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The Array of Contemporary American Physicists April 13, 2010

Posted by Will Thomas in Uncategorized.
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J. Robert Oppenheimer, photo courtesy of the United States Department of Energy and the AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Ladies and gentlemen, the Array of Contemporary American Physicists (ACAP) of the AIP Center for History of Physics is now ready for public use.  I am a big believer that web-based tools can transform the way we do history, not only by making information more accessible, but also by rendering public some vital historiographical activities that typically remain private.  This blog is the arm of that belief that suggests that historiographical reflection can and should take place in open environments.  ACAP is the arm of that belief that suggests the internet can provide a place where the raw results of tedious research—which inform so much of what scholars do but are often never published in an accessible form—can reside and be accessed.

The ACAP project has occupied much of the last couple of years of my attention, and, as it is designed to be a growing and dynamic resource, it will surely be something on which I will continue to work.  On the surface, it will appear to be a highly conservative contribution to the historiography, comprised largely of names and dates and links to other resources, but I hope it will help open the way toward a more inventive and flexible historiography of the physical sciences.  It could, for example, provide a framework of the most basic contexts within which individual works can be located, but which are often neglected.  It will also help to identify people and things we know a lot about (such as everyone’s friend Oppy, pictured here), and help direct attention to, and organize thinking about, whole categories of people and things about which we know very little.  This sort of thing should be done for scholarship of all periods, but it is particularly urgent if we want to take the 20th-century problem seriously.

Finally, I just want to emphasize that this is a resource-in-progress.  We’ve tried to make it as nice and shiny as possible for its big debut (big thanks to our web designer Ada Uzoma), but there is still much that is obviously deficient.  This ranges from the superficial (the main page will be changed, disposing of the cheesy icons among other things), to the fact that our current roster of “topic guides” is severely limited.  In between is the fact that auto-searches for unpublished material and books in our AIP holdings are still only programmed in for a few scientists whose last names happen to start with “A” and “B”.  But, we’re also eager to take it for a spin and see what happens.  So without further adieu:

http://www.aip.org/history/acap

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Comments»

1. Jonathan Dresner - April 13, 2010

Fantastic!

I’m a cousin (second, thrice removed, if memory serves) of Fred Reines.

2. Thony C. - April 16, 2010

Great job, great resource.Lets hope that other historians follow your lead.

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