Charles Weiner and the Oral History of Physics February 1, 2012Posted by Will Thomas in Uncategorized.
Tags: Charles Weiner, James Gleick, Richard Feynman, Spencer Weart, Thomas Kuhn
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Having just submitted an article in which oral histories conducted by Charles Weiner play a major role, I was surprised and saddened this morning to learn of his death a few days ago at the age of 80. I did not know Weiner personally — for an overview of his life, and personal recollections of him, please see this very good post written by his son-in-law, Scott Underwood. I would, however, like to take a moment to reflect on his work in the oral history of physics.
Weiner was the director of the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics from 1965 to 1974, before moving to MIT where he spent the rest of his career. I was a postdoctoral historian at the Center from 2007 to 2010 (albeit at a new facility in College Park, Maryland; not the New York City offices where Weiner worked). During my time there, the co-located Niels Bohr Library and Archives began putting its oral history collections online, and I was asked to pick out some audio samples to complement these. Spencer Weart, Weiner’s successor and still the director of the Center at that time, suggested that Weiner’s interviews were engaging, and would certainly provide good material. And indeed they were, and they did.