952); and the lognormal distribution. It is assumed that there may be some “incentive effect” that affects the total income: equalization of incomes may reduce incentives to produce and invest. It appears that the solution to the classical maximum-welfare problem does not lie in a moderate amount of redistribution so as to achieve some “compromise” between present inequality and ideal equality. Instead, one needs to decide on the magnitude of the incentive effect; if it is less than a certain critical value, the best distribution is an equal one. If it is larger than the critical value, then any redistribution of income will decrease total welfare.
17. Statistical Thermodynamics of Mixtures, II. Convergence of the quasi-chemical method for the Ising square lattice.
Journal of Chemical Physics, 34: 1852-3 (1961).
For the purpose of calculating the critical solution temperature, the convergence of Guggenheim’s method (Mixtures, 1952) is very slow.
18. Development of the Kinetic Theory of Gases, VI. Viscosity.
American Journal of Physics, 30: 269-81 (1962). KMWCH
This article reviews the development of theories of transport phenomena proposed by Maxwell (1866), Boltzmann (1872), Chapman (1916) and Enskog (1917) and their application to the calculation of the viscosity coefficient. Maxwell’s original mean-free-path method for hard spheres (1860) was refined by Tait, Sutherland, Rayleigh, and Jeans, but suffered from inherent limitations because the velocity-distribution function in a non-uniform gas was unknown. Maxwell (1866) and Boltzmann (1872) proposed more general methods for dealing with transport processes in low-density gases; these methods form the basis of the modern theory. However, they did not manage to solve their equations except in a few special cases. It was not until half a century later that Chapman (1916) and Enskog (1917) succeeded in determining the velocity-distribution function to an accuracy sufficient for the calculation of transport coefficients for any assumed force law. The extension of the theory to dense gases was accomplished by Enskog (1922), who obtained an expression for the viscosity coefficient similar to one proposed by Jäger (1900).
19. Theories of Liquid Viscosity.
Chemical Reviews, 62: 513-48 (1962).
Comparison of liquid with gas viscosity. Macroscopic theories (viscous flow, non-linear theory, bulk viscosity, rheology, turbulence). Microscopic theories (dense gas of hard spheres, monatomic liquid with gas-like or solid-like structure, semi-empirical relations with other properties, corresponding states). Fluctuation-dissipation theory. Quantum-mechanical generalization. Quantum hydrodynamics (Landau-Khalatnikov theory).
20. The Effect of the Interaction of Ions on their Equilibrium Concentration.
Journal of Nuclear Energy (Part C), 4: 287-9 (1962).
According to B. L. Timan (1954), the electrostatic interaction of ions in an ionized gas tends to favor ionization and at sufficiently high pressures the degree of ionization will start to increase with pressure. By using some recently-developed improvements of the Debye-Hückel theory, it is shown that, while in the case considered by Timon this effect does not occur at any pressure for which the theory is valid, it does occur at somewhat lower temperatures. One thus obtains a type of “pressure ionization” from a classical model without invoking volume-dependence of energy levels or similar effects.
21. Equation of State of Classical Systems of Charged Particles. (By SGB, H. E. DeWitt & J. Trulio).
Nuclear Fusion, 3: 5-22 (1963).
Recent developments in the classical theory of fully ionized gases and strong electrolyte solutions are reviewed and used to discuss the equation of state at high temperatures and low densities. The pressure is calculated with the “ring-integral” approximation, and quantitative estimates of higher correction terms are given. The effect of short-range repulsive forces is shown by comparing the results with two kinds of potential functions: hard spheres of diameter a and “soft” spheres for which the short-range potential cancels the Coulomb potential at the origin and decreases exponentially with distance. It is found that the use of either type of potential extends the range of validity of the ring-integral approximation to considerably greater densities and lower temperatures. Since there is little difference in the results for the hard spheres and the soft spheres in this range, and since the soft-sphere system is more easily handled by analytical methods, it is investigated more extensively. The expression derived for the free energy of a system of charged particles can also be used in ionization equilibrium calculations, and the effect of electrostatic interactions on the equilibrium concentrations of various kinds of ions is indicated.
22. Distribution of the Number of Joins between colored Points on a Lattice. (By SGB & Garret L. Boer). Trabajos de Estadistica, 14: 191-195 (1963).
Tables are presented showing the number of configurations mij of arrays of points (l x m x n) on a regular lattice, such that I points are black and (lmn - I) are white, and such that there are j pairs (joins) of neighboring points of different colors, for the arrays (4x4x1), (5x5x1), (6x6x1), and (3x3x3). These data are used in approximate solutions of the Ising problem in statistical mechanics.
23. The Royal Society’s first Rejection of the Kinetic Theory of Gases (1821), John Herapath versus Humphry Davy.
Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 18: 161-80 (1963).
The account in item 5 is supplemented by quoting the correspondence between Herapath, Davy and Davies Gilbert about Herapath’s paper submitted to the Royal Society, and letters from Herapath published in The Times.
24. Pair Distribution Function of a Classical Electron Gas. (By SGB, H. L. Sahlin & E. Teller).
Proceedings of the 3rd Eastern United States Theoretical Physics Conference (1964) p. 5-1.
Preliminary results of the research reported in item 32.
25. Lectures on Gas Theory by Ludwig Boltzmann (English translation, with introduction and notes).
University of California Press , Berkeley, 1964, ix + 490 pp.
Reprinted by Dover Publication., New York, 1995.
The Translator's Introduction, Notes and Bibliography were translated into German (“Einleitung, Anmerkungen und Bibliographie,” 71 pp.) and published with the reprint of the original work in Ludwig Boltzmann Gesamtausgabe, Band 1, edited by R. U. Sexl, Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt, Graz/Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig, Wiesbaden, 1981.
26. Transport Coefficients for the Square-Well Potential Model.
Journal of Chemical Physics, 47: 792 (1965).
The collision cross-section integrals for hard spheres with square-well attractive forces have been recalculated in order to provide the exact low-density limit for calculations of the viscosity and other transport properties of the system.
27. Kinetic Theory.
Encyclopedia of Physics, Reinhold Publishing Company (1966), pp. 361-64.
28. Kinetic Theory, Volume 1. The Nature of Gases and of Heat.
Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1965, xi + 181 pp. KTG
Introduction. Extracts from works by Robert Boyle (1660), Isaac Newton (1687), Daniel Bernoulli (1738), George Gregory (1798), Robert Mayer (1842), James Prescott Joule (1847), Hermann von Helmholtz (1847), Rudolf Clausius (1857, 1858, 1870), and James Clerk Maxwell (1858), including reprints of previously-published translations from Latin and German.
29. Liquid and Gas Physics.
Science Year, the World Book Science Annual, Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, Chicago, 1965, p. 326.
30. Review of The Use of Citation Data in Writing the History of Science by E. Garfield et al.
Isis, 56: 487 (1965).
31. Kinetic Theory, Volume 2. Irreversible Processes.
Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1966, xii + 249 pp. KTG
Introduction. Reprints of papers by James Clerk Maxwell (1866), William Thomson [Lord Kelvin] (1874); new translations from German of papers by Ludwig Boltzmann (1872, 1877, 1896, 1897), and Ernst Zermelo (1896), and from French of a paper by Henri Poincaré (1893).
32. A Monte Carlo Study of a One-Component Plasma, I. (By SGB, H. L. Sahlin & E. Teller).
Journal of Chemical Physics, 45: 2102-18 (1966).
A Monte Carlo study has been made of a classical plasma of heavy ions immersed in a uniform neutralizing background. Systems containing from 32 to 500 particles, with periodic boundary conditions, were used. The results of the study are presented in terms of a dimensionless parameter ' = (4Bn/3)½[Ze)2/kT], where n is the ion density (particles per cc), T is the temperature (°K), k is the Boltzmann constant, e is the electronic charge, and Z is the atomic number. Thermodynamic properties and pair distribution functions were obtained for values of ' ranging from 0.05 to 100.0 from the canonical ensemble by the Monte Carlo (MC) method.
Two different methods were used to determine the potential energy of a configuration. The first is the “minimum-image convention” employed in many previous MC calculations. Each point is allowed to interact only with each other particle in the basic cell, or with the nearest periodic image of each other particle if the image is closer. In the second method, the interaction of a particle with all the images of the other particles, and with the uniform background, is taken into account by a technique similar to the Ewald procedure used to calculate lattice sums. It is found that both methods yield essentially the same results for the pair distribution function g for ' values of 10 or less. For larger values of ' the results given by the two methods differ significantly, indicating that the minimum image convention is inadequate for plasma systems at high densities and low temperatures.
Energies and values of the pair distribution function are compared with predictions of various approximate theories for small ' values. It is found that the nonlinear Debye-Hückel (DH) theory is in agreement with the MC results for values of ' up to 0.1. At ' = 1.0, significant deviations from the DH theory are observed. For ' = 1.0, g is found to be in close agreement with Carley’s calculations based on the Percus-Yevick equation. For values of ' above 2, g is no longer a monotonic function of the interparticle distance r, but begins to show oscillations characteristic of latticelike structure. For large values of ' these oscillations are quite pronounced. The system is observed to undergo a fluid-solid phase transition (to a crystal with symmetry fcc or bcc depending on number of particles) in the vicinity of ' = 125.
33. Thermodynamics and History: Science and Culture in the 19th century.
The Graduate Journal, 7: 477-565 (1967).
Romanticism and Realism as correlated movements in science and culture. Dissipation of Energy. Uniformitarian Geology and the Age of the Earth Controversy. Implications for Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Degeneration. Herbert Spencer. Attempts to Escape the Heat Death. The Eternal Return. Neo-Romanticism: The Reaction against Materialism. Positivism, Empiriocriticism, Energetics. Criticisms of the Kinetic Theory. Henry Adams and the Thermodynamics of History
34. Theories of the Equation of State of Matter at high Pressures and Temperatures.
Progress in High Temperature Physics and Chemistry, 1: 1-137 (1967).
Survey of theories of EoS, and temperature-density regions where they are relevant. Sources of information. Theoretical calculations for high-T, low-d region: ionization equilibrium, Debye-Hückel theory, statistical mechanics of classical plasma, radiation pressure, pair production. Theoretical calculations for the high-d, low-T region: Murnaghan-Birch theory, Fermi-Dirac gas, Thomas-Fermi theory, etc. Thermodynamic description of high-pressure states: Hugoniot EoS, Mie-Grüneisen EoS, semi-empirical theory of Grüneisen’s ratio.
35. Bibliography of Research on Lowering of Ionization Potentials in Plasmas. (Appendix to “Opacity of High-Temperature Air” by B. H. Armstrong, R. R. Johnson, P. S. Kelly, H. E. DeWitt & SGB).
Progress in High Temperature Physics and Chemistry, 1: 231-42 (1967).
36. Improvement of the Cluster Variation Method. (By R. Kikuchi & SGB).
Journal of Chemical Physics, 47: 195-203 (1967).
It is shown that efficient convergence of the Cluster Variation Method for cooperative phenomena in statistical mechanics) CVM for the Ising model of cooperative phenomena) for two dimensions can be achieved by increasing the size of the basic cluster one-dimensionally rather than two-dimensionally, and by formulating the degeneracy factor anisotropically. The method is illustrated with the Ising model in a square lattice, and the following are presented: (a) an angle-shaped (or a V-shaped) basic cluster of 3 points can give the same result as a square basic cluster; (b) a general case is formulated in which a zigzag shape of n V’s is used as the basic cluster; and ( c) the case of the W cluster (two V’s) is calculated using the general formulation mentioned above. It is shown that, when they are plotted against the reciprocal of the number of points in a cluster, the Curie points calculated by different methods lie very close to a straight line.
37. Foundations of Statistical Mechanics 1845-1915.
Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 4: 145-83 (1967).
Topics include: Waterston’s equipartition theorem. Clausius’s postulate about internal motions. Maxwell’s velocity distribution. Equalization of kinetic energy by collisions. The effect of forces on the distribution law: the “Boltzmann factor.” Equilibrium of a column of gas under gravitational forces. Approach to equilibrium and the problem of irreversibility. The paradox of specific heats. Validity of the equipartition theorem. The ergodic hypothesis of Boltzmann and Maxwell. Digression on the history of mathematics. Proof of the impossibility of ergodic systems.
38. History of the Lenz-Ising Model.
Reviews of Modern Physics, 39: 883-93 (1967).
Many physico-chemical systems can be represented by a lattice of molecules with nearest-neighbor interactions. The simplest and most popular version of this theory is the so-called “Ising model,” discussed by Ernst Ising in 1925 but suggested earlier (1920) by Wilhem Lenz. Subsequent major events were the development of approximate method of solution, Lars Onsager’s exact result for the two-dimensional model, the use of the mathematically-equivalent “lattice gas” model to study gas-liquid and liquid-solid phase transitions, and recent progress in determining the singularities of thermodynamic/magnetic properties at the critical point. Not only is there a wide range of possible physical applications of the model, there is also an urgent need for the application of advanced mathematical techniques in order to establish exact properties, especially in the neighborhood of phase transitions where approximate methods are unreliable.
39. Boltzmann’s “Eta Theorem”: Where’s the evidence?
American Journal of Physics, 35: 892 (1967).
Does the H in Boltzmann’s H theorem stand for capital Greek eta?
40. Note on the History of the FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction.
Isis, 58: 230-2 (1967).
Correspondence between G. F. FitzGerald and H. A. Lorentz. FitzGerald’s publication of the contraction hypothesis was unknown to him and to others who wrote about it.
41. Review of The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals by W. E. Houghton et al.
Isis, 58: 251-3 (1967).
42. Mach and Atomism. Synthese, 18: 192-215 (1968).
After first accepting the “atmospheric atom” model of G. Fechner and his teacher A. R. von Ettinshausen, Ernst Mach rejected it. He became skeptical about the validity of other versions of atomism, granting them only heuristic value. His refusal to accept atomism, even after the work of Einstein, Smoluchowski and Perrin on Brownian movement had provided evidence that convinced other skeptics like Ostwald, undermines the credibility of his methodology as a guide for research.
43. A History of Random Processes, I. Brownian Movement from Brown to Perrin.
Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 5: 1-36 (1968). Reprinted in Studies in the History of Statistics and Probability, II, edited by M. Kendall & R. L. Plackett. New York: Macmillan, 1977, 347-82.
Topics include Robert Brown’s observations and interpretations thereof; observations and qualitative experiments, 1840-1878.; criticisms of the molecular-impact theory; Einstein’s theory; Perrin’s experiments and the reality of atoms.
44. A View of Normal Science (Review of The Nature of Physics by R. B. Lindsay)
The Physics Teacher, 6: 375-6 (1968).
45. Harvard Project Physics: An old Solution to a new Problem?
Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Conference on Recent Advances in Physics, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, December 27-28, 1968, pp. 33-42.
Physicists now recognize the need for introductory courses designed for students who will not become scientists and engineers. The new “Project Physics Course” meets this need by reviving the historical approach. Making the history more accurate than in current textbooks can have pedagogical value, for example in showing why the commonly-found statement that “Romer first determined the speed of light in 1676" is physically incorrect.
46. Romance in six Figures.
Physics Today, 22, no. 1: 9 (January 1969).
A. A. Michelson popularized the idea that physicists have nothing left to do but determine the physical constants to another decimal place, but attributed this idea to a mysterious “eminent physicist.” Who was that person, and is the idea itself an accurate view of physics in the 1890s?
47. From Dalton to Chadwick (Review of The Atomists (1805-1933) by B. Schonland).
The Physics Teacher, 7: 171-3 (1969).
48. The Role of History in the Teaching of Physics.
The Physics Teacher, 7: 271-80 (1969).
The favorable reception of the Project Physics Course indicates an interest in teaching physics from a more humanistic viewpoint. But its success will require teachers to learn more about the history of science, to avoid the myths and fallacies now found in textbooks (e.g. about the discovery of the speed of light, the dissipation of energy, and the origin of quantum theory).
49. Geography, experimental History. (XT)
Physics Today, 22, no. 7: 9, 11 (July 1969).
Comment on an article by Arnold Strassenburg and Margaret T. Llano, “What does He Study?” Some editorial slips are noted, including the assertion that all 10 physics departments that cover history and philosophy of physics do only “experimental” work in this area, none are “theoretical”; the new program at the University of Maryland should fill this gap.
50. Maxwell, Osborne Reynolds, and the Radiometer. (By SGB & C. W. F. Everitt).
Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, 1: 105-25 (1969). KMWCH
In 1873 William Crookes popularized the “radiometer,” which was initially thought to show the pressure of light. Maxwell and Reynolds developed theories showing how the rotation of the vanes can be explained by gas-surface interactions at low pressure. The most interesting part of the story is found in unpublished referee reports held at the Royal Society of London.
51. Boltzmann, Ludwig (b. Vienna, Austria, 20 February 1844; d. Duino, near Trieste, 5 September 1906, physics.
Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 2: 260-8 (1970). KMWCH
52. Taming the Bomb. (Review of: A Peril and a Hope, by A. K. Smith, and Scientists in Politics, by D. A. Strickland).
The Physics Teacher, 8: 213-16 (1970).
53. The Origins of Atomic Theory. (Review of John Dalton and the Progress of Science, edited by D. S. L. Cardwell).
The Physics Teacher, 8: 275-6 (1970).
54. History for Scientists. (Review of Essays in the History of Mechanics, by C. Truesdell).
Isis, 61: 115-18 (1970).
55. Review of Immanuel Kant’s Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens, reprint of translation. Physics Today, 23, no. 10: 63 (October 1970).
56. Francis Bitter and “Landau Diamagnetism.”
Journal of Statistical Physics, 2: 195-97 (1970).
A forgotten paper by Bitter (1930) on the diamagnetism of a quantum electron gas presented an approximate result similar to the formula established by L. D. Landau in the same year.
57. Report of the International Working Seminar on the Role of the History of Physics in Physics Education. The Physics Teacher, 8: 508-10 (1970).
Recommendations include: a book on the history of physics; encouragement and assistance to teachers; preservation of archival materials; translations of historical works. See also the summary by Brian Gee in Physics Education, 7, no. 1, 50-52 (January 1972)
58. Interatomic Forces and Gas Theory from Newton to Lennard-Jones.
Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis, 39: 1-29 (1970). SPATM; KTG
A recurrent theme in the physical science of the past 3 centuries has been provided by the program attributed to Isaac Newton: from the phenomena of nature to find the forces between particles of matter, and from these forces to explain and predict other phenomena. The success or failure of this program as a guide to research can be assessed by considering some of the cases in which it has been applied: Newton’s own theory of gas pressure; the Boscovich theory of point centers of force; Laplace’s model of short-range attractive and long-range repulsive forces; the billiard-ball model used in the elementary kinetic theory of gases; Maxwell’s inverse 5th power repulsive force used to simplify calculations in his transport theory; and forces assumed in deriving the equation of state of J. D. Van der Waals. A more detailed examination is presented of the rise and fall of the “Lennard-Jones potential” in relation to calculations and experimental data on virial coefficients and transport properties of gases, solid state properties, and the quantum theory of interatomic forces.
The history of the subject suggests that the hypothetico-deductive model of scientific method has not often been followed in practice, since the reasons for adopting or rejecting new interatomic force laws are often no simply related to the success or failure of the force law in calculations of gas properties.
At present there is serious doubt about whether it is worthwhile to determine a single “realistic” force law for the interaction between two atoms or molecules. It may be more fruitful to abandon this program and (following Maxwell’s example) to choose force laws instead on the basis of their convenience in a particular mathematical theory of the properties of matter.
59. The Wave Theory of Heat: A Forgotten Stage in the Transition from the Caloric Theory to Thermodynamics.
The British Journal for the History of Science, 5: 145-67 (1970). KMWCH
At the start of the 19th century both heat and light were thought to be particles. Radiant heat was found to have most of the properties of light, suggesting that heat and light are the same thing. Replacement of the particle theory of light by the wave theory (Young, Fresnel) led to replacement of the particle theory of heat by a wave theory (Ampère and others). The “caloric” fluid was seen as a form of “ether” and heat as consisting in the vibrations of this fluid rather than its amount. This in turn suggested that heat is a form of mechanical energy, and allowed an easy transition to the idea that heat is related to mechanical work (thermodynamics) and to the energy of atoms (kinetic theory of gases). The wave theory of heat then disappeared from physics (and from histories of physics), but the idea that ether is involved in the transmission of energy between atoms resurfaced in debates about blackbody radiation at the end of the 19th century.
60. Kinetische Theorie, Band I. Die Natur der Gase und der Warme. (German translation of item 28). Akademie-Verlag, Berlin; Pergamon Press, Oxford; Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig, 1970, 257 pp.
61. Kinetische Theorie, Band II. Irreversible Prozesse. (German translation of item 31).
Akademie-Verlag, Berlin; Pergamon Press, Oxford; Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig, 1970, 314 pp.
62. Review of Francis Bitter, Selected Papers and Commentaries, edited by T. Erber & C. M. Fowler). Physics Today, 24, no. 2: 44-45 (February 1971).
63. The Project Physics Course.
Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1971; second edition 1975.
Semi-anonymous publication. The Directors of Harvard Project Physics were G. Holton, F. J. Rutherford & F. G. Watson, and they are listed as its “authors” in some book catalogs. SGB is listed (page A21) as one of more than 100 “staff and consultants” who “contributed in some way to the development of the course materials” but was in fact primarily responsible for the text of two of the original six units: Unit 3, “The Triumph of Mechanics” (144 pp.) and Unit 4 “Light and Electromagnetism” (130 pp.). Some of this material was used in item 89.
64. Review of Vorgeschichte des Planckschen Strahlungsgesetzes by Hans Kangro.
Isis 62: 555-56 (1971).
65. Review of Transport Phenomena in Fluids, edited by H. J. M.. Hanley.
American Journal of Physics, 39: 463 (1971).
66. Positivism in Ancient and Modern Science (review of translation of P. Duhem, To Save the Phenomena)
The Physics Teacher 9: 204-6 (1971).
67. James Clerk Maxwell and the Kinetic Theory of Gases: A Review based on Recent Historical Studies.
American Journal of Physics, 39: 631-40 (1971).
Maxwell’s 4 major papers and some shorter publications are discussed in the light of subsequent research. Further information about the origin and development of his ideas, based on study of unpublished materials and closer examination of less well-known articles, is reviewed.
68. The Role of the History of Physics in Physics Education.
American Journal of Physics, 39: 848 (1971).
69. Enskog, David (b. Västra Ämtervik, Värmland, Sweden, 22 April 1884; d. Stockholm, Sweden, 1 June 1947), physics.
Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 4: 375-6 (1971).
70. Proof of the Impossibility of Ergodic Systems: The 1913 Papers of Rosenthal and Plancherel.
Transport Theory and Statistical Physics, 1: 287-311 (1971). KTG
Can a mechanical system eventually pass through every possible combination of positions and velocities of all its parts (compatible with a fixed total energy)? If this “ergodic hypothesis” is correct, one could justify the use of equilibrium statistical mechanics in calculating thermodynamic properties, as noted by Maxwell and Boltzmann. But in 1913, M. Plancherel and Artur Rosenthal, using recent advances in mathematics, independently proved that the answer is no. English translations of their papers are included.
71. Review of Collected Scientific Papers of Meghnad Saha , edited by S. Chatterjee.
Physics Today, 25, no. 2: 55-6 (Feb. 1972).
72. Simultaneous Discovery (30 minute audio tape).
Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Learning Systems, Toronto, Cat. #201. (Published 1972)
Discussion of the discovery of energy conservation in the 19th century. Broadcast January 17, 1969. Text of this an an earlier (Jan. 10) broadcast, “Disappearing Boundaries,” issued as Technical Note BN-597 by Institute for Fluid Dynamics & Applied Mathematics, University of Maryland.
73. Atoms and Models (30 minute audio tape, with E. Vogt and R. Kreps).
Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Learning Systems, Toronto, Cat. #283. (Published 1972)
74. Matter and Force (30 minute audio tape).
Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Learning Systems, Toronto, Cat. #200. (Published 1972)
75. Resources for the History of Physics (editor).
University Press of New England, Hanover, NH, 1972, 90 + 86 pp.
I. Guide to Books and Audiovisual Materials. II. Guide to Original Works of Historical Importance and their Translations into other Languages.
76. A Fascinating Reference (review of Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited by C. C. Gillispie, vols. I-IV).
The Physics Teacher, 10: 158 (1972).
77. Kinetic Theory Volume 3. The Chapman-Enskog Solution of the Transport Equation for Moderately Dense Gases. Pergamon Press, Oxford & New York, 1972, x + 283 pp.
Part 1: The work of Hilbert, Chapman, and Enskog; Comparison of the Chapman-Enskog Results with those of earlier Theories; Application of Kinetic Theory to Determination of Intermolecular Forces; Propagation of Sound in Monatomic Gases; Alternatives to the Chapman-Enskog Method, and Mathematical Problems; Generalizations of the Kinetic Theory to Higher Densities. Part 2: Reprint of papers by Sydney Chapman (1916-17, 1966) and by Chapman & F. W. Dootson (1917); translation of papers by David Hilbert (1912) and David Enskog (1917, 1922).
78. For Your Favorite Library (review of Selected Writings of Hermann von Helmholtz, edited by R. Kahl).
The Physics Teacher, 10: 288 (1972).
79. Review of Vorgeschichte des Planckschen Strahlungsgesetzes by H. Kangro.
Isis, 62: 555-6 (1971, pub. 1972).
80. Fowler, Ralph Howard (b. Roydon, Essex, England, 17 January 1889; d Cambridge, England, 28 July 1944), physics.
Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 5: 102-3 (1972).
81. History in the Teaching of Physics, Proceedings of the International Working Seminar on The Role of the History of Physics in Physics Education (Edited by SGB & Allen L. King).
University Press of New England, Hanover, N.H., 1972, xi + 116 pp.
Includes papers by M. J. Klein, G. Holton, C. Weiner, S. C. Brown. See item 57 for summary of recommendations.
82. Mathematical Physics and Selected Papers by John Herapath (edited by SGB)
Johnson Reprint Corporation, New York, 1972, xliii +372 + 374 + plates & tables + 273-93 + 340-51 + 401-16 + 6 pp.
Editor’s Introduction to the Reprint Edition, Notes and Bibliography (based in part on items 5 and 23), pp. vii-xlii. Reprint of Mathematical Physics; or the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy: with a Development of the Causes of Heat, Gaseous Elasticity, Gravitation, and Other Great Phenomena of Nature (2 volumes, London, 1847); “A mathematical Inquiry into the Causes, Laws, and Principal Phenomenae of Heat, Gases, Gravitation, etc.” (1821); “On Rail-Roads (No. 1) with some Remarks on the Liverpool and Manchester Rail-Road (1836). Herapath took advantage of his success in railway journalism to publish his scientific work, which thereby became known to Joule, Maxwell, and William Thomson. One of the results he derived from his kinetic theory, and published in 1836, was the first explicit calculation of the speed of a gas molecule, usually credited to Joule (1848).
83. Translation of Hans Kangro’s Introduction and Notes to Planck’s Original Papers in Quantum Physics, German and English edition, edited by Hans Kangro, pp. 32-34, 46-60.
Taylor & Francis, London, 1972.
84. The History of Science and its Place in a Physics Course. (By S. C. Brown, D. Lindsay & SGB).
In Teaching School Physics (A UNESCO Source Book), edited by John L. Lewis, pp. 122-33.
UNESCO, Paris & Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1972, 122-33.
85. Herapath, John (b Bristol, England, 30 May 1790; d. Lewisham, England, 24 February 1868).
Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 6: 291-3 (1972).
86. Review of The Caloric Theory of Gases from Lavosier to Regnault by R. Fox.
The British Journal for the History of Science, 6: 218-20 (1972).
87. Review of Molecular Reality by M. J. Nye.
Centaurus, 17: 174-5 (1972).
88. Letter to the Editor
American Oxonian, 59, no. 4, part 1: 293-95 (October 1972).
On Rhodes Scholarships for women (“Fellowships for Women” are not good enough).
89. Introduction to Concepts and Theories in Physical Science (by G. Holton & SGB), Second Edition
Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1973, xix + 589 pp.
Corrected reprint published by Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1985.
Historically-oriented textbook. The first edition was published by Holton in 1952.
90. J. D. van der Waals and the States of Matter.
The Physics Teacher, 11: 261-70 (1973). KMWCH
In 1873, Johannes Diderik van der Waals (1837-1923) showed that the continuous transition between gaseous and liquid states above the critical point can be explained by his model of molecules with short-range repulsive and long-range attractive forces. (The latter are now called “van der Waals forces.”) His success showed that macroscopic properties (being a liquid or a gas) do not require the introduction of new principles but can be “reduced” to microscopic properties, and created a new subject, the theory of phase transitions based on atomic models of matter.
91. Lennard-Jones, John Edward (b Leigh, Lancashire, England, 27 October 1894; d. Stoke-on-Trent, England, 1 November 1954), theoretical physics, theoretical chemistry.
Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 8: 185-87 (1973).
92. Some Relations between Planetary Science and ‘Pure’ Science, and their Historical Development. Technology Studies Bulletin (MIT), 1: 56-59; discussion 60-62 (May 1973)
The topic is discussed at greater length in items 98 and 142.
93. Review of Philosophy of Physics by M. Bunge.
Physics Today, 26, no. 9: 61 (September 1973).
94. The Development of the Kinetic Theory of Gases, VII. Heat Conduction and the Stefan-Boltzmann Law. Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 11: 328-96 (1973). KMWCH
The Dulong-Petit Law of Cooling. Heat Conduction in Gases before Maxwell. Maxwell’s Kinetic Theory of Heat Conduction. Experimental Tests of Maxwell’s Theory. The Temperature of the Sun. The Stefan-Boltzmann Law. The Three Modes of Heat Transfer. Leslie’s Analysis of Heat Transfer. Derivation of the T4 Law.
95. The Development of the Kinetic Theory of Gases, VIII. Randomness and Irreversibility. Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 12: 1-88 (1974). KMWCH
The World-Machine and Cosmic History. The Cooling of the Earth. The Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Concept of Entropy. The Introduction of Statistical Ideas in Kinetic Theory. Boltzmann’s Statistical Theory of Entropy. Molecular Disorder. The Recurrence Paradox. Toward Quantum Theory: Planck’s Irreversible Radiation Processes.
96. Should the History of Science be rated X?
Science, 183: 1165-72 (1974). Reprinted in Theories in Contemporary Psychology, edited by M. Marx and F. E. Goodson. Macmillan, New York, 1976, 66-86. Translation into Polish, in Zagadnienia Naukoznawstwa.
The way scientists behave (according to historians) might not be a good model for students. Comments on the alleged experimental character of science and the “scientific method” (especially in teaching non-science majors); revival of interest in using history in science teaching; subversive aspects of the history of science; examples showing that some famous scientists did not follow the “scientific method”; the science teacher as “Whig historian.”
97. Myopia (review of The Man who Saw through Time by L. Eiseley).
The Physics Teacher, 12: 184-5 (1974).
98. Relations between Planetary Science and “Pure” Science in the 19th Century.
Proceedings of the XIIIth International Congress of the History of Science (Moscow, August 18-24, 1971), Section VI, 343-51 (published 1974).
Planetary science has been assigned an inferior role compared to “pure” or “fundamental” science, especially in modern physics and astronomy, but the situation was quite different before the 19th century. Problems in planetary science frequently provided a stimulus for discoveries in what we now call pure science. The distinction between pure and planetary science arose in the 19th century, in part due to the debate on the age of the Earth. Unfortunately, many 20th-century historians of science accepted the view that planetary science is less important than pure science.
C. S. Gillmor, “The Place of the Geophysical Sciences in Nineteenth Century Natural Philosophy,” Eos 56: 4-7 (1975), reporting a workshop on this topic at the Hunt Foundation in Pittsburgh, March 14-17, 1974, includes on page 5 three paragraphs summarizing this paper, presented by SGB
The Encyclopedia of Physics, second edition, edited by Robert M. Besancon, pp. 462-65. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1974.
Ibid., pp. 479-83.
100. The Prayer Test.
American Scientist, 62: 561-3 (1974). Reprinted in Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 28: 11-14 (1976). Reprinted (in part) in Science Today (Bombay), 9, no. 8: 23-5 (Feb. 1975).
The proposal of a “scientific” experiment to determine the power of prayer kindled a raging debate between Victorian men of science and theologians.
101. Review of Julius Robert Mayer by R. B. Lindsay.
American Journal of Physics, 42: 920-21 (1974).
102. A scientific experiment [letter to editor on #100].
American Scientist, 63: 6-7 (1975).
The debate is still alive.
103. Review of German Nobel Prizewinners, edited by A. Hermann; Otto Hahn 1879-1968 by E. Berninger; Johannes Kepler 1571-1971 by W. von Braun, F. Abel and M. Brocker.
American Journal of Physics, 43: 287 (1975).
104. A Study and Critique of the Teaching of the History of Science and Technology. Interim Report by the Committee on Undergraduate Education of the History of Science Society (U.S.A.) (By H. I. Sharlin, chairman; SGB, H. L. Burstyn, S. Herbert, M. S. Mahoney, N. Sivin).
Annals of Science, 32: 55-70 (1975).
The history of science of science and technology has been a scholarly discipline with little attention given to the special needs of undergraduate teaching. What needs to be done to transform a discipline to an undergraduate subject? Suggestions include using the relation between science and technology as well as the role of interpreters in formulation of the popular world view. Relations with science and history departments are considered. Curriculum materials are surveyed with some recommendations for correcting deficiencies.
105. [Discussion remark on scientific revolutions].
In "Copernicus Yesterday and Today, Proceedings of the Commemorative Conference held in Washington in honor of Nicolaus Copernicus,” edited by A. Beer and K. A. Strand. Vistas in Astronomy, 17: 131-2 (1975).
Historians should pay more attention to the very technical, apparently dreary aspect of what the scientist does in the world of mathematical calculations, when he is not worrying about “anomalies” that challenge his physical understanding. A theory is often rationalized after it has been established mathematically and is found to fit some of the data.
106. Publications in the History of Physics during 1973.
American Journal of Physics, 43: 850-60 (1975).
Survey of more than 50 books and 14 periodicals. The subjects most frequently discussed were optics, ether, relativity, mechanics, and atomic or nuclear physics. A survey of this literature is presented in the form of a chronological review of relevant aspects of the history of physics, from Chinese optics in the 5th century BC to the discovery of parity conservation in the 20th century A.D. Brief comments are made on current controversies among historians of science, such as the significance of “anticipation’ of modern ideas in the writings of earlier scientists, and the role of experiment in the work of Galileo and Einstein. The most important new publication by a single author is James Bell’s The Experimental Foundations of Solid Mechanics, a treatise that seems to have been ignored by most historians of physics.
107. Report on Undergraduate Education in the History of Science (by the Committee on Undergraduate Education of the History of Science Society: SGB, H. L. Burstyn, S. Herbert, M. S. Mahoney, N. Sivin, H. I. Sharlin, chairman).
History of Science Society, 1975, 56 pp.
Expanded version of item #104, with comments on the development of the history of science profession, various situations of historians of science in academic departments and programs, graduate training, and curriculum materials.
108. Review of Ludwig Boltzmann, Theoretical Physics and Philosophical Problems, edited by B. McGuinness with a foreword by S. R. De Groot and translations from the German by P. Foulkes.
Annals of Science, 32: 599-601 (1975).
109 Education of Historians of Science in the U.S.A.
Synthesis, 3, no. 2: 6-19 (1975).
Based on a 1973-74 survey, to which 12 graduate programs gave complete replies. Results are compared with those published by R. French & M. Gross in 1973. Typical M.A. and Ph.D. requirements are described, and comments on the educational philosophy of the programs are quoted. About half of those who become historians of science had an undergraduate major in science; history of science graduate students are being taught by professors, less half of whom have Ph. D.’s in that subject themselves. An unpublished appendix provides detailed statistics for all programs that gave some response.
110. [Discussion remarks on the history of Brownian movement].
Proceedings of the American Academy Workshop on the Evolution of Modern Mathematics (Boston, August 1974), ed. Birkhoff and Garwood. Historia Mathematica, 2: 598-9 (1975).
111. Can Science come out of the Laboratory now?
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 32, no. 4: 40-3 (April 1976).
Reprinted (with omissions) in Dialogue (U.S. Information Agency), 10, no. 2: 77-83 (1977). Also in Encyclopedia Science Supplement 77/78, Grolier, pp. 277-82.
Francis Bacon, John Dalton, Gregor Mendel and Albert Einstein: What counts (contrary to Francis Bacon and his modern followers) is not the accumulation of data but the brilliant insight that reveals the regularity lying hidden beneath the chaos of superficial appearances.
112. Waterston, John James.
Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 14: 184-6 (1976).
113. Review of Sources for the History of Science 1660-1914 by D. M. Knight.
American Historical Review, 81: 558-9 (1976).
JSTOR and EBSCOHost
114. The Kind of Motion we call Heat: A History of the Kinetic Theory of Gases in the 19th Century.
North-Holland Pub. Co., Amsterdam, 1976, xxxix + 769 pp. Reprinted 1986.
Introductory survey. Personalities (based on items 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, 23, 42, 51, 90). Problems (based on items 12, 18, 37, 43, 58, 59, 94, 95). Bibliography (covering 1801-1900).
Winner of the Pfizer Award (History of Science Society) for the best book on history of science published in 1976
115. Introduccion a los conceptos y teorias de las ciencias fisicas. (Spanish translation of item 89).
Editorial Reverte, Barcelona, 1976, xxii + 841 pp.
116. Irreversibility and Indeterminism: Fourier to Heisenberg.
Journal of the History of Ideas, 37: 603-30 (1976). SPATM. KTG.
By 1800, the cyclic “Newtonian clockwork universe,” rejected by Newton himself, was being challenged by research on the cooling of the Earth. J. B. J. Fourier, inspired in part by this problem, was the first to establish a quantitative theory in which a physical process is not time-reversible (heat conduction). The conflict between that theory and the time-reversibility of Newton’s laws became inescapable in the late 19th century when physicists tried to derive the Second Law of Thermodynamics from an atomistic model based on Newtonian mechanics. Maxwell and Boltzmann tried to do this by assuming that atoms behave as if they move randomly. With the success of kinetic theory and statistical mechanics, the phrase “as if” was forgotten, so when Einstein, Rutherford, Schrödinger, Born and Heisenberg explicitly postulated indeterminism at the atomic level, other physicists didn’t have much difficulty accepting it.
117. More on the Spinthariscope.
The Physics Teacher, 14: 469: 518 (1976).
According to a famous (but probably false) story, the spinthariscope persuaded Ernst Mach that atoms exist.
118. The Founding Fathers (review of S. Weart, ed., Selected Papers of Great American Physicists).
The Physics Teacher, 14: 519 (1976).
119. Review of Energy: Historical Development of the Concept, edited by R. B. Lindsay.
Annals of Science, 33: 611-12 (1976).
120. A Reprint of Your Own.
The Sciences, 17, no. 2: 28 (March/April 1977).
In the evaluation of grant applications, reports on research already done should count more than promises of research to be done in the future.
121. Review of The Solvay Conferences on Physics by J. Mehra.
American Scientist, 65: 93-94 (1977).
122. Review of Landmark Experiments in Twentieth Century Physics by G. Trigg.
Isis, 68: 165 (1977).
Encyclopedia Americana (1977 edition), vol. “P”: 49-56.
124. Review of Joseph Fourier by J. Herivel.
Historia Mathematica, 4: 219-21 (1977).
125. Review of Method and Appraisal in the Physical Sciences, edited by C. Howson.
American Journal of Physics, 45: 687-8 (1977).
126. The Origin of the Planetesimal Theory.
Origins of Life, 8: 3-6 (1977). HMPP
T. C. Chamberlin suggested in 1898 that the planets were formed by accretion of cold solid particles. With F. R. Moulton he developed a comprehensive “planetesimal theory” of the origin of the solar system (1905). See item #134 for details.
127. Review of Lowell and Mars by W. G. Hoyt.
Origins of Life, 8: 175-6 (1977).
128. The Search for Quality in University Research Programmes (Essay Review of books by D. E. Drew, R. S. Karpf, and W. P. Dolan).
Social Studies of Science, 7: 395-400 (1977). JSTOR
Topics include: Are we getting our money’s worth from funded research? The effect of dollars (from the U. S. Government Science Development program) on publications. The effect of Ratings on Education.
129. Review of Science Development by D. E. Drew.
Isis, 68: 667-8 (1977).
130. Statistical Mechanics and the Philosophy of Science.
PSA 1976, Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association meeting at Chicago, October 1976, edited by F. Suppe & P. D. Asquith, pp. 551-584. Philosophy of Science Association, East Lansing , MI, 1977. SPATM. KTG.
Philosophical discussions of “reduction” often cite the example of thermodynamics (especially the Second Law) and kinetic theory/statistical mechanics, but with inadequate justification. A better example is the theory of phase transitions (initiated by J. D. van der Waals), whose success refutes the dogma that one has to introduce new fundamental postulates to explain higher levels of reality (macroscopic > microscopic). Historical examples also contradict the view that reductionism is bad, or that an entity loses something when it is “reduced” -- instead we usually gain something in our understanding of nature, including a more precise limit on the domain of validity of the reduced theory, in exchange for the loss of arbitrary or incomprehensible aspects.
131. Idea of Divine Element in Man (XT) (Letter to Editor).
Chemical & Engineering News, 56, no. 2: 44 (Jan. 9, 1978).
Quotes views of John Herschel and William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) on evolution.
132. Why Chemistry needs History-–and How it can Get Some.
Journal of College Science Teaching, 7: 288-91 (1978).
Chemists, compared with physicists, show remarkably little interest in the history of their own discipline. This may be a consequence of the supposed “empirical” nature of chemistry, a supposition that is refuted by historical research. (The anti-theoretical attitude may be connected with the fact that modern chemical theory is derived from physical theory, i.e. quantum mechanics.) Since the conference at which this paper was presented (“The History of Chemistry in Chemical Education,” Madison, 1976) revealed a widespread desire to change this situation, I present some specific recommendations and a short bibliography of sources.
133. Response to Book Review: The Kind of Motion We Call Heat.
Journal of Statistical Physics, 18: 525-528 (1978).
Reply to L. Tisza, whose review in this journal is based on his own version of the history of caloric theory and thermodynamics -- a version not supported by historical research..
134. A Geologist among Astronomers: The Rise and Fall of the Chamberlin-Moulton Cosmogony.
Journal for the History of Astronomy, 9: 1-41, 77-104 (1978). HMPP
Introduction. Planetary cosmogony at the end of the 19th century. The assault on the Nebular Hypothesis (T. C. Chamberlin & F. R. Moulton). Competing theories 1901-1912 (S. Arrhenius, P. Lowell, T. J. J. See). The Planetesimal Hypothesis. Its reception. Theories of J. H. Jeans and H. Jeffreys. Decline of the Chamberlin-Moulton theory. Relevance to philosophical/historical theories of T. S. Kuhn, I. Lakatos, L. Darden & N. Maull.
135. Nettie M. Stevens and the Discovery of Sex Determination by Chromosomes.
Isis, 69: 163-72 (1978). Reprinted in History of Women in the Sciences, edited by S. G. Kohlstedt, pp. 336-46. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1999.
Stevens (1861-1912) is sometimes linked with Edmund B. Wilson (1856-1939 as co-discoverer in 1905 of the role of X and Y chromosomes in sex determination. However, Wilson happened to choose a species in which the male has one less chromosome than the female (Anasa tristis), whereas Stevens worked with the much more common case in which the male has a small chromosome (Y) corresponding to the large chromosome (X) in the female (she studied the mealworm, Tenebrio molitor). Moreover, unpublished documents suggest that Wilson probably did not arrive at his result until after he had seen Stevens’. Her paper was submitted for publication first but his was published first; in view of his position on the editorial board of the Journal of Experimental Zoology and the fact that his paper was published there with a time lag of only 3 months compared to 8 months for hers (published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington), it does not seem that he deserves priority. Moreover, his paper suggested that other factors than chromosomes may affect sex, while hers was quite definite on that point. In later years Wilson, who was much better known, got more credit for the discovery, as a result of the “Matthew Effect.”
136. Review of Creation by Natural Law by R. L. Numbers.
Journal for the History of Astronomy, 9: 70-71 (1978).
137. The Use of History (XT) [Letter to the Editor].
The Physics Teacher, 16: 424 (1978).
Comment on letter by M. H. Kagan & E. Mendoza, ibid. p. 225, on textbook presentations of the history of relativity.
138. Review of Briefwechsel zwischen Alexander von Humboldt und Carl Friedrich Gauss, edited by K.-R. Biermann.
Isis, 69: 629 (1978).
139. Scientific Revolutionaries of 1905: Einstein, Rutherford, Chamberlin, Wilson, Stevens, Binet, Freud. Rutherford and Physics at the Turn of the Century, edited by M. Bunge & W. R. Shea, pp. 140-71. Science History Publications, New York, 1979.
In 1905, Albert Einstein published 3 famous papers; Ernest Rutherford showed that one could use radioactivity to estimate minimum ages of rocks, the Earth, and the Sun; T. C. Chamberlin, with F. R. Moulton, published an influential theory of the origin of the solar system (see item #134); Nettie Stevens and E. B. Wilson independently discovered the chromosome mechanism for sex determination (# 135); Alfred Binet , with T. Simon, published the psychological procedure that later became the IQ test; Sigmund Freud shocked civilized society with his Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex. A common factor linking these revolutionary events is a change in the perception of time, from an absolute, uniformly-flowing, independent variable to a contingent, discrete variable dependent on random events.
140. The Temperature of History: Phases of Science and Culture in the Nineteenth Century.
Burt Franklin & Co., New York, 1978 (pub. 1979), ix + 210 pp.
German translation, Die Temperatur der Geschichte: Wissenschaftliche und kulturelle Phasen im 19. Jahrhundert, Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig/Wiesbaden, 1987.
Revised and expanded version of item #33, including item #142.
141. Comments on “On the Distortion of the History of Science in Science Education” [by Harvey Siegel].
Science Education, 63: 277-278 (1979).
Further Comments on Siegel on Brush.
Ibid. 64: 123 (1980)
On Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions, which has been criticized for its stress on subjective or social factors, but (as shown by Owen Gingerich in the case of the Copernican Revolution) may instead give too much weight to objective factors. How should we explain to students why a new paradigm was accepted by scientists (in the case of quantum mechanics as well as heliocentric astronomy) before they had the evidence that now provides its rational justification?
142. Planetary Science: From Underground to Underdog.
Scientia, 113: 771-787 (1978, pub. 1979). HMPP
Italian translation, ibid., pp. 789-804
Expanded version of item #98, with comments on the increased prestige of planetary science after 1970.
143. Nineteenth-Century Debates about the Inside of the Earth: Solid, Liquid or Gas?
Annals of Science, 36: 225-254 (1979). HMPP
In the first part of the 19th century, geologists explained volcanoes, earthquakes and mountain-formation on the assumption that the Earth has a large molten core under a very thin (25-50 mile) solid crust. This assumption was attacked on astronomical grounds by William Hopkins, who argued that the crust must be at least 800 miles thick, and on physical grounds by William Thomson, who showed that the Earth as a whole behaves like a solid with high rigidity. Others insisted that there is evidence for a fluid or plastic layer just below the crust. It was also suggested that the interior of the Earth is a supercritical fluid. By the end of the century many geologists had accepted the doctrine of a completely solid Earth. (For later research see item #152).
144. Energetic Mancunian (review of James Prescott Joule and the Concept of Energy by H. J. Steffens) Nature, 281: 714 (1979)
145. Marvelous bedtime reading for physicists (XT) (review of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford by S. C. Brown).
Physics Today, 32, no. 11: 55, 58 (Nov. 1979)
146. The AAUP: Views of its Status and of its Censure of the University of Maryland (by SGB & F. Suppe)
Chronicle of Higher Education, 16 July 1979, p. 13.
The American Association of University Professors made a disastrous blunder in censuring the University of Maryland for its refusal to appoint Bertell Ollman as chairman of its political science department. The AAUP’s own investigative committee recommended against censure, and there is no evidence that academic freedom was violated. But academic freedom may be violated in other cases if AAUP dilutes its moral strength by voting censure without valid reasons. [Ollman lost his lawsuit against the University.]
147. Rewards for referees?
Physics Today, 33, no. 2: 13 (Feb. 1980)
It’s hard to get referees to submit prompt and thorough reports. Since referees are presumably chosen because they are reputable scientists doing research that might be published in the same journal, they might be motivated by an offer of the right to publish one paper without substantive refereeing.
In reply, the Editor of Physical Review Letters calls this proposed reward “meretricious.”
148. Poincaré and Cosmic evolution.
Physics Today, 33 (3): 42-49 (March 1980). HMPP
Chinese translation in Science and Philosophy, 2: 52-72 (1982).
Among his other, better known, studies this 19th-century “mathematical naturalist” enquired into the origin and stability of the Solar System, the fate of the Universe and the shapes of rotating fluid masses. His view was characteristic of the late 19th century: physical processes are gradual and irreversible; discontinuous changes obviously occur, but only when really necessary and then not in a catastrophic manner.
149. Looking Up: The Rise of Astronomy in America.
American Studies, 20, no. 2: 41-67 (Fall 1979, pub. April 1980).
Historians have underestimated the interest of 19th-century Americans in astronomy (not “American astronomy,” a misnomer), and have neglected to explain how the U.S. managed to rise to world leadership in a relatively “pure” branch of science well before the influx of European scientists in the 1930s, which is usually credited with producing our post-1945 superiority in fundamental research. In addition to the achievements of individual men (E. E. Barnard, H. Draper, G. E. Hale, A. Hall, G. W. Hill, J. Keeler, P. Lowell, S. Newcomb, E. C. Pickering, H. N. Russell, E. P. Hubble, M. L. Humason, L. M. Rutherfurd, H. Shapley, V. M. Slipher), one should note the role of social factors, such as the opportunities for women to make discoveries (A. J. Cannon, W. P. Fleming, H. S. Leavitt, A. Maury, M. Mitchell, C. Payne[-Gaposchkin]) and the willingness of rich Americans to pay for large telescopes ( J. D. Hooker, J. Lick, C. T. Yerkes, and the foundations endowed by Carnegie and Rockefeller).
150. Einstein and Indeterminism.
Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, 69, no. 3: 89-94 (1979, pub. April 1980).
Schrödinger’s famous “cat paradox” (1935) makes, rather more vividly, the same point that Einstein had been pressing against Bohr since 1927: however accurate quantum mechanics (QM) may be in predicting the results of experiments, it fails to give an acceptable description of reality, i.e. of an objectively-existing world. Bohr replied: one can’t expect QM to give such a description because there is none. By general agreement Einstein “lost” the debate; yet anyone who believes that the physical world exists independently of his or her own observation of it must hesitate just a bit before applauding the victor.
151. History of Science: Rebuilding the Bridges. (Editorial)
Journal of College Science Teaching, 10: 13 (1980).
Introduction to an issue on history in science education. History of science, which was originally a form of (or adjunct to) science education, has become an independent discipline. Now, having passed through the stage of adolescent rebellion and attained professional maturity, it can and should rebuild bridges to the sciences.
Sociologists Ponder Scientists (review of The Social Production of Scientific Knowledge, edited by E. Mendelsohn et al.)
Journal of College Science Teaching, 9, no. 4 (March 1980): 230.
152. Discovery of the Earth’s Core.
American Journal of Physics, 48: 705-24 (1980). HMPP
In 1896 when E. Wiechert proposed his model of the Earth with an iron core and stony shell, scientists believed that the entire Earth was a solid as rigid as steel (see #143). R. D. Oldham’s identification of seismic P and S waves allowed him to detect a discontinuity at the boundary between core and shell (mantle) in 1906, and B. Gutenberg established the depth of this boundary as 2900 km. But failure to detect propagation of S waves through the core was not sufficient to persuade seismologists that it is fluid (contrary to modern textbook statements). Not until 1926 H. Jeffreys refute the arguments for solidity and establish that the core is fluid. In 1936 Inge Lehmann discovered the small inner core. K. E. Bullen argued, on the basis of plausible arguments about compressibility and density, that the inner core is solid. Attempts to find seismic signals that have passed through the inner core as S waves have so far (with one possible exception) failed, but analysis of free oscillations provided fairly convincing evidence for the core’s solidity.
153. The Chimerical Cat: Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics in Historical Perspective.
Social Studies of Science, 10: 393-447 (1980).
The establishment of the Heisenberg-Schrödinger quantum mechanics (QM) in 1926 might have made the metaphysical conclusions associated with QM a major part of our present view of the world. But two of these conclusions -- indeterminism, and the denial of independent reality to atomic properties -- are not unique to QM, but emerged from historical trends begun in the 19th century. This paper postulates cyclic oscillation between “Romantic” and “Realist” periods in science and culture (see #140), and ascribes a gradual breakdown of determinism to debates about irreversibility (#116). Einstein’s opposition to the “Copenhagen Interpretation” of QM was based on a preference for realism as much as a dislike for indeterminism, and the “Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox” was a formidable challenge to subjectivist instrumentalism. Following the revival of realist interpretations in the 1950s (cf. the shift from valence bond to molecular orbital theory in quantum chemistry, #279), new experiments seem to have reconfirmed the subjectivist view. But there is currently strong disagreement on what kind of subjectivism is scientifically legitimate; John Wheeler’s version of the “Anthropic Principle” and parapsychological explanations both conflict with the naive realism that has dominated the Western intellectual tradition since the 17th century. The “anti-science” movement of the past 10 years seems to indicate a breakdown of the historic alliance between mechanism and political radicalism within Realism [cf. #283].
154. Textbook Prices. (Letter to Editor)
Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 July 1980, p. 19.
Some textbook publishers will no longer announce prices in Books in Print but let them be set by individual stores. This policy will produce much confusion and probably decrease sales; as an instructor I would not adopt a text (not already stocked by the bookstore) without knowing its price.
155. How can we explain physics? (Letter to Editor)
American Journal of Physics, 49: 106 (1981).
We should be able to give students simple answers to questions like: Why and how does the Earth turn? Why does a watched pot never boil? Why does a cat have 9 lives? Sources for the answers are cited.
156. From Bump to Clump: Theories of the Origin of the Solar System 1900-1960.
In Space Science Comes of Age, Perspectives in the history of the Space Sciences edited by P. A. Hanle & V. D. Chamberlain, pp. 78-100. National Air and Space Museum/Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 1981 HMPP.
On 3 men who had major impacts on modern theories of planetary formation: T. C.. Chamberlin, H. N. Russell, and H. C. Urey. 1. Nebulae, Planetesimals, and the Big Bump. 2. Astrophysics Strikes Back. 3. Intermission (relevant research 1935-45 that supported later theories). 4. A Nebula that Clumps and Coughs?
157. Review of A Source Book in Astronomy and Astrophysics, 1900-1975, edited by K. R. Lang & O. Gingerich.
Isis, 72: 119-20 (1981).
158. Statement of Professor Brush: The Scientific Value of High Energy Physics.
In Quests with U.S. Accelerators -- 50 Years. The High Energy Physics and Nuclear Physics Research Programs, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Energy Research and Production of the Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, July 23, 1980, pp. 63-89, 462-63. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1980.
Revised version published as “The Scientific Value of High Energy Physics”.
Annals of Nuclear Energy 8: 133-40 (1981).
Discusses 2 aspects of the role of accelerators in the development of modern physical science: (1) the increasing prominence of high energy/elementary particle physics relative to other areas of physics, with suggestions about how the significance and cost of discoveries in different areas of science might be estimated; (2) the justification of substantial funding for this kind of research on the grounds that it is “fundamental” to science, with remarks on the change in judgments of fundamentality from a long-term historical perspective.
159. Creationism/Evolution: The Case against “Equal Time.”
Science Teacher, 48 (4): 29-33 (April 1981).
Teachers should speak out, to preserve the right to teach primarily what the vast majority of biologists accept as science; some may wish to mention discredited alternatives to accepted views but should not be forced (as several states are now doing) to pretend that those alternatives merit serious consideration. The main issue is: have the present forms of life evolved from much simpler forms over a billion years or so, or were they all created (along with the entire universe) about 6,000 years ago? The emptiness of creationist arguments is shown by their response to the evidence that most stars are much more than 10,000 light years away, so they (and therefore the universe) must have existed more than 10,000 years ago. Creationists say: God created starlight in space, in such a way that it appears to have come from stars but did not actually do so! Such arguments are not only unscientific, they imply that God deceives us about the nature of the world. Other arguments for creationism and against evolution are similarly flimsy.
Creationism/Evolution [reply to letters, October 1981 issue]
Ibid. 49 (1): 14-15 (January 1982).
Editor’s comment “Creation Science is not Science,” ibid. 49 (2): 23 (February 1982), on Judge William Overton’s decision overturning the Arkansas creationist law, quotes SGB
Newspaper reports on public lecture at University of Maryland (March 10, 1981): “Creation vs. Evolution: Should Public Schools be Forced to Give Equal Time to Creationism in Science Classes?”
The Sun, Baltimore, 11 March 1981, page C4; Daily Mail, Hagerstown, MD, 11 March 1981; The Diamondback (University of Maryland student newspaper), 13 March 1981, page 8. Flier. Columbia, MD, April 23. The Sun, Howard County edition, !9 April 1981.
160. Review of A World on Paper by E. Bellone, and The Tragicomical History of Thermodynamics, 1822-1854 by C. A. Truesdell.
Isis, 72: 284-86 (1981).
161. Earth’s Cores.
Science, 213: 950 (1981).
Correction of historical errors concerning discovery of outer and inner cores. Use of initials rather than first names conceals the fact that one of the most interesting features of the Earth’s structure was discovered by a woman (Inge Lehmann).
162. Letter to Editor [on Physics and Creationism]
Physics and Society, 10, no. 4: 10 (October 1981).
Supports E. Callen’s proposal that physicists should participate in the creation/evolution debate, since creationists mangle physics as well as biology.
Scepticism, Science, and Belief.
Lecture at Paint Branch Unitarian Church, Silver Spring, MD, 13 December 1981.
163. Nietzsche’s Recurrence Revisited: the French connection.
Journal of the History of Philosophy, 19: 235-38 (1981).
Discussion of F. Nietzsche’s “Eternal Recurrence” often ignores the fact that this idea was being debated by physicists and mathematicians in the late 19th century . It was presented as a theorem by H. Poincaré, who explicitly related it to the Second Law of Thermodynamics (1893), as did E. Zermelo in his debate with L. Boltzmann (1896-97). Nietzsche misunderstood the relations between recurrence, the heat death, and the mechanical world-view.
164. (Resolution of the Council of the American Astronomical Society on Creationism, adopted unanimously at its meeting on 10 January 1982.) On AAS website.
Anonymous publication. The resolution was drafted by SGB and presented by Frank J. Kerr to the AAS Council.
During the past year, religious fundamentalists have intensified their effort to force public school science classes to include instruction in “creationism.” ... this doctrine includes the statement that the entire universe was created relatively recently, i.e. less than 10,000 years ago. This statement contradicts results of astronomical research ... We agree with the findings of Judge William Overton that the Arkansas creationism law represents an unconstitutional intrusion of religious doctrine into the public schools... The American Astronomical Society deplores the attempt to force creationism into public schools and urges Congress, all state legislatures, local school boards and textbook publishers to resist such attempts.
165. Never subject to revision. (XT)
Baltimore Sun, 20 January 1982, p. All.
On creationism, an antiscientific theory that is “dogmatic, absolutist and never subject to revision” in the words of Judge Overton, striking down the Arkansas law that would have mandated its teaching in public schools.
Testimony presented to the Committee on Constitutional and Administrative Law, Maryland House of Delegates, 25 February 1982, opposing H. B. 1078, an “equal time” law.
166. Finding the Age of the Earth: By Physics or by Faith?
Journal of Geological Education, 30: 34-58 (1982).
Reprinted in Evolution versus Creationism: The Public Education Controversy, edited by J. P. Zetterberg, pp. 296-349. (Phoenix, AZ: Oryz Press, 1983). See also item #177.
Creationists challenge the conclusion, generally accepted by scientists, that the Earth is 3 to 5 billion years old -- in part to support their biblical cosmogony, and in part because Darwinian evolution, which they oppose, requires a long time scale. Scientific estimates are based on radiometric dating, involving the decay of uranium isotopes. The current value, 4.5 billion years, was first obtained in the 1950s by C. C. Patterson et al., based on a method developed by A. Holmes and F. G. Houtermans. Examination of creationist criticisms of this method shows that every one of their objections is based on ignorance or misunderstanding of physical facts, or on rejection of well-established theories such as quantum mechanics or relativity. A creationist estimate of 10,000 years, based on the decay of the Earth’s magnetic field, is completed refuted by empirical data and is incompatible with all currently-accepted principles of geomagnetism.
Finding the Age of the Earth – By Physics or by Faith?
Presented at the Spring Meeting of the American Physical Society, Washington, DC, April 26-29, 1982, in Symposium of the Committee on Education on “Creationism and Science Education in America.”
Abstract published in Bulletin of the American Physical Society, 27 (1982): 464.
167. Review of Proceedings of the 1978 Pisa conference on the History and Philosophy of Science, Volumes I and II, edited by J. Hintikka et al.
Annals of Science, 39: 78-80 (1982).
Review of ibid., Volume II, Probabilistic Thinking, Thermodynamics, and the Interaction of the History and Philosophy of Science
Isis 73: 286-87 (1982)
168. Review of Sir William Rowan Hamilton, by T. L. Hankins.
Albion, 13: 315-16 (1982).
169. Creationism/Evolution (response to query)
Crossroads -- Science Meets Society, 2, no. 1: 10-11 (Feb. 1982).
170. G. K. Gilbert (review of Pyne, Grove Karl Gilbert and The Scientific Ideas of G. K. Gilbert, edited by E. L. Yochelson)
Journal for the History of Astronomy, 13: 71-72 (1982).
171. Kelvin was not a Creationist.
Creation/Evolution, 8: 11-14 (1982).
Creationists cannot find any significant support for their doctrine in the modern scientific community so they assert that famous scientists of the past were creationists. Henry Morris, Director of the Institute for Creation Research, included William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907) in his list. He was unable to provide any evidence, when I asked for it, that Kelvin was a creationist. In Kelvin’s 1871 address he rejected creationism and accepted evolution, although he rejected natural selection and speculated that life on Earth evolved from seeds carried by meteorites from another world. Even after being informed of this statement, Morris continued to list Kelvin as a creationist in later publications.
172. Nickel for your Thoughts: Urey and the Origin of the Moon.
Science, 217: 891-98 (1982). HMPP
The theories of Harold C. Urey (1893-1981) are discussed in relation to earlier ideas, especially G. H. Darwin’s fission hypothesis. Urey’s espousal of the idea that the Moon had been captured by the Earth and has preserved information about the earliest history of the Solar System led him to advocate a manned lunar landing. Results from the Apollo missions, in particular the deficiency of siderophile elements (such as nickel) in the lunar crust, led him to abandon the capture selenogony and tentatively adopt the fission hypothesis.
Urey’s Scientific Lineage (reply to letter from J. Bigeleisen)
Ibid. 220: 1002 (1983)
Identity of Urey’s thesis adviser; his connection with the Atomic Energy Commission.
Harold Urey and the Origin of the Moon: The Interaction of Science and the Apollo Program.
(Presented at the 20th Goddard Memorial Symposium, March 1982).
Spacelab, Space Platforms and the Future, edited by Peter M. Bainum and Dietrich E. Koelle (Advances in the Astronautical Sciences, volume 49), pp. 437-70. San Diego, CA: American Astronautical Society, 1982.
173. Review of The Social Basis of Scientific Discoveries by A. Brannigan.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 13: 339-41 (1982).
174. Before Einstein (review of Energy, Force, and Matter by P. M. Harman).
Nature, 299: 845 (1982).
175. Chemical History of the Earth’s Core.
EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, 47: 1185-6, 1188 (1982).
Review of earlier ideas about the physical structure of Earth, from the 19th century to the present (see #143 & #152). Following the determination of the outer core boundary by B. Gutenberg abnd the establishment of the fluidity of the core by H. Jeffreys, the current model for the overall physical structure was completed by Inge Lehmann’s discovery of the inner core and the proposal by F. Birch and K. E. Bullen that the inner core is solid.
The traditional assumption that the core is primarily iron was challenged by several scientists in the 1940s, especially W. H. Ramsey, who proposed that the core boundary marks a change in physical but not chemical state. His hypothesis that the core is a liquid “metallized silicate” was refuted by research on the properties of silicates at high pressures, but it raised the question whether a theory of the present state of the Earth’s interior should be consistent with some plausible theory of its origin and development. While Western geophysicists tended to ignore this criterion, a group of Russian scientists developed a theory that satisfied it, although it was difficult to maintain the metallized silicate hypothesis. A compromise involved iron and oxygen in proportions chosen to satisfy density conditions but also derivable by physicochemical evolution from an initially homogeneous Earth.
176. Review of Conceptions of Ether, edited by G. N. Cantor & M. J. S. Hodge
Philosophy of Science 49: 655-56 (1982)
177. Ghosts from the Nineteenth Century: Creationist Arguments for a Young Earth.
In Scientists Confront Creationism, edited by L. R. Godfrey, pp. 49-84. New York: W. W. Norton, 1983
Short version of #166, with additional section refuting recent paper by T. G. Barnes on origin of Moon.
178. Creationism and Education in the Physical Sciences.
In Creationism, Science, and the Law: The Arkansas Case, edited by Marcel Chotkowski La Follette, pp. 174-84, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1983.
If “equal-time” laws recently enacted in Arkansas and Louisiana were enforced, they would have a major impact not only on high school biology courses but also on Earth Science and Astronomy, since any discussion of the multi-billion year development of the Earth and the Universe in those courses would be considered “evolution science’ and would have to be “balanced” by presenting creationist doctrines that assume creation less than 10,000 years ago. Standard material in a physics course would also be affected. Relations of the controversy to philosophy and history of science are discussed.
179. Review of Gauss: A Biographical Study by W.K. Bühler.
Physics Today, 36, no. 3: 72, 74 (March 1983).
180. Negativism Sesquicentennial.
In The Limits of Lawfulness: Studies on the Scope and Nature of Scientific Knowledge, edited by Nicholas Rescher, pp. 3-22. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983.
“Positivism,” a movement started by August Comte 150 years ago, glorified science yet attempted to limit its scope so severely as to discourage some scientists from seeking knowledge that was in fact attainable. Negativism, exemplified by statements that “science can never find out X” or “scientists can never do Y,” persists despite an astonishing sequence of discoveries of supposedly-unknowable X’s and performances of supposedly-impossible Y’s. Comte’s most notorious claim was that the study of the universe beyond our own Solar System is useless because we will never be able to learn the distances, motions, physical or chemical properties of the stars. Astronomers began to obtain such knowledge within a few decades of his claim. His negativism may be partly responsible for the decline of French theoretical physics in the 19th century.
181. Statistical Physics and the Atomic Theory of Matter, from Boyle and Newton to Landau and Onsager. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1983. ix + 356 pp.
Early Development of the Kinetic Theory of Gases. Irreversibility and Indeterminism (revised version of item #116]. The Quantum Theory. Quantum Mechanical Properties of Matter. Interatomic Forces and the Chemical Bon (includes revised version of #58). Phase Transitions and the Critical Point (includes revised version of #38) Statistical Mechanics and the Philosophy of Science (revised version of #130).
182. Maxwell on Saturn’s Rings. James Clerk Maxwell’s Unpublished Manuscripts and Letters on the Stability of Saturn’s Rings, Edited by SGB, C. W. F. Everitt & Elizabeth Garber.
The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1983. xiii + 199 pp.
Introduction. Correspondence of Maxwell with Lewis Campbell, R. B. Litchfield, Cecil J. Munro, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) and others; On the Stability of the Motion of Saturn’s Rings by Maxwell, and drafts of this essay; George Biddell Airy’s review.
183. Changes in the Concept of Time during the Second Scientific Revolution
In Ludwig Boltzmann Gesamtausgabe VIII. Internationale Tagung anlässlich des 75. Jahrestages seines Todes, 1981. Ausgewählte Abhandlungen, herausgegeben von Roman Sexl & John Blackmore, pp. 305-28. Graz: Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt; Braunschweig/Wiesbaden: Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, 1982 (pub. 1983).
Historicism and Time in the 19th Century. Irreversibility in Heat Theory. Boltzmann’s theory of “memory” in physical processes. Evolution in the Solar System. Biological Evolution and Thermodynamics. Time after Boltzmann.
184. The History of Modern Physics, An International Bibliography (by SGB and Lanfranco Belloni)
Garland Publishing, Inc., New York, 1983. xix + 334 pp.
Introduction. General and Miscellaneous Works. Biographies. Social and Institutional History. Mechanics (including Thermodynamics and Kinetic Theory, Low and High Temperature Physics, Solid State and Plasma Physics). Electricity and Megnatism. Relativity and Cosmology. Optics and Electromagnmetic Waves. Quantum Theory. X-Rays, Radioactivity, Particle and Nuclear Physics. Physics and Philosophy. Cultural Influences of Physics. Research in History of Modern Physics and its Use in Education, etc.
185. Physics, Philosophy, and Pseudoscience: Perspectives on the Creation-Evolution controversy.
Proceedings of the West Virginia Academy of Science, 54: 145-52 (1982, pub. 1983).
1. First Amendment. 2. Academic Freedom. 3. Biology. 4. Earth Sciences and Astronomy. 5. Physics. 6. Philosophy of Science; a possible test, suggested by Frank Tipler, of the hypothesis that the Universe began in 4004 BC. 7. History of Science.
186. Review of The Age of the Earth by Slusher & Gamwell.
In: Reviews of Thirty-One Creationist Books, edited by S. Weinberg, pp. 53-54. Syosset, NY: National Center for Science Education, 1984.
187. Inside the Earth.
Natural History, 93, no. 2: 26-34 (Feb. 1984). HMPP. Reprinted in Current, no. 263: 3-8 (June, 1984).
Speculation about the Earth’s core has varied over the centuries, but one theory, proposed about 50 years ago, now seems to be correct (solid crust & mantle, liquid outer core, solid inner core).
188. Review of Literature on the History of Physics in the Twentieth Century by J.L. Heibron and B. R. Wheaton, et al.
Annals of Science, 41: 101 (1984).
189. Review of Springs of Scientific Creativity edited by R. Aris et al.
Annals of Science, 41: 187-88 (1984).
Only one author, C. W. F. Everitt in a 70-page study of J. C. Maxwell, seems to have taken the title of the book seriously.
Review of Science under Scrutiny, edited by R. W. Home
Annals of Science 41: 605-606 (1984).
190. The History of Geophysics and Meteorology: An Annotated Bibliography (By SGB & H. E. Landsberg, with the assistance of M. Collins).
Garland Publishing, Inc., New York, 1984. xvi + 450 pp.
Introduction. Biographies. Social and Institutional History; International Projects. Origin and Development of the Earth; Planetary Cosmogony. Geochronology. Physics of the Earth’‘s Interior. Geodesy, Terrestrial Gravitation, Size and Shape of the Earth. Formation of the Earth’s Surface Features: Tectonics, Uniformitarian-Catastrophist Debate, Plutonist-Neptunist Debate. Seismology. Hydrology. Oceanography. Meterorology: General Histories, Institutions, Observations, Phenomena. Atmospheric Physics.
191. Women in Physical Science: From Drudges to Discoverers.
The Physics Teacher, 23: 11-19 (1985).
Drudgery vs. Discovery. The “Madame Curie” syndrome. Nobel Laureates: Marie Curie, Dorothy Hodgkin, Irène Joliot-Curie, Maria Goeppert Mayer. Others who made discoveries of equal importance: Inge Lehmann, Kathleen Lonsdale, Lise Meitner, Emmy Noether, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, Chien-Shiung Wu. Despite recent efforts to recognize the contributions of women in science, very few textbooks say what these 10 women actually discovered.
The Encyclopedia of Physics, third edition, edited by R.M. Besancon, pp. 614-17. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1985.
193. Kinetic Theory. Ibid, 634-38.
The Encyclopedia of Physics, third edition, edited by R.M. Besancon, pp. 634-38. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1985.
194. Physics in the Past: An original, interesting View (XT) (review of From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves by E. Segrè)
Physics Today, 38, no. 5: 83-84 (May 1985).
195. Review of Science under Scrutiny: The Place of History and Philosophy of Science, edited by R.W. Home.
Annals of Science, 41: 605-606 (1984, pub. 1985).
196. Federal Funding: Time for Action.
History of Science Society Newsletter, 14, no. 2: 20-3 (April 1985).
Will HPS be GRHed?
History of Science Society Newsletter, 15, no. 2: 6-7 (April 1986)
197. Review of Cosmology and Astrophysics: Essays in Honor of Thomas Gold, edited by Yervant Terzian & Elizabeth Bilson.
Isis, 76: 418 (1985).
198. Review of Ludwig Boltzmann: Man-Physicist-Philosopher by E. Broda.
Technology and Culture, 26: 659-61 (July 1985).
199. Review of James E. Keeler, Pioneer American Astrophysicist and the Early Development of American Astrophysics, by D.E. Osterbrock.
Isis, 76: 646-647 (1985).
200. Skepticism: Another Alternative to Science or Belief.
In Science and Creation: Geological, Theological, and Educational Perspectives, edited by Robert W. Hanson, 160-73. Macmillan, New York, 1986.
Skepticism as a weapon used by Bishop Berkeley against Newton’s calculus; by A. Comte (see item #180); by E. Mach and Logical Positivism against unobserved entities; by Karl Popper and Paul Feyerabend against evolution. The weapon often proves to be double-edged.
201. Review of Beyond Velikovsky, by H.H. Bauer.
American Studies, 27, no. 1: 143 (1986).
202. Early History of Selenogony
In Origin of the Moon, edited by W.K. Hartmann, R.J. Phillips, and G.J. Taylor, 3-15. Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX, 1986. HMPP
Modern theories of selenogony (the origin of the Moon) developed from general schemes for the origin of the solar system and also from detailed analyses of the “secular acceleration” of the Moon. After William Ferrel and C. E. Delaunay had suggested that tidal forces slow the Earth’s rotation so that the Moon is actually moving more slowly in her orbit, G. H. Darwin extrapolated the history of the lunar orbit back to a time when the Moon was very close to the Earth. He proposed in 1878 that fission of a previous proto-Earth had been triggered by the Sun’s action in resonance with free oscillations. The hypothesis that the Pacific Ocean basin is the scar left by the Moon’s departure from the Earth was added by Osmond Fisher. Alternative selenogonies were proposed by Edouard Roche (condensation from a circumterrestrial ring) and Thomas J. J. See (capture after formation in the outer solar system). Darwin’s fission theory was rejected following criticism by Harold Jeffreys in 1930.
203. Maxwell on Molecules and Gases,edited by Elizabeth Garber, SGB& C. W. F. Everitt).
The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1986, xxvii + 565 pp.
I. Kinetic Theory and the Properties of Gases: Maxwell’s Work in Its 19th-Century Context.
II. Documents on Atomic and Statistical Physics (drafts of articles and lectures, correspondence with John Herapath, Simon Newcomb, Herbert Spencer, G. G. P. G. Tait, William Thomson and others; reprints of published articles). III. Documents on the Kinetic Theory of Gases (Correspondence with Lewis Campbell, J. W. Strutt, P. G. Tait and others; drafts of article; reprints of published articles)
204. Working Limits (XT) ( review of S. Carnot, Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, critical edition by R. Fox.)
Times Higher Education Supplement, 17 October 1986, p. 26.
205. Review of Order out of Chaos: Man's New Dialogue with Nature by I. Prigogine and I. Stengers.
British Journal for the History of Science 19: 371-72 (1986).
206. The Age of the Earth.
Science Age (Bombay), 4, no. 8: 12-19 (November 1986).
Scientists fought religious interpretations to establish the antiquity of the Earth but found they couldn’t agree amongst themselves, even as time-scales expanded from thousands to billions of years.
Cooling Spheres and Accumulating Lead: The History of Attempts to Date the Earth’s Formation.
The Science Teacher, 54, no. 9: 29-34 (December 1987). HMPP
Theories and experiments of Lord Kelvin, Ernest Rutherford, J. W. Strutt, Arthur Holmes, Friedrich G. Houtermans , C. C. Patterson.
207. History and Geology as Ways of Studying the Past.
In Creativity and the Imagination, edited by Mark Amsler, 105-33.
University of Delaware Press, Newark, 1987. HMPP
Behavior differences between physicists and historians. Comparison between two historians (Leopold von Ranke, George Macaulay Trevelyan) who both wrote on the English Revolution of the 17th century, and two geologists (Charles Lyell, Archibald Geikie) who both wrote on the source of volcanic energy. These examples suggest that the difference between historians and geologists is that the latter are constantly interacting with each other whereas the former seem to work in isolation.
208. Whole Earth History (essay review of The Abyss of Time by C. C. Albritton; It Began with a Stone by H. & C. Faul; The Dark Abyss of Time by P. Rossi; The Dark Side of the Earth by R. M. Wood)
Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, 17: 345-55 (1987).
(Full text available on this website)
Although all 4 books fall short of providing a satisfactory account of the history of Earth science, each in its own way represents historiographical progress.
209. Review of Hypatia's Heritage: A History of Women in Science from Antiquity to the late Nineteenth Century, by M. Alic.
Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, 17: 369 (1987).
210. Resource Letter HP-1, History of Physics.
American Journal of Physics, 55: 683-91 (1987). Reprinted in #216.
Emphasis is on works covering broad topics and historical periods, and on recent reference works that facilitate retrieval of more specialized information.
211. History of Science and Science Education.
Scientific Literacy Papers: A Journal of Research in Science, Education and the Public (Oxford), 75-87 (Summer 1987). Reprinted in Teaching the History of Science, edited by M. Shortland and A. Warwick, 54-66. The British Society for the History of Science/Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1989. Reprinted in Interchange, A Quarterly Review of Education (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto), 20, no. 2: 60-70 (1989).
A review of what history of science has to offer science education, and how it has already been used in a successful science curriculum project (The Project Physics Course). Science deals with interesting broad philosophical questions (determinism, realism) that are often ignored in textbooks; these questions are best discussed in their historical setting. Traditional science teaching stresses the discovery of objective facts at the expense of the creation of new concepts; the historical approach redresses the balance. (Examples: Copernican astronomy, IQ test). Contributions of women and minorities become more than just names listed at the front of the textbook, when their work is shown to have been important to the mainstream of science. Research by G. S. Aikenhead, D. J. Quattropani and others has suggested that students in the Project Physics Course gain a better understanding of how science works (going beyond the “scientific method” approach), and how it is related to society.
212. The Nebular Hypothesis and the Evolutionary Worldview.
History of Science, 25: 245-78 (1987) HMPP.
I. From Newton to Darwin? II. The Evolutionary Worldview (EW). III. The Cosmogonies of Laplace and William Herschel. IV. Minimum Age of the Universe. V. Christening of the Nebular Hypothesis (NH). VI. General Implications of the NH. VII. Cooling, Progress, and Decay. VIII. Scientific Objections to Darwin’s Theory. IX. Conclusions: The NH did promote the EW in general and theories of organic evolution in particular, but in a context that made it difficult for scientists to accept most of those theories. Contrary to the usual view that Darwinism was consonant with other movements of thought in the 19th century, Darwin’s theory was not consistent with the EW; that worldview was limited (to unidirectional change, mechanistic causation, etc.) in ways that his theory was not.
213. Review of The Probabilistic Revolution, edited by L. Krüger et al.
Physics Today, 41, no. 4: 87-88. (April 1988)
214. Review of Cosmic Debris: Meteorites in History by John G. Burke.
American Historical Review, 93: 665 (1988).
JSTOR and EBSCOHost
215. The History of Modern Science: A Guide to the Second Scientific Revolution, 1800-1950.
Iowa State University Press, Ames, 1988, xv + 544 pp.
Each chapter has synopses, recommended readings for students, and bibliographies of sources for instructors. 1. Introduction. 2. Evolution. 3. Evolution of Races and Cultures. 4. Gender and Genetics. 5. Freud and Psychoanalysis. 6. Behavior and Intelligence. 7. Atoms, Energy, and Statistics. 8. Electromagnetism and Relativity. 9. Atomic Structure. 10. The Explosion of Physics. 11. Philosophical and Social Perspectives. 12. Astronomy in the 19th Century. 13. Astronomy in the 20th century. Book list.
216. History of Physics: Selected Reprints (editor)
American Association of Physics Teachers, College Park, MD, 1988, 235 pp.
Resource Letter by SGB (item #210). Reprints of articles: I. Mechanics (by W. A. Wallace, S. Drake, I. B. Cohen); II. Optics, Electricity, and Magnetism (by F. A. J. L. James, R. C. Stauffer, M. N. Wise). III. Heat, Kinetic Theory, Properties of Matter (by D. B. Wilson). IV. Quantum Theory (by M. J. Klein, T. S. Kuhn, L. Wessels). V. Nuclear and Particle Physics (by M. Malley). Relativity (by G. Holton, A. I. Miller)
217. Gaseous Heat Conduction and Radiation in 19th Century Physics.
History of Heat Transfer: Essays in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the ASME Heat Transfer Division, edited by Edwin T. Layton, Jr. and John H. Leinhard, 25-51. American Society of Mechanical Engineers, New York, 1988.
Based on item #94.
218. A History of Modern Selenogony: Theoretical Origins of the Moon, from Capture to Crash 1955- 1984.
Space Science Reviews, 47: 211-273 (1988). HMPP
The development of ideas about the origin of the Moon during the last decade is reviewed. In the 1950s, G. H. Darwin’s fission theory was still occasionally mentioned but by the 1960s it had been displaced by the hypothesis of lunar capture. A few scientists favored formation of the Moon from particles in orbit around the growing Earth. Analysis of samples from the Apollo missions did not confirm any of the 3 theories of lunar origin. Eventually the giant impact theory, proposed by W. K. Hartmann & D. R. Davis (1974) and by A. G. W. Cameron & W. R. Ward (1975), was adopted. But the problem is not yet satisfactorily solved and work continues on other hypotheses such as co-accretion.
219. Review of The Newton Handbook by Derek Gjertsen.
Teaching Philosophy, 11: 172-73 (1988).
220. Geomagnetic Secular Variation and Theories of the Earth's Interior (By SGB & S. K. Banerjee).
In Past, Present and Future Trends in Geophysical Research, edited by W. Schröder, 65-96.
Interdivisional Commission on History of the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, Bremen-Roennebeck, Germany, 1988. HMPP
During the last 300 years scientists interested in terrestrial magnetism have regarded geomagnetic secular variation (GSV) as an important clue to the origin of the Earth’s magnetic field and have proposed several models of the Earth’s interior to account for it. But before the 1940s, when W. Elsasser and E. C. Bullard developed a successful dynamo theory, these models were not closely related to theories developed by geophysicists on the basis of seismological and other evidence. In the 1960s, efforts were made by R. Hide and others to infer fluid motions from GSV data. In the 1970s, GSV unexpectedly acquired religious significance when a creationist, T. Barnes, used an obsolete dipole model, ignoring the evidence for field reversals, to conclude that the Earth was created less than 10,000 years ago (for critique of this calculation see item #166).
221. The Creationism-Abortion Connection.
Creation-Evolution Newsletter, vol. 8, no. 5: 7-8 (September/October 1988).
A telephone survey of 3310 adults in the Washington DC area by Scarborough Research Corp. shows a strong correlation between anti-abortion and pro-creationist views.
222. Review of On the Continuity of the Gaseous and Liquid States by J. D. van der Waals, new edition by J. S. Rowlinson.
Journal of Statistical Physics, 53: 1337-39 (1988).
223. History of the Physical Sciences (revised and expanded version of article written for earlier edition by M. Osler & J. B. Spencer)
The New Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 25: 833-45 (1989); 15th edition (reprinted 2005), pp. 828-840..
224. The Age of the Earth in the 20th Century.
Earth Sciences History, 8: 170-82 (1989). HMPP
At the end of the 19th century, Lord Kelvin’s upper limit of only 20 or 30 million years (m.y.) for the age of the Earth was challenged by the American geologist T. C. Chamblerin, who showed that Kelvin’s model of an Earth gradually cooling from an initial molten state was not the only possible one. Kelvin’s limit was soon afterwards repealed by the new science of radioactivity, which yielded ages of a few thousand million years. While some geologists resisted this expanded time-scale, Chamblerin was the only one who could provide a comprehensive cosmogonical theory that did not submit to the epistemological superiority of physics and astronomy.
In the 1940s, as radiometric age determinations improved in accuracy, they came into conflict with the expanding-universe cosmology -- a conflict that the cosmologists eventually avoided by expanding their distance and time scales (see item #291). In 1953, C. C. Patterson announced the result 4500 million years, which is still accepted as the best estimate for the age of the Earth. But geologists, liberated from Kelvin’s limit, define the Earth’s formation as being outside the scope of their science, and their textbooks rarely give credit to the person who established the number that once seemed so important to accounts of the Earth’s history.
225. Prediction and Theory Evaluation: The Case of Light Bending.
Science, 246: 1124-29 (1989).
Is a theory that makes successful predictions of new facts better than one that does not? Does a fact provide better evidence for a theory if it was not known before being deduced from the theory? These questions can be answered by analyzing historical cases. Einstein’s successful prediction of gravitational light bending from his general theory of relativity has been presented as an important example of how “real” science works (in contrast to alleged pseudosciences like psychoanalysis). But, while this success gained favorable publicity for the theory, most scientists did not give it any more weight than the deduction of the advance of Mercury’s perihelion (a phenomenon known for several decades). The fact that scientists often use the word “prediction” to describe the deduction of such previously-known facts suggests that novelty may be of little importance in evaluating theories. It may even detract from the evidential value of a fact, until it is clear that competing theories cannot account for the new fact.
Prediction and the Evaluation of Theories by Scientists. Presented at American Physical Society meeting, Baltimore. 2 May 1989, Symposium of the Division of History of Physics: How Theories are accepted. Abstract published in meeting program.
226. Radioactivity and the Nucleus; Atomic Chemistry; Relativity; Quantum Mechanics; The Age of the Earth; Continental Drift; Nuclear Physics; Nuclear Fission and Nuclear Fusion; Scientists Unite!
In Album of Science: The Physical Sciences in the Twentieth Century, by Owen Gingerich et al. , pp. 3-4, 13-14, 23-24, 33-34, 83-84, 101-2, 123-24, 133-34, 259-60. Scribner, New York, 1989.
227. History of Science in NEH Summer Seminars (by Stephen M. Ross & SGB).
History of Science Society Newsletter, 18, no. 5: 1, 9-11 (Oct. 1989).
228. Review of Theory of Earth Science by W. von Engelhardt and J. Zimmerman.
Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, 58: 270-71 (1989).
229. Letter from the President.
History of Science Society Newsletter, 19, no. 1: 1, 8-10 (Jan. 1990).
Summary of current governance system of HSS, publications, finances, honors and prizes, educational activities, Visiting Historians of Science program, audience, women and minority historians of science, independent scholars.
230. Theories of the Origin of the Solar System, 1956-1985.
Reviews of Modern Physics, 62: 43-112 (1990). HMPP
Attempts to find a plausible naturalistic explanation of the origin of the Solar System began about 350 years ago but have not yet been quantitatively successful. The period 1956-85 includes the first phase of intensive space research; new results from lunar and planetary exploration might be expected to have played a major role in the development of ideas about lunar and planetary formation. While this is indeed the case for theories of the origin of the Moon (selenogony), it was not true for the solar system in general, where ground-based observations (including meteorite studies) were frequently more decisive (G. J. Wasserburg et al.). During this period most theorists (F. Hoyle, A. G. W. Cameron, V. Safronov, H. C. Urey, H. Alfvén) accepted a monistic scenario: the collapse of a gas-dust cloud to form the Sun with surrounding disk, and condensation of that disk to form planets, were seen as part of a single process. Theorists differed on how to explain the distribution of angular momentum between Sun and planets, on whether planets formed directly by condensation of gaseous protoplanets (G. Kuiper) or by accretion of solid planetesimals (Safronov, G. W. Wetherill), on whether the “solar nebula” was ever hot and turbulent enough to vaporize and completely mix its components (E. Anders, H. Suess, J. Lewis, K. K. Turekian, S. P. Clark) and on whether an external cause such as a supernova explosion “triggered” the initial collapse of the cloud (Cameron). Only in selenogony was a tentative consensus reached on a single working hypothesis with quantitative results (see #218).
231. Prediction and Theory Evaluation: Alfvén on Space Plasma Phenomena.
Eos (Transactions of the American Geophysical Union) 71: 19-33 (1990). (See also #243)
According to some scientists and philosophers of science, a theory is or should be judged by its ability to make successful predictions. This paper examines a case from the history of recent science -- the research of Hannes Alfvén and his colleagues on space plasma phenomena -- in order to see whether scientists actually follow this policy. Tests of five predictions are considered: magnetohydrodynamic waves, field-aligned (“Birkeland”) currents, critical ionization velocity and the existence of planetary rings, electrostatic double layers, and partial corotation. It is found that the success or failure of these predictions had essentially no effect on the acceptance of Alfvén’s theories, even though concepts such as “Alfvén waves” have become firmly entrenched in space physics. Perhaps the importance of predictions in science has been exaggerated; if a theory is not acceptable to the scientific community, it may not gain any credit from successful predictions.
232. The Most-Cited Physical Sciences Publications in the 1945-1954 Science Citation Index.
Current Contents, no. 20: 7-17 (May 14, 1990); no. 42: 8-13 (October 15, 1990); no. 43: 7-16 (October 22, 1990).
The article discusses major trends, achievements, and researchers in the physical science in this period. Part 1: Physics & Chemistry; Part 2: Mathematics; Part 3, Astronomy & Earth Sciences. Comparisons are made between citation frequency and other measures of importance, such as Nobel Prizes and judgments by historians of science. 48% of the most-cited physics papers and 40% of the most-cited chemistry papers were authored or co-authored by a Nobel Laureate, although these publications were not necessarily the work for which they receive the Nobel Prize. In Mathematics, none of the winners of the Fields Medal appear as authors of the 20 most-cited mathematics articles. Most of the papers that were later judged to contain outstanding discoveries were not highly cited by contemporaries. For astronomy, where there are no comparable prizes, one can compare the list with anthologies of important papers.
The real value of a list of highly cited publications is that it focuses attention on papers that are highly valued by specialists and clearly have played an important role in the development of a field even if not recognized by prizes and general surveys.
233. Ludwig Boltzmann and the Foundations of Natural Science. In Ludwig Boltzmann Principien der Naturfilosofi, Lectures on Natural Philosophy 1903-1906, edited by I. M. Fasol-Boltzmann, 43-61. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1990. (Revised version of #51)
234. Kelvin in His Times (XT) (Review of Energy and Empire, A Biographical Study of Lord Kelvin by Crosbie Smith and M. Norton Wise)
Science 248: 875-77 (1990).
235. Letter from the President.
History of Science Society Newsletter, 20, no. 1: 1, 6-8 (Jan.1991).
Transfer of Isis and Osiris to University of Chicago Press, expansion of eligibility for Pfizer Award, dues increase, new Forum on History of Human Science, place in structure of National Science Foundation, cooperation with other societies, grants, new Treasurer, committee chairs.
236. Review of A Companion to the Physical Sciences by David Knight.
Isis, 81: 744 (1990).
237. Physics by Post (review of The Correspondence between Sir George Gabriel Stokes and Sir William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, edited by David B. Wilson).
Nature, 349:575 (1991).
238. Women in Science and Engineering.
American Scientist, 79: 404-19 (1991).
Women are still seriously underrepresented in the sciences, especially physics, and they have made comparatively little progress in the past 5 years. Why? Obstacles include: negative cultural stereotypes of scientists in U.S.; textbook portrayals of scientists & engineers; publicity about “mental inferiority” of females in 1970s & 1980s (based on now-outdated research); inadequate preparation in high school; demonstrated anti-female bias of the SAT, which underpredicts college grades of women; cutbacks in financial aid for college students; coeducation; inappropriate teaching methods ; combative interactions among scientists; the glass ceiling; tenure system in universities. Also, the young women who “leak out of the science & engineering pipeline” (an offensive metaphor) may be behaving more intelligently than those who want to recruit them but refuse to provide adequate incentives, such as reasonable working conditions and promotion opportunities. There are still good reasons why the most qualified & motivated women should try to go into science & engineering, despite the radical feminist argument that Western science is essentially anti-female and must change before women can comfortably participate in it; the culture of science is unlikely to change if women stay out of science. (See also #255)
Arguing about Androgyny (XT) (Letters to Editor)
Ibid. 80: 6-7 (1992)
(In response to a letter-writer who is “completely unconvinced that there can be any sexual discrimination with respect to the mathematical section of the SAT. Mathematics is genderless”) Mathematics may be genderless, but SAT word problems sometimes involve situations more familiar to one sex than the other. This can be important in a timed test. A notorious example involving won-lost percentages of a basketball team did produce a significant male-female difference.
239. Should Scientists Write History of Science?
Conference on Critical Problems and Research Frontiers in History of Science and History of Technology, 30 October -- 3 November 1991, Madison, Wisconsin, 67-91. History of Science Society.
See item #258.
240. Review of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, edited by J. Stachel et al.,Vol. 2.
American Scientist, 79: 571 (1991).
241. How Cosmology Became a Science. (XT)
Scientific American, 267, no. 2: 62-70 (Aug. 1992).
The discovery of the cosmic microwave background in the 1960s established the Big Bang theory and made cosmology into an empirical science. (See #245 for details and references.)
242. Review of The Age of the Earth by G. B. Dalrymple.
Isis, 83: 518 (1992).
243. Alfvén's Programme in Solar System Physics.
IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, 20: 577-589 (1992).
Reprinted in Historical Case Studies in Physics and Geophysics, edited by W. Schröder, 146-58. Bremen-Rönnebeck/Potsdam: Science Edition, 2001. HMPP
Expanded version of item #231. Two additional predictions, used in theories of the origin of the Solar System, are magnetic braking and jet streams.
244. Introduction (by SGB, Paul Theerman and Adele F. Seeff].
In Action and Reaction: Proceedings of a Symposium to Commemorate the Tercentenary of Newton's Principia, edited by Paul Theerman and Adele F. Seeff, pp. 11-27. University of Delaware Press, Newark; Associated University Presses, London & Toronto, 1993.
On the history of Newtonian anniversary celebrations; changes in Newton historiography reflected in publications circa 1837, 1887, 1937, 1942, 1966, 1987.
245. Prediction and Theory Evaluation: Cosmic Microwaves and the Revival of the Big Bang.
Perspectives on Science, 1: 565-602 (1993).
Are theories judged on the basis of empirical tests of their predictions, as proposed by Karl Popper and others, or are new theories adopted by younger scientists while old theories fade away when their advocates die, as Max Planck suggested? The rejection of Steady State cosmology (SS) and the revival of the Big Bang cosmology (BB) following the 1965 discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation offers one answer. By 1975 almost all supporters of SS had either switched to BB or stopped publishing on cosmology. This case seems to exemplify Popper’s principle, although 2 of the 3 founders of SS (H. Bondi, T. Gold) had explicitly endorsed that principle and thus had to follow it, while the 3rd (F. Hoyle) had not and did not. The case does not support the Popperian claim that successful novel (“in advance”) predictions provide better evidence for a theory than deductions of known facts (“retrodictions”).
246. Prediction and Theory Evaluation: Subatomic Particles.
Rivista di Storia della Scienza, serie II, Vol. 1, no. 2: 47-152 (December 1993).
(Full text available on this website)
Does successful prediction of a new phenomenon encourage the acceptance of the theory that led to the prediction? This paper surveys the response of physicists to 3 theories that predicted previously-unknown particles: P. A. M. Dirac’s relativistic quantum theory (positron); H.Yukawa’s theory of nuclear forces (meson); M. Gell-Mann’s SU(3) symmetry-group theory (omega-minus, S-). The balance between this empirical evidence and other arguments used to evaluate the theories is discussed. In all 3 cases the discovery of the predicted particle had a major impact on theoretical and experimental research. Popper’s thesis is supported only in the minimalist sense that “corroboration” of a theory makes it more reasonable to pursue it, but does not support the claim that novelty increases the evidential value of a prediction. The case of the positron shows that theoretical objections to a hypothesis can prevent its full acceptance despite the strongest empirical support (cf. #231). It is remarkable that Dirac’s theory was replaced by another theory (the quantum electrodynamics of Feynman, Schwinger & Tomonaga) which did not claim to predict antiparticles as Dirac’s theory did, but simply postulated their existence.
247. Physics History: The German Atomic Bomb; Recent Publications on the History of Physics.
In Physics News in 1993, edited by P. F. Schewe, 38-39. American Institute of Physics, New York, 1994.
In Companion Encyclopedia of the History and Philosophy of the Mathematical Sciences, edited by I. Grattan-Guinness, 1183-88. Routledge, London & New York, 1994.
249. A Grand Designer (XT) (Letter to Editor)
Technology Review, 97, no 5: 8 (July 1994).
Comment on K. Miller’s critique of “intelligent design” creationism in February/March issue.
250. Review of Inventory of Sources for History of Twentieth-Century Physics by B. R. Wheaton , R.E. Rider.
Isis, 85: 671-72 (1994).
JSTOR and EBSCOHost
251. Recent Publications on the History of Physics (by SGB & staff of the Niels Bohr Library)
A Supplement to the Newsletters of The AIP Center for History of Physics and The Forum for History of Physics, American Physical Society, Fall 1994. 12 pp.
252. Popper and Evolution
National Center for Science Education Reports, 13 no. 4 & 14 no. 1: 29 (Winter 1993/Spring 1994)
Popper once claimed that Darwinian evolutionary theory is not a scientific theory but only a metaphysical research programme, because it is not falsifiable: it can’t predict what will evolve in the future. That criterion would exclude not just evolutionary biology but also historical geology and much of astronomy. He reversed himself in 1978 and asserted that Darwinian theory is scientific but creationists ignore the reversal and still quote the original statement.
253. Review of Creating Modern Probability by J. Von Plato.
Journal of Statistical Physics 77: 1105-7 (1994).
254. Are the Soft Sciences too Hard?
Contention, 4, no. 2: 3-12 (Winter 1995)
Social (“soft”) scientists are criticized because their methods are imprecise and their conclusions unreliable, supposedly because they don’t follow the “scientific method” of the (“hard”) physical scientists. Some have tried to meet this criticism by adopting Popper’s “falsifiability” criterion. Theories of revolutions have been expected not only to explain past revolutions but predict future upheavals. This is a more stringent criterion than physicists themselves use. An atomic theory is not expected to predict both the position and the velocity of a single particle (impossible, according to Heisenberg’s Principle); a theory of macroscopic phenomena (e.g., meteorology) cannot make such predictions even if quantum effects are unimportant (according to chaos theory). Yet statistical predictions are considered both sufficient and useful in physics. Moreover, predictions “in advance” are not always more valuable than explanations of past events. So social scientists may be unnecessarily holding themselves to a higher standard than physical scientists.
255. Women, Science, and Universities.
In Women's Contributions to Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, A Historical and Current Perspective of Women at the Forefront, edited by Judit E. Puskas, pp. 2-25. (Proceedings of a Symposium at the Annual Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Anaheim, CA, Spring 1995).
Also published in Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 15, no. 4: 205-14 (1995).
Update of item #238. Recent reports present a mixed and confusing picture. More women are earning doctorates in science, but it’s not clear that more are getting good jobs and research support. The promised national demand for more scientists in the 1990s did not materialize, and the perception that employers favor women is not supported by facts. But we still need to increase the proportion of women in science, not as “affirmative action” but because it would benefit everyone. The ability of women to make major discoveries has already been proved, though current textbooks fail to show that. Universities must change practices that obstruct women’s pursuit of careers in science: criteria for admissions and scholarship awards, teaching methods, promotion and tenure procedures, attitudes toward family needs, salary differentials. It would make more sense to shift the emphasis away from persuading young girls to choose scientific careers, toward ensuring that those women who have already made that choice are enabled to go as far as their abilities and motivations can take them.
256. At Home on the Cusps of Controversy; Hoyle on Hoyle’s Life and Time (XT) (Review of Home is Where the Wind Blows: Chapters from a Cosmologist's Life by Fred Hoyle.)
Physics Today, 48, no. 2: 53-54 (Feb. 1995).
257. The Origin of the Solar System: Soviet Research 1925-1991 (by Aleksey E. Levin & SGB)
AIP Press, New York, 1995, xiii + 415 pp.
I. Introduction: A.E.L, The Otto Schmidt School and the Development of Planetary Cosmogony in the USSR; SGB, Planetary Cosmogony in the West and Safronov’s Theory. II. Selected Writings of Otto Schmidt, 1925-54. III. The Protoplanetary Cloud: General Theories of Planet Formation. IV. Rotation of Planets. V. Formation of the Earth and other Terrestrial Planets. VI. Origin of the Moon and other Planetary Satellites. VII. Formation of the Giant Planets. VIII. Asteroids, Comets, and Meteorites. IX. Other Planetary Systems. Bibliography.
258. Scientists as Historians.
Osiris [series 2], 10: 215-31 (1995). Revision of item #239.
Scientists should write history of science if they are willing to acquire the skills and background knowledge of the historian of science; nonscientist historians should write history of science if they are willing to learn enough science to understand what they are going to write about. Both should be familiar with current historiographic debates (whiggism or presentism vs. priggism, contextualism vs. postmodernism, history of science vs. history of scientists, discovery vs. construction) but need not follow a single approach. Many major contributors to history of physics hold a doctorate in physics.
259. Prediction and Theory Evaluation in Physics and Astronomy.
In No Truth Except in the Details, edited by A. J. Kox & D. M. Siegel, pp. 299-318. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1995.
Summary of results from items #172, 225, 231, 245, 246. Confirmation of a prediction, whether novel or not, is only one factor governing the response to a theory. Theoretical objections to a hypothesis can prevent its full acceptance despite the strongest empirical support. Conversely, refutation of a prediction may lead an individual scientist to abandon a theory, but in general the scientific community bases its rejection on more than a single falsification.
X-rays and the Birth of Modern Physics.
Presented in session “One Hundred Years of X-Rays,” June 6. 1995, at 32nd Annual Meeting, Clay Minerals Society, June 3-8, 1995 in Baltimore, MD. Abstract in Program of Meeting
It is often said that Roentgen’s 1895 discovery was the beginning of the revolution that led to the establishment of quantum mechanics, relativity, and atomic/nuclear physics in the first part of the 20th century. Drawing on recent studies by historians of physics, I will describe the state of physics in the 1890s, the early debates about the nature of X-rays, the birth of quantum theory, and the role of X-ray research in the new understanding of electromagnetic radiation in general, culminating in the discovery and interpretation of the Compton effect.
See item 319.
260. Maxwell on Heat and Statistical Mechanics: On “Avoiding all Personal Inquiries” of Molecules (XT) (edited by Elizabeth Garber, SGB & C. W. F . Everitt).
Lehigh University Press, Bethlehem, PA, 1995, 550 pp.
I. Introduction. II. Documents from Kinetic Theory to Thermodynamics (correspondence with Francis Guthrie, G. G. Stokes, P. G. Tait, William Thomson; drafts and paper on final state of system subject to forces; review of book by H. W. Watson). III. Documents on Thermodynamics (correspondence with P. G. Tait and William Thomson on demons, etc.; with Thomas Andrews and James Thomson, on experiments; correspondence with Mark Pattison, C. J. Munro, G. G. Stokes, R. J E. Clausius; drafts). IV. Documents on the Virial Theorem & Equation of State (letters to P. G. Tait, report on Andrews paper, drafts). V. Documents on Statistical Mechanics (drafts). VI. Documents on the Radiometer & Rarified Gas Dynamics (correspondence with Robert Cay, William Huggins, Osborne Reynolds, G. G. Stokes, P. G. Tait, William Thomson; reports on papers by William Crookes, Reynolds, Arthur Schuster, and Thomson’s report on Maxwell’s paper; drafts). A Maxwell Bibliography (Published works and secondary sources). Chronological Index to Maxwell Correspondence (covering items #182, 203 & 260).
261. Feynman's Success: Demystifying Quantum Mechanics (XT). (Review of The Beat of a Different Drum: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by J. Mehra.)
American Scientist, 83: 476-477 (1995).
Following Alexander Pope--
Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night
God said, “Let Newton be!” and all was light
and John Collings Squire--
It did not last: the Devil howling “Ho!
Let Einstein be!” restored the status quo.
We could add (SGB),
God rolled His dice, to Einstein’s great dismay:
“Let Feynman be!” and all was clear as day.
262. Geophysics (by SGB & C. S. Gillmor).
In Twentieth Century Physics, edited by L. M. Brown et al., pp. 1943-2016 (SGB is author of pp. 1944-81). Institute of Physics (UK) and American Institute of Physics, 1995.
Origin and Age of the Earth (to 1935). The Earth’s Core and Geomagnetism. Origin and Age of the Earth (after 1935). The ‘Revolution in the Earth Sciences’.
263. Dynamics of Theory Change: The Role of Predictions.
In PSA 1994, Proceedings of the 1994 Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, edited by David Hull et al., vol. 2, pp. 133-45. Philosophy of Science Association, East Lansing, MI, 1995.
1. Introduction. 2. Novel Predictions in the Philosophy of Science. (Lakatos methodology; Bayesian analysis; miracle argument for realism). 3. Does Novelty Make a Difference? 4. Evidence from Case Histories (results from items #225, 231, 245, 246, 270; reception of Quantum Mechanics). 5. Are Theorists less Trustworthy than Observers? 6. Conclusions.
264. Recent Publications on the History of Physics (by SGB and the staff of the Niels Bohr Library).
A Supplement to the Newsletters of The AIP Center for History of Physics and The Forum for History of Physics, American Physical Society, Fall 1995. 16 pp.
265. A History of Modern Planetary Physics. Volume 1: Nebulous Earth: The Origin of the Solar System and the Core of the Earth from Laplace to Jeffreys. xii + 312 pp. Volume 2: Transmuted Past: The Age of the Earth and the Evolution of the Elements from Lyell to Patterson. x + 134 pp. Volume 3: Fruitful Encounters: The Origin of the Solar System and of the Moon from Chamberlin to Apollo. xii + 354 pp. Cambridge University Press, New York, 1996.
Based on items #33, 126, 134, 142, 143, 148, 152, 156, 172, 187, 202, 206, 207, 212, 218, 220, 224, 230, 243 with new chapters on Stellar Evolution and the Origin of the Elements.
266. Recent Publications on the History of Physics (by SGB & the staff of the Niels Bohr Library).
A Supplement to the Newsletters of The AIP Center for History of Physics and The Forum for History of Physics, American Physical Society, Fall 1996. 16 pp.
267. Directory of Historians of Physics, compiled by SGB. and Martha E. Keyes.
Committee on the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Maryland, College Park , Maryland, 1996. 30 pp.
268. Solar System Astronomy before Sputnik (XT) (Review of Solar System Astronomy in America by R. E. Doel).
Journal for the History of Astronomy, vol. 27: 368-70 (1996).
269. Dynamics of Theory Change in the Social Sciences: Relative Deprivation and Collective Violence. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 4: 523-45 (1996).
The extent to which theories in the social sciences are accepted or rejected on the basis of empirical tests can be shown only by a detailed analysis of specific cases. The author examines the reception by social scientists in the 1970s and early 1980s of T. R. Gurr’s theory of collective violence based on the concept of relative deprivation. The history of this theory may be considered an example of definite progress in social science: a hypothesis widely accepted at one time has been tested and rejected, thus making room for the development of alternative hypotheses.
But although Gurr and other advocates of the theory abandoned it in its original form following the mostly negative results of empirical tests, others continued to cite it favorably. Slightly less than half of the unfavorable views have been supported by empirical evidence.
270. The Reception of Mendeleev's Periodic Law in America and Britain.
Isis, 87: 595-628 (1996).
JSTOR & EBSCOHost
Mendeleev’s Periodic Law attracted little attention until chemists started to discover some of the elements needed to fill gaps in his table and found that their properties were remarkably similar to those he had predicted. The Law was mentioned much more often in journals after the discovery of gallium; probably because of Mendeleev’s prediction of the properties of the new element (though it is difficult to prove a causal relation). By the late 1880s, most textbooks discussed the Law to some extent. Reasons for accepting it are: (1) it accurately describes the correlation between physicochemical properties and atomic weights of nearly all known elements; (2) it has led to useful corrections in the atomic weights of several elements and resolves controversies about some of them (e.g. Be); (3) successful predictions of the existence and properties of new elements. As in other cases (items #225, 231, 245, 246) the new theory was expected to do much more than foretell an exotic new phenomenon or substance; it had to prove its value by better organizing and explaining known facts. But here, unlike in other cases, novelty was accorded a significant (though not dominant) role in weighing the evidence for the theory. Perhaps chemists are more Popperian than physicists.
271. Seeing is Believing (XT) (review of The Biological Universe: The Twentieth-Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate and the Limits of Science by S. J. Dick).
Nature, 385: 592-94 (1997).
272. Still in the Shadows? (XT) (Power, Townley & the gas law)
ShiPS Teachers' Network News,vol.7, no.2: 8 (March 1997).
273. Recent Publications on the History of Physics (by SGB & the staff of the Niels Bohr Library).
A supplement to the Newsletter of the AIP Center for the History of Physics, College Park, MD, Fall 1997. 18 pp.
274. Review of Van der Waals and Molecular Science by A. Ya. Kipnis, B. E. Yavelov and J. S. Rowlinson. (By J. M. H. Levelt Sengers & SGB).
Journal of Statistical Physics, 89: 1099-1103 (1997).
275. Unraveling Complex Events (XT). (Review of Physics in the Nineteenth Century by R. D. Purrington)
Science, 279: 998 (1998).
276. Review of Cosmology and Controversy by H. Kragh.
Centaurus, 40: 373-75 (1998).
277. Quantifying Singularities (Review of The Critical Point by C. Domb)
Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 52: 198-200 (1998)
278. Recent Publications on the History of Physics (by Per F. Dahl, SGB & the staff of the Niels Bohr Library)
A supplement to the Newsletter of The Center for History of Physics/Niels Bohr Library, Fall 1998, pp. 63-77. College Park , MD.
279. Dynamics of Theory Change in Chemistry: The Benzene Problem 1865-1945.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 30: 21-79 (1999)
Elsevier ScienceDirect (sub)
A selective history of the benzene problem is presented, starting with August Kekulé’s proposal of a hexagonal structure in 1865 and his hypothesis of 1872 that the C-C bonds oscillate between single and double. Special attention is given to predictions, their empirical tests, and the effect of the outcomes of those tests on the reception of the theories. By 1945, chemists generally accepted the Valence Bond (resonance) theory proposed by Linus Pauling; some of them considered this a more sophisticated version (and thus a vindication) of Kekulé’s oscillation hypothesis.
Dynamics of Theory Change in Chemistry: Benzene and Molecular Orbitals, 1945-1980.
Ibid., 30: 263-302 (1999)
Elsevier ScienceDirect (sub)
The alternative to VB, Robert Mulliken’s Molecular Orbital theory, was regarded as quantitatively superior by many quantum chemists, though it was not as easy to visualize and did not seem to harmonize as well with traditional chemical concepts. During the 1950s and 1960s, thanks to Charles Coulson and others, MO not only dominated theoretical discussions but also started to be accepted by the chemical community as a whole and became the preferred description for benzene. Possible reasons: its greater calculational convenience when applied to large molecules; better expositions directed toward chemists; the spectacular success of the Woodward-Hoffmann rules for pericyclic reactions and Fukui’s frontier orbital theory; and the development of a general theory of aromaticity, which predicted properties of similar molecules such as cyclobutadiene. The relative importance of these reasons is explored through a mail survey of chemists.
280. Why was Relativity Accepted?
Physics in Perspective, 1: 184-214 (1999).
SpringerLink and EBSCOHost
Historians of science have published many studies of the reception of Einstein’s Special and General Theories of Relativity (STR, GTR). Based on a review of these studies, and my own research on the role of the light-bending prediction in the reception of GTR, I discuss the role of 3 kinds of reasons for accepting R: (1) empirical predictions and explanations; (2) social-psychological factors; (3) aesthetic-mathematical factors. Acceptance was a 3-stage process: First, a few leading scientists adopted STR for reason (3). Then, their advocacy persuaded other scientists to work on the theory and apply it to problems currently of interest in atomic physics, providing reason (1). STR was accepted by many German physicists by 1910 and had begun to attract interest elsewhere. In the third stage, the confirmation of the light-bending prediction attracted much public attention and forced all physicists to take GTR seriously. Also, the explanation of the advance of Mercury’s perihelion counted heavily. American astronomers who tests GTR became defenders of it. There is little evidence that R was “socially constructed” but its initial acceptance was facilitated by the prestige and resources of its advocates.
281. Review of Physicists in Conflict by N. A. Porter.
Physics in Perspective, 1: 339-41 (1999).
282. Gadflies and Geniuses in the History of Gas Theory.
Synthese, 119: 11-43 (1999). Based on item #114.
The history of science has often been presented as a story of the achievements of geniuses. I consider a different type of story, the history of the kinetic theory of gases, which further research might reveal to be fairly common. Progress may be stimulated by gadflies -- outspoken critics who challenge the ideas of geniuses, forcing them to revise and improve those ideas, resulting in new knowledge for which the genius (Robert Boyle, Rudolf Clausius, J. C. Maxwell, Ludwig Boltzmann) gets the credit while the gadfly (Franciscus Linus, C. H. D. Buys-Ballot, Francis Guthrie, Josef Loschmidt, E. P. Culverwell, S. H. Burbury, Ernst Zermelo) is forgotten. For comparison, the positive contributions to kinetic theory of Daniel Bernoulli (a genius without a gadfly) and John Herapath (a gadfly without a genius) were not fully developed and had to be rediscovered by others.
283. Postmodernism versus Science versus Fundamentalism: An Essay Review.(of Science Wars, edited by A. Ross; The Flight from Science and Reason, edited by P. R. Gross et al.; The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer, edited by J. P. Moreland
Science Education, 84: 114-22 (2000) Russian translation in Filosofski Alternativi (Philosophical Alternatives), 9, no. 2 (2000): 14-23.
Rather than portraying the “Science Wars” as a battle between the political left (postmodernists and social constructionists) and the political right (scientists), it is more accurate to see science in the middle, being attacked from the right (creationists) as well as the left. Sometimes the left, in the name of cultural relativism, supports the right by urging the teaching of creationism.
284. Thomas Kuhn as a Historian of Science.
Science & Education, 9: 39-58 (2000).
Kuhn (1922-1996) exerted a strong force on intellectual discourse in the last 3rd of the 20th century, by the publication of a book only 200 pages long. Why did Kuhn’s other publications in his own primary field, history of science, have so little impact on that field? Was The Structure of Scientific Revolutions so successful in accelerating the trend toward social history of science that his own internalist work seemed outmoded? Kuhn wrote incisive articles on a wide range of topics but they are rarely cited by historians of science. His most important historical contribution in later years was in the history of quantum theory; he led a project to collect and preserve source materials, and published a monograph on the origin of the quantum hypothesis. Why does he receive almost no recognition for his remarkable work on the history of quantum physics? Does everyone still believe (in spite of Kuhn’s strong evidence to the contrary) that Planck introduced a physical quantum discontinuity in 1900?
285. Creationism versus Physical Science.
American Physical Society News, 9, no. 10: 8 (Nov. 2000)
Creationists want to banish the Big Bang from public schools, and they propose a deviant version of Thermodynamics. The new “Intelligent Design” theory is a “soft” Creationism -- it makes no testable statements, in contrast to Young Earth Creationism which makes many testable statements, all of which have been tested and refuted. Both versions, along with postmodern skepticism about the validity of scientific knowledge, undermine public support for science.
286. Book Review: Ludwig Boltzmann: The Man Who Trusted Atoms by C. Cercignani
Journal of Statistical Physics, 98: 1429-32 (2000)
287. Physics, The Human Adventure: From Copernicus to Einstein and Beyond (by Gerald Holton & SGB).
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001. Xv + 582 pp. (3rd ed. of #89)
Includes new sections on ancient theories of vision, conservation laws and symmetry, X rays and the “Discovery of the Electron,” nuclear physics and the atomic bomb, theories of the origin of the solar system, black holes, the expanding and accelerating universe, formation of elements in stars, Big Bang vs. Steady State, the Anthropic Principle, thematic elements and styles in science.
Both authors received the Hazen Education Prize of the History of Science Society, in part for this book and its earlier editions.
288. Origin of the Solar System.
In Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics, edited by Paul Murdin, vol. 4: 1955-59. Bristol & Philadelphia: Institute of Physics Publishing, 2001.
289. Review of Quantum Generations: A History of Physics in the Twentieth Century by H. Kragh.
American Journal of Physics, 69: 524-25 (2001)
OJPS (Online Journal Publishing Service of American Institute of Physics)
290. Art Mirrors Physics Mirrors Art (Review of Einstein, Picasso by A. I. Miller).
Physics Today 54, no. 12: 49-50 (Dec. 2001):
Einstein, Picasso, and Cubism: “Seeing” the Fourth Dimension.
Physics Today 55, no. 5: 12 (May 2002). [Reply to letters ]
291. Is the Earth too Old? The Impact of Geochronology on Cosmology, 1929-1952. In The Age of the Earth: from 4004 BC to AD 2002, edited by C. L. E. Lewis and S. J. Knell, pp. 157-175. London: Geological Society, Special Publications, no. 190 (2001).
Estimates of the Earth’s age have affected not only geology but also biology, astronomy and biblical creationism. In the 1930s and 1940s, the age of the Universe as estimated from the Expanding Universe Theory (EUT) was less than 2 billion years, but the age of the Earth as estimated from radiometric dating was perhaps as great as 3 billion years. Astronomers responded to this contradiction in at least 3 different ways. (1) Some cosmologists favored Lemaitre’s model, in which the universe remains about the same size for an indefinite period of time before starting its present stage of expansion; this was compatible with theories of the origin of the Solar System in the 1930s. (2) E. P. Hubble, generally regarded as the founder of the EUT because of his discovery of the redshift-distance law, doubted its validity and seemed to prefer a non-expanding model, though he emphasized, up to the time of his death in 1953, that the correct interpretation of the redshifts of distant galaxies was still an open question. (3) Fred Hoyle, Hermann Bondi, and Thomas Gold proposed a “steady state” cosmology: the Universe has always existed, so there is no conflict between its (infinite) age and that of the Earth.. The discrepancy was finally resolved in the 1950s when astronomers revised their distance scale and boosted the age of the Universe to 10 billion years or more--greater than the revised age of the Earth, now estimated by C. C. Patterson and others as 4.5 billion years. The current agreement between geologists and astronomers again leaves creationists with no scientific support for their claim that both the Earth and the Universe were created only about 10,000 years ago.
292. Cautious Revolutionaries: Maxwell, Planck, Hubble.
American Journal of Physics 70: 119-27 (2002)
Full text available on this website.
Three scientists exemplified the cautious behavior that we might like all scientists to display: indeed, they were so critical of their own ideas that they risked losing credit for them. Nevertheless, they finally earned at least as much fame as they deserved, leaving historians to wonder about what they really believed. Maxwell initially rejected the kinetic theory of gases because two of its predictions disagreed with experiments; later he revived the theory, showed that one of those experiments had been misinterpreted, and eventually became known as one of the founders of the modern theory. Planck seems to have intended his 1900 quantum hypothesis as a mathematical device, not a physical discontinuity; later he limited it to the emission (not absorption) of radiation, thereby discovering “zero-point energy.” Eventually he accepted the physical quantum hypothesis and became known as its discoverer. Hubble (with Humason) established the distance-velocity law, which others used as a basis for the expanding universe theory; later he suggested that redshifts may not be due to motion and appeared to lean toward a static model in place of the expanding universe (of which he is still considered the discoverer).
293. Review of Histories of the Electron, edited by J. Z. Buchwald & A. Warwick.
Physics in Perspective 4: 492-93 (2002)
294. Struggling for Existing: Essay Review of Science Unfettered: A Philosophical Study in Sociohistorical Ontology by J. E. McGuire & B. Tuchanska. (By Nikolina Sretenova & SGB)
Metascience 11: 310-16 (2002)
OCLC ECO (sub)
295. A Wider Audience for History of Science (response to award of the Hazen Education Prize by the History of Science Society)
History Newsletter, Center for History of Physics 34, no. 1: 4 (Spring 2002)
In an age when education seems to be dominated by relentless specialization and the testing of factual knowledge, many people are fascinated by the Big Questions: What is the origin of the universe? Did humans evolve from simpler organisms? Why did Europe come to dominate the world after the 15th century? Do science and society influence each other? If historians of science don’t answer these questions, others will. In fact, others have already done so, but their answers are not reliable. Accurate history is often more interesting than mythology but historians of science should make the effort to write for students and the public, not just for each other.
296. Peer Review Materials for Physical Review.
History of Physics Newsletter, 8, no. 5: 15 (Fall 2002)
297. History of Science Society Invitation.
History of Physics Newsletter, 8, no. 5: 16 (Fall 2002)
298. How Theories Became Knowledge: Morgan’s Chromosome Theory of Heredity in America and Britain.
Journal of the History of Biology, 35: 471-535 (2002)
T. H. Morgan, A. H. Sturtevant, H. L. Muller and C. B. Bridges published their treatise The Mechanism of Mendelian Heredity in 1915. By 1920 Morgan’s “Chromosome Theory of Heredity” (CTH) was accepted by geneticists in the U.S., and by British geneticists by 1925. By 1930 it had been incorporated into most general biology, botany, and zoology textbooks as established knowledge. Why was it accepted? Confirmed novel predictions played a role, but were generally less important than the CTH’s ability to explain Mendelian inheritance, sex-linked inheritance, non-disjunction, and the connection between linkage groups and the number of chromosome pairs; in other words, to establish a firm connection between genetics and cytology. It is remarkable that geneticists were willing to accept the CTH as applicable to all organisms at a time when it had been confirmed only for Drosophila. Maps showing the location on the chromosomes of genes for specific characters were especially convincing for non-geneticists.
299. Why did (or didn’t) it Happen?
Historically Speaking, 4, no. 5: 20-21 (June 2003).
Scientists want to describe the natural world and also find out what causes things to happen in that world; presumably historians want to uncover causes as well as facts in the human world. To what extent is this presumption valid? Is history a science? Attempts to answer this question have been confounded by misleading ideas about “The Scientific Method” popularized by Karl Popper, whose fallacious “falsifiability” criterion has even misled the U. S. Supreme Court. To me the most important question in the history of science is “why did the Scientific Revolution happen in Europe in the 17th century, not some other time and place?” Political historians do try to answer such questions, for example in connection with the English civil war, even though the answer requires explaining why something didn’t happen; historians of science are strangely reluctant to do that.
This publication was named an “article of note” in the announcement of the Historical Society’s 2004 Prizewinners; see Historically Speaking, 5, no. 5: 38-39 (May/June 2004)
Letter to the Editor, Historically Speaking, 5, no. 1: 50 (September 2003)
[Reply to letter from Roger L. Williams on the cause of Scientific Revolution.]
In order to judge whether Williams’ explanation is valid, rather than one of the other proposed explanations of the Scientific Revolution, we still need to look at other possible sites such as China or Islam several centuries earlier, to see which of his factors were present or absent there.
300. The Kinetic Theory of Gases: An Anthology of Classic Papers with Historical Commentary.
Edited by Nancy S. Hall. London: Imperial College Press, 2003. ix + 647 pp
Includes #28, 31, 58, 70, 116, 130, 282; bibliography of historical commentaries.
301. Review of The Politics of Excellence: Behind the Nobel Prize in Science by R. M. Friedman.
Physics in Perspective, 5: 235-238 (2003).
The book is based on detailed analysis of committee reports (written in Swedish) on the prizes in Physics and Chemistry, proposed or awarded in the first half of the 20th century. Friedman, an American who can read Swedish, has worked in the Nobel Archives for two decades to produce this book. It will be interesting to see whether the reputation of the Prize survives his critical scrutiny.
302. La Teoria Cinetica dei Gas. In Storia della Scienza, edited by S. Petruccioli, vol. 7, L’Ottocento, chapter 44, pp. 482-496. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana (2003, pub. 2004).
(Full text English translation available on this website)
Survey based on item 114.
303. Author’s Query: Why Natural Selection?
Reports of the National Center for Science Education, 23, nos. 3-4: 14 (May-August 2003).
304. J. Willard Gibbs and his Legacy: A Double Centennial. APS March Meeting, Austin, 3 March 2003. By SGB & Michael E. Fisher.
History of Physics Newsletter, 9, no. 1: 6-7 (Fall 2003).
His Elementary Principles of Statistical Mechanics was published in 1902, and he died in 1903. Gibbs symposia were also held at Yale and the University of Maryland.
305. Review of The Cambridge History of Science, Volume 5, The Modern Physical and Mathematical Sciences, edited by M. J. Nye.
Isis, 94: 687-688 (2003, pub. 2004)
The book is strongly recommended to historians, scientists, and graduate students. It exemplifies many of the strengths (and a couple of the weaknesses) of current scholarship in the history of science.
306. Is Physics “Scientific”?
Bulletin of the American Physical Society, 48, no. 3: 53 (2003)
Abstract of paper presented at APS meeting, 5 April 2003. See also History of Physics Newsletter 9, no. 1, pp. 9-10 (Fall 2003)
What does it mean to be “scientific”? A standard formula is: collect facts, formulate a hypothesis, predict a novel (unknown) fact; reject or change the hypothesis if the prediction is falsified; favor a hypothesis that makes more successful novel predictions. Although individual scientists may follow this formula in deciding whether to publish a new idea, it does not appear that the physics community judges proposed theories primarily on the basis of their success in making confirmed novel predictions. In view of the spectacular success of physics in the past 2 centuries, we should not call physics unscientific, rather we should question whether the standard formula describes how physics works. Do we need a new definition of “scientific”? How would this affect physics education?
307. The Shape of the Universe. Review of “Dodecahedral Space Topology ...” by J.-P. Luminet et al. and “The Shape of the Universe” by G. F. R. Ellis, in Nature (2003); D. Overbye, “Cosmic Soccer Ball ...” New York Times (2003); Plato’s Cosmology translated with commentary by F. M. Cornford (1937).
Journal of Scientific Exploration, 18, no. 1: 160-161 (2004).
Luminet and his colleagues argue, using results from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe of the cosmic background radiation, that the universe must be finite, and propose that the WMAP data are best represented by a Poincaré dodecahedral space. The pentagonal sides of the dodecahedron are slightly curved, giving the appearance of a soccer ball. Plato, in Timaeus, described the universe in a remarkably similar way; Cornford and other commentators suggest that he also had in mind the soccer ball analogy. Is this just a coincidence?
308. Comments on the Epistemological Shoehorn Debate.
Science & Education, 13: 197-200 (2004).
According to Allchin (2003), Lawson (2002) tried to shoehorn the history of science into a preconceived philosophical category, the hypothetico-deductive method (HD). Lawson replied (2003) that discovery is based on HD because that’s the way the brain works, and accused Allchin of shoehorning science into another method, blind search and induction. In agreement with Allchin, who actually wrote that HD is one of several methods used by scientists, I argue that HD by itself cannot explain how new theories and discoveries are accepted in science. Historical research has shown that other factors are involved.
309. The Morphology of Steve (by Eugenie C. Scott and about 440 co-authors including SGB.)
Annals of Improbable Research (July-August 2004), 24-29.
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE)’s “Project Steve” originated as a parody of the creationist practice of compiling lists of “scientists who doubt Darwinism” - such lists being intended to cast doubt that evolution is based on sound science. NCSE collected the signatures of 440 scientists, all of them named “Steve” (or cognates Stephanie, etc.) who endorsed a statement about the importance of evolution to science. The choice of name honored Stephen Jay Gould. Because Steve and cognates comprise about 1% of American names, each Steve would represent 100 scientists. All of the creationist lists put together have only 9 Steves.
NCSE offered T-shirts to the participating Steves, and requested their shirt sizes as well as their mailing addresses. The article is based on statistical analysis of this data. It was found that residents of islands (Great Britain, Australia) tend to be smaller than residents of mainlands, in agreement with known results from other large mammal species. Other expected correlations (sexual dimorphism, Bergman’s rule [larger body size at higher latitudes]) were not found.
310. Anachronism and the History of Science: Copernicus as an Airplane Passenger.
Scientia Poetica, Jahrbuch für Geschichte der Literatur und der Wissenschaften, 8: 255-264 (2004)
Some scholars have recently debated whether it is legitimate “to describe past deeds and past works in terms that were not available to the agents themselves” or to “ascribe to past thinkers concepts they had no legitimate means to express” (Jardine, Prudovsky). Many modern historians of science, attempting to replace present-minded “whiggism” by “contextualism,” have rejected such anachronisms. A few philosophers of science have used them under the name “causal theory of reference” as part of a strategy to defend realism. While there seems to be little justification for using anachronisms in professional discourse about the history if science, they may be appropriate in pre-college science education. For example, in explaining why astronomers accepted the heliocentric system, despite the difficulty of understanding how the Earth could be moving without our noticing it, one could appeal to a common experience of travelers, as Copernicus did himself. “When a ship is floating calmly along,” those on the ship “suppose that they are stationary” while their surroundings are moving. Since children nowadays are more likely to travel in an airplane than a ship, why not use that example to suggest why Copernicus believed that the Earth could be moving relative to a stationary universe of Sun and stars?
311. How Theories Became Knowledge: Why Science Textbooks Should be Saved.
In Who Wants Yesterday’s Papers? Essays on the Research Value of Printed Materials in the Digital Age (Proceedings from a Symposium at the University of Maryland) edited by Yvonne Carignan et al. Pp. 45-57. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005.
In my research, using textbooks along with journal articles, monographs, and other sources, I study the process by which theories become part of the established core of knowledge of a scientific field. The evaluation process usually begins when a paper is submitted for publication in a journal, and the editor asks two or three scientists whether it should be published. The reports generated by this “peer review” process can be of great value as evidence for the criteria used by scientists in judging new ideas, but often are not saved or easily available (cf. Item 296). After publication, the paper may be mentioned by other scientists in their own papers. The Science Citation Index is useful for papers published since the mid-20th century, although the number of citations cannot be regarded as a measure of acceptance or importance (cf. Item 232). For papers published earlier the most efficient approach is to scan all the volumes of the major journals in a field for a period 10 to 20 years after publication of the theory. Here is where library policies affect the work of the historian. Given limited space, decisions about which volumes to put into storage are crucial; long runs of old scientific journals are often relegated to an off-campus building where they are not easily accessible unless one already has a precise citation. In the future this problem may be solved for major journals by electronic databases like J-STOR. But these probably will not include textbooks, which I found to be one of the best sources of evidence about theory-acceptance, since their authors are more likely than authors of journal articles to explain why they include a new theory. Consecutive editions of a widely-used book are especially useful in pinpointing when the author decided the theory was well-enough established to be included. Yet libraries generally do not systematically buy textbooks, and often discard an old one if it is replaced by a new edition. This is illustrated by the case of Mendeleev’s periodic law, which was initially introduced as a teaching aid and was not widely discussed in the research literature, so textbooks are the best source of evidence for its acceptance (item 270). But many chemistry textbooks that were used in American colleges before 1890 no longer exist in any American library. Moreover, not enough series of consecutive editions have survived to allow the historian to determine whether the acceptance of the law was due primarily to the conversion of individual authors or to the replacement of those authors by younger authors who had already accepted the system. (This is relevant to “Planck’s Principle.”) A few research libraries should start now to collect and preserve the textbooks that survive, following the example of the Niels Bohr Library (American Institute of Physics).
312. Accommodation or Prediction?
Science 308: 1410 (2005).
Letter to Editor on Peter Lipton’s article “Testing Hypotheses: Prediction and Prejudice” (ibid. 219-221). He “gives no evidence that scientists, past or present, actually accept” his thesis that prediction is better than accommodation. In his reply Lipton admits that he “focused on the normative question” not on the actual behavior of scientists.
313. Review of Chemical Structure, Spatial Arrangement: The Early History of Stereochemistry, 1874-1914, by Peter J. Ramberg. Centaurus 47: 79-81 (2005).
314. Laying down the laws. Review of When Physics Became King by I. R. Morus.
Nature, 436: 463 (2005).
315. Review of The Tests of Time: Readings in the Development of Physical Theory, edited by L. M. Dolling, A. F. Gianelli and G. N. Statile (2003).
The British Journal for the History of Science 39: 125-126 (2006),
316. Meteorites and the Origin of the Solar System
In The History of Meteorites and Key Meteorite Collections: Fireballs, Falls and Finds, edited by G. J. H. McCall, A. J. Bowden & R. J. Howarth, pp. 417-441.
London: Geological Society, Special Publications, no. 256 (2006). Based in part on item 265
During the past two centuries, theories of the origin of the Solar System have been strongly influenced by observations and theories about meteorites. I review this history up to about 1985.
In the 19th century the hypothesis that planets formed by accretion of small solid particles (“the meteoritic hypothesis”) competed with the alternative “nebular hypothesis” of Laplace, based on condensation from a hot gas. At the beginning of the 20th century Chamberlin and Moulton revived the meteoritic hypothesis as the “planetesimal hypothesis” and joined it to the assumption that the Solar System evolved from the encounter of the Sun with a passing star. Later, the encounter hypothesis was rejected and the planetesimal hypothesis was incorporated into new versions of the nebular hypothesis. In the 1950s, meteorites provided essential data for the establishment by Patterson and others of the presently-accepted 4½ billion year age of the Earth and the Solar System. Analysis of the Allende meteorite, which fell in 1969, inspired the “supernova trigger” theory of the origin of the solar system, and provided useful constraint on theories of planetary formation developed by Urey, Ringwood, Anders and others. Many of these theories assumed condensation from a homogeneous hot gas, an assumption that was challenged by astrophysical calculations. The meteoritic-planetesimal theory of planet formation was developed in Russia by Schmidt and later by Safronov and his colleagues. Wetherill, in the U. S., established it as the preferred theory for formation of terrestrial planets.
317. Review of Nobel Laureates and Twentieth-Century Physics by M. Dordo.
Physics in Perspective, 8: 105-106 (2006)
318. Predictivism and the Periodic Table.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 38: 256-259 (2007)
Comment on a paper by Barnes (2005) and response to it by Scerri (2005) and Worrall (2005), debating the thesis (“predictivism”) that a fact successfully predicted in advance by a theory is stronger evidence than a similar fact known before the prediction was made. Barnes and Scerri both use evidence presented in my paper on Mendeleev’s periodic law (item 270) to support their views. I do not argue for or against predictivism in the normative sense that philosophers of science employ, rather I describe how scientists themselves use facts and confirmed predictions to support their theories. I find wide variations, and no support for the assumption that scientists use a single “Scientific Method” in deciding whether to accept a proposed new theory.
319. How Ideas Became Knowledge: The Light-Quantum Hypothesis 1905-1935
Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 37: 205-246 (2007)
(Contribution to an issue honoring Russell McCormmach, founding editor of Studies)
In 1905, Albert Einstein proposed as a “heuristic viewpoint” that light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation behave in some respects like streams of particles, each carrying energy h (h = Planck’s constant, L = frequency), even though they also behave like waves. This became known as the Light Quantum Hypothesis. J. J. Thomson and other physicists proposed similar but less quantitative ideas.
When and why did physicists accept the LQH? It is shown that a significant number of physicists already accepted particulate aspects of radiation before the discovery of the Compton effect in 1923, and that research on the photoelectric effect played an important role in this acceptance. Compton argued that his research was stronger evidence for the LQH because it yielded a prediction about a previously unknown phenomenon, the recoil electron. But there is little evidence that other scientists gave extra credit for predicting a result before rather than after it was known. Probably the combination of both effects (and other evidence) was needed to persuade skeptics.
320. Remembering Rabi: A challenge and a ghost story. (XT)
Physics Today 60, no. 6: 10 (June 2007)
Letter to the editor about a lecture by Rabi, published posthumously in the August 2006 issue. Rabi stated that “During the first period of its existence, quantum mechanics didn’t predict anything that wasn’t already predicted [i.e. known] before.” Is this true? Readers are challenged to find any “prediction in advance” (other than electron diffraction, a dubious example) whose confirmation had any role in persuading physicists to accept the theory (which was established by 1928).
(“Ghost story” in the title refers to another letter about Rabi.)
321. Suggestions for the Study of Science.
In Positioning the History of Science [essays in honor of S. S. Schweber], edited by Kostas Gavroglu & Jürgen Renn, 13-25. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 248 (2007).
Historians of science should be willing to discuss, intelligibly, the “Big Questions” that interest students, teachers, and the public. Attention to those questions would also be beneficial to our own research. For example: “why did the Scientific Revolution happen in Europe in the 17th century?” You can’t give a plausible answer unless you try to explain why it didn’t happen in other places where a very high level of science (and technology) has been reached earlier, e.g. Islam and China. Many historians of science have refused to consider this approach, even though other historians have used it to explain similar events such as the English Revolution/Civil War of the 17th century. Historians of science have also declined to discuss questions about the “nature of science” leaving such questions to philosophers and science educators. More generally I suggest that historians of science should be willing to go beyond mere description of what happened to try to analyze why it happened. One reason, which has been mentioned but not taken seriously, is that new ideas are first introduced as mathematical hypotheses (not claimed to represent reality) but when successful in describing observations they force scientists to accept new versions of reality.
322. Determining the Age of the Earth (XT). Review of A Natural History of Time by Pascual Richet.
Journal for the History of Astronomy, 40: 360-361 (2009).
323. Choosing Selection: The Revival of Natural Selection in Anglo-American Evolutionary Biology, 1930-1970. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2009. (Transactions,vol. 99, Part 3) vii + 183 pp.
This book describes the establishment of the hypothesis that Charles Darwin’s “natural selection,” reformulated by R. A. Fisher, J. B. S. Haldane, and S. Wright in the light of Mendelian genetics, is the primary or exclusive mechanism for biological evolution. During the 1930s, alternatives such as Lamarckism, macromutations, and orthogenesis were rejected in favor of natural selection acting on small mutations, but there were disagreements about the role of random genetic drift in evolution. The hypothesis in its modern form became the theoretical core of the Evolutionary Synthesis. By the 1950s, research by T. Dobzhansky, E. B. Ford and others persuaded leading evolutionists that natural selection was so powerful that drift was generally unimportant. This conclusion, the “Natural Selection Hypothesis” (NSH) was accepted by most authors of monographs on evolution, biology textbooks and popular articles, but a significant minority also mentioned drift in the late 1960s.
The controversy about whether evolutionary theory makes testable predictions is examined. It appears that the philosophers who started this controversy were unaware of the predictions that had actually been made and tested. The biologists who responded chose to ignore those predictions even though they knew about them, perhaps because they resisted on principle any requirement that biology must make testable predictions in order to be scientific. While the confirmation of predictions did give some rhetorical ammunition to those who had already accepted the NSH, tests of predictions did not play a major role in the decision to accept it, except in the case of Dobzhansky and those who understood the significance of his research on chromosome inversions in Drosophila. In this respect, at least, evolutionary biology is not much different from the physical sciences.
Some of the best-known evidence for natural selection, such as Kettlewell's experiments on the Peppered Moth, did not appear in most textbooks until the 1960s, and thus did not substantially aid the establishment of the NSH until just before it was challenged by new “neutral” or “nonDarwinian” theories of evolution.
Winner of the 2009 John Frederick Lewis Award (American Philosophical Society)
324. Review of Einstein’s Generation: The Origins of the Relativity Revolution, by Richard Staley.
American Journal of Physics, 77: 1086-1087 (2009).
325. Theory and Experiment in the Quantum-Relativity Revolution. Presented at American Physical Society “April” Meeting, Washington, DC, 14 February 2010. Abstract published in Program, page 125.
(Full text available on this website)
Does new scientific knowledge come from theory (whose predictions are confirmed by experiment) or from experiment (whose results are explained by theory)? Either can happen, depending on whether theory is ahead of experiment or experiment is ahead of theory at a particular time. In the first case, new theoretical hypotheses are made and their predictions are tested by experiments. But even when predictions are successful, we can’t be sure that some other hypothesis might not have produced the same prediction. In the second case, as in a detective story, there are already enough facts, but several theories have failed to explain them. When a new hypothesis plausibly explains all of the facts, it may be quickly accepted before any further experiments are done. In the quantum-relativity revolution there are examples of both situations. Because of the two-stage development of both relativity (“special,” then “general”) and quantum theory (“old,” then “quantum mechanics”) in the period 1905-1930, we can make a double comparison of acceptance by prediction and by explanation. A curious anti-symmetry is revealed and discussed.