Working Groups

Physical Sciences

The Working Group on the History of the Physical Sciences construes the physical sciences broadly, and considers topics in physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy, the space and atmospheric sciences, and others from multiple perspectives: scientific, cultural, political, social, and economic. It meets monthly to discuss a colleague’s work in progress or to discuss published readings, especially ones that challenge the field to think in different ways. We encourage participation from younger members of the field, including ABDs and recent PhDs. Meetings are usually held at the Consortium offices in Philadelphia from 5:00 to 6:30 on third Thursdays.  Scholars located anywhere can also participate online.

If you would like to join this working group please contact or .


Kathryn Olesko is Associate Professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Her main research interest is the history of science and technology since the seventeenth century, with a special interest in measuring practices, science pedagogy, science and engineering in Prussia, and comparative nuclear cultures. Read more about her research here.


Joseph Martin is NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine. He has published on the history of twentieth-century physics and the philosophy of science and technology. Read more about his research here.

Upcoming Meetings

December 15, 2016

Michael Barany (Dartmouth College) will introduce his recent article, “Fellow Travelers and Traveling Fellows: The Intercontinental Shaping of Modern Mathematics in Mid-Twentieth Century Latin America,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, Vol. 46, Number 5, pps. 669–709. A copy of his article can be accessed here.

Past Meetings

November 17, 2016

Sarah Bridger (CalPoly), discussed her paper, “Disgruntled Women Scientists in the 1970s.”

October, 20 2016

John Krige of Georgia Tech discussed chapter two from his book Sharing Knowledge, Shaping Europe (MIT 2016).

September, 15 2016

Joanna Behrman of Johns Hopkins University introduced her paper “Domesticating Physics: Introductory Physics Textbooks for Women in Home Economics, 1914-1955”

April 20, 2016

Teasel Elizabeth Muir-Harmony of the American Institute of Physics introduced her paper “From the Moon to Japan: The US Exhibition of a Lunar Rock at the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair.”

March 16, 2016

Allan Needell of the National Air and Space Museum introduced his “Webb, the New Deal and ‘Space Age Management.’”

February 17, 2016

Kristie Macrakis of Georgia Tech and ​the Woodrow ​Wilson Center introduced her paper, “How We Really Found Missiles on Cuba: A Story about Myths, Technology and Secret Agents.”

January 20, 2016

Mott Greene of the University of Washington introduced his biographical work, “Alfred Wegener: Science, Exploration, and the Theory of Continental Drift”.

December 17, 2015

Ruth Rand, Consortium for HSTM and UPenn, introduced her draft dissertation chapter, “‘Terror in the Skies’: Falling Space Junk, Space Weather, and International Environmental Liability During the Long 1970s.”

October 15, 2015

Lillian Hoddeson and Peter Garrett of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign introduce their book chapter on “Stanford Ovshinsky and the Invention of the Nickel-Metal-Hydride Battery”

September 17, 2015

Anthony Eames of Georgetown introduced his paper, “Trident: The Socio-Scientific Construction of a Cold War Weapons System.”

May 6, 2015

Vivien Hamilton of Harvey Mudd College introduced her draft, “Physics in the New York Times: 1880-1920”.

April 1, 2015

Andrew Zangwill of Georgia Tech introduced his paper, “Density Functional Theory at 50: A Look Back.”

March 4, 2015

Peter Ramberg of Truman State University introduced his paper, “Popularizing Astronomy in the German Free Religious Movement, 1850-1852.” Abstract: Although historians have outlined the popular treatments of astronomy in the nineteenth century Britain by Mary Somerville, Richard Proctor and Agnes Clerke, the popular presentation of astronomy in nineteenth century Germany remains relatively unexplored. This essay examines articles on astronomy that appeared in Kirchliche Reform, a prominent journal of the German free religious movement of the 1840s and 1850s. This series of eight articles were written by the Halle schoolteacher H. Weißgerber between 1850 and 1852 and took their readers on a tour of the structure and origin of the solar system and the Milky Way. In all of his articles, Weißgerber took every opportunity to show how the results of modern astronomy made traditional religion obsolete.

February 4, 2015

Cameron Lazaroff-Puck, University of Minnesota introduced his paper “Gearing up for Lagrangian Dynamics: The Flywheel Analogy in Maxwell’s 1865 Paper on Electrodynamics.”

December 3, 2014

Carsten Reinhardt of CHF introduced his draft paper, “The Dynamics of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.”

Oct 29, 2014

Nasser Zakariya of CHF introduced a draft book chapter, “Tales of Hawks and Hounds: Scientific Narratives of the SSC and NASA Origins”

Oct 1, 2014

Jessica Wang of UBC introduced her article “Physics, Emotion, and the Scientific Self: Merle Tuve’s Cold War”, HSNS v.42 n.5.

May 7, 2014

Joe Martin of Colby College introduced his paper, “The Simple and Courageous Course: Industrial Patronage of Basic Research at the University of Chicago, 1945–1961.”

April 2, 2014

Bill Rankin of Yale introduced his draft chapter on the politics of military coordinate systems and alternatives to latitude and longitude, “Aiming Guns, Recording Land, and Stitching Map to Territory: The Invention of Cartographic Grid Systems, 1914­-1939.”

March 5, 2014

Teasel Muir-Harmony of MIT and PACHS introduced her paper “Selling Space Capsules, Moon Rocks, and America: The Use of Spaceflight in Public Diplomacy, 1961-1979.”

February 5, 2014

Alex Csiszar of Harvard University and Chemical Heritage Foundation introduced his “Owning It: authorship and discovery, 1835-1850.”

December 4, 2013

Alex Wellerstein of the American Institute of Physics introduced his “‘Old H-bomb arguments never die!’ Secrecy, invention, and the Teller-Ulam priority dispute.”

November 6, 2013

Evan Hepler-Smith of Princeton University introduced his draft “Systematic nomenclature at the 1892 Geneva Congress and the structuring of the molecular world.”

October 2, 2013

Matt Stanley of NYU introduced his “By design: James Clerk Maxwell and the evangelical unification of science”, The British Journal for the History of Science, 45 (2012) pp 57-73

May 11, 2013

Joint Atlantic Seminar for the History of the Physical Sciences

April 2, 2013

Jeffery Womack introduced his draft Ethics of Uncertainty: Medicine, the Roentgen Ray, and the Erythema Dose
March 5, 2013

Ann Robinson introduced a dissertation chapter, Not Like Minerva From the Head of Jupiter: The Foundation and Discovery of the Periodic Law, 1860-1869

February 5, 2013

Richard Staley introduced his Trajectories in the history and historiography of physics in the twentieth century

December 4, 2012

Joe Martin introduced his draft dissertation chapter A Good Name and Great Riches: Materials Science, Condensed Matter Physics, and the Seeds of Solid State’s Fracture

November 6, 2012

Ari Gross introduced his Pictures and Pedagogy: The Role of Diagrams in Feynman’s Early Lectures, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics. 43 (3). pp. 184-94. 2012.

October 2, 2012

Ann Robinson introduced Elements of the Table: Visual Discourse and the Preperiodic Representation of Chemical Classification by Benjamin R. Cohen, Configurations 12 (2004): 41-75


Working group members log in for contact form and downloads.