I explore the history of physics in Washington, D.C., and its environs through a tour of notable sites and personalities. Highlights include visits to the Smithsonian and Carnegie Institutions, stops at the Einstein Memorial, George Washington University, the University of Maryland, and the American Center for Physics, and biographical sketches of physicists Joseph Henry, George Gamow, Edward Teller, and others who worked in the District of Columbia.
KeywordsRalph A. Alpher Louis Agricola Bauer Gregory Breit Stephen G. Brush Steven Chu John Adam Fleming Wendy Freedman George Gamow Sylvester James Gates George Ellery Hale Joseph Henry Robert Herman Edwin Hubble Shirley Ann Jackson Vera C. Rubin Edward Teller John S. Toll Merle Tuve Erskine Williamson Albert Einstein Memorial American Center for Physics American Institute of Physics Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Terrestrial Magnetism Marion Koshland Science Museum National Academy of Sciences Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Smithsonian Institution U.S. Department of Energy
I thank Roger H. Stuewer for suggesting this topic, for his thoughtful guidance throughout this project, and for his careful editorial work on my paper. I also thank Gregory Good for his helpful suggestions on it.
- 1.Michael Riordan, “The Demise of the Superconducting Super Collider,” Physics in Perspective 2 (2000), 411-425; idem, “A tale of two cultures: Building the Superconducting Super Collider, 1988-1993,” Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 32 (2001), 124–144.Google Scholar
- 2.David Ovason, The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capital: The Masons and the Building of Washington, D.C. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000), p. 19.Google Scholar
- 3.Albert E. Moyer, Joseph Henry: The Rise of an American Scientist (Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997), p. 67.Google Scholar
- 4.“Histories of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museums and Research Centers,” “Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory,” website <http://siarchives.si.edu/history/exhibits/historic/history.htm>, pp. 11–12.
- 5.David Chandler, “Energy research is the key, Chu says,” MITnews (May 13, 2009), website <http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/chu-0513.html>, pp. 1–2; on p. 1.
- 6.Charles O. Perry, “Continuum, Broken Symmetry, and More,” in Reza Sarhangi, ed., Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science; Conference Proceedings, 1998 (Arkansas City, Kansas: Gilliland Printing, 1998), pp. 49–53; on p. 49.Google Scholar
- 7.Colin Macilwain, “Smithsonian heeds physicists’ complaints,” Nature 374 (March 16, 1995), 207.Google Scholar
- 8.“The NAS Building, The Einstein Memorial,” website <http://www.nasonline.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ABOUT_building_einstein_memorial>, pp. 1–2; on p. 1.
- 9.Daniel J. Kevles, The Physicists: The History of a Scientific Community in Modern America. With a New Preface by the Author (Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 1995), pp.111–112.Google Scholar
- 10.“The NAS Building … a Temple of Science,” website <http://www.nasonline.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ABOUT_building>, pp. 1–2; on p. 1.
- 11.Roger H. Stuewer, “Gamow, George,” in Charles Coulston Gillispie, Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Vol. V (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1972), pp. 271–273; on pp. 271–272.Google Scholar
- 12.Roger H. Stuewer, “Gamow, Alpha Decay, and the Liquid-Drop Model of the Nucleus,” in E. Harper, W.C. Parke, and G.D. Anderson, ed., The George Gamow Symposium. Sponsored by The George Washington University and the Carnegie Institution of Washington 12 April 1997 (San Francisco: Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 1997), pp. 30–43.Google Scholar
- 13.G. Gamow, Constitution of Atomic Nuclei and Radioactivity (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1931).Google Scholar
- 14.Interview of George Gamow by Charles Weiner on April 25, 1968, Niels Bohr Library and Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, Maryland USA, website <www.aip.org/history/ohilist/4325.html>, p. 62.
- 15.George Gamow, My World Line: An Informal Biography (New York: The Viking Press, 1970), p. 134.Google Scholar
- 16.Louis Brown, Centennial History of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Vol. II. The Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (Cambridge, New York, Port Melbourne, Madrid, and Cape Town: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 97.Google Scholar
- 17.R.A. Alpher, H. Bethe, and G. Gamow, “The Origin of Chemical Elements,” Physical Review 73 (1948), 803-804; Ralph A. Alpher, “George Gamow and the Big Bang Model. Part I. Cosmochemistry and the Early Universe,” in Harper, Parke, and Anderson, The George Gamow Symposium (ref. 12), pp. 50–68.Google Scholar
- 18.Robert Herman, “George Gamow and the Big Bang Model. Part II. The Prediction of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation,” ibid., pp. 71–83.Google Scholar
- 19.Robert Wilson, “Discovery of the Cosmic Background Radiation,” ibid., pp. 85–94.Google Scholar
- 20.Alexander Rich, “Gamow and the Genetic Code,” ibid., pp. 115–122.Google Scholar
- 21.Stanley A. Blumberg and Louis G. Panos, Edward Teller: Giant of the Golden Age of Physics (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1990), pp. 24-34; Edward Teller with Judith L. Shoolery, Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Publishers, 2001), pp. 42–81.Google Scholar
- 22.Blumberg and Panos, Edward Teller (ref. 21), pp. 35-40; Teller, Memoirs (ref. 21), pp. 107–121.Google Scholar
- 23.Teller Memoirs (ref. 21), p. 123; idem, “Some Personal Memories about George Gamow,” in Harper, Parke, and Anderson, The George Gamow Symposium (ref. 12), pp. 124–126; on p. 125.Google Scholar
- 24.G. Gamow and E. Teller, “Selection Rules for the β-Disintegration,” Phys. Rev. 49 (1936), 895–899.Google Scholar
- 25.Gamow, My World Line (ref. 15), p. 134.Google Scholar
- 26.Roger H. Stuewer, “Bringing the news of fission to America,” Physics Today 38 (October 1985), 48–56; on 54.Google Scholar
- 27.Quoted in Allan Sandage, Centennial History of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Vol. I. The Mount Wilson Observatory: Breaking the Code of Cosmic Evolution (Cambridge, New York, Port Melbourne, Madrid, and Cape Town: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 29.Google Scholar
- 28.Ibid.Google Scholar
- 29.Brown, Centennial History. Vol. II. Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (ref. 16), p. 41.Google Scholar
- 30.Interview of Merle Tuve by Thomas D. Cornell on January 13, 1982, Niels Bohr Library and Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, Maryland USA, website <www.aip.org/history/ohilist/4921_1.html> , p. 4.
- 31.Brown, Centennial History. Vol. II. Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (ref. 16), pp. 81–84.Google Scholar
- 32.Vera C. Rubin, “What George Gamow Did Not Know about the Universe,” in Harper, Parke, and Anderson, The George Gamow Symposium (ref. 12), pp. 96–113.Google Scholar
- 33.Vera C. Rubin, W. Kent Ford, Jr., and Norbert Thonnard, “Dynamical Properties of Spiral Galaxies as a Function of Hubble Type, Carnegie Institution of Washington Yearbook 78 1978-1979 (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Braun-Brumfield, Inc., 1979), 363–373, on 364.Google Scholar
- 34.Russell J. Hemley, “Erskine Williamson, Extreme Conditions, and the Birth of Mineral Physics,” Phys. Today 59 (April 2006), 50–56.Google Scholar