About the Physics History Project

Origins

In recognition of the 1989 celebration of the physics department’s centennial as a research institution, we compiled  On the History of Physics at Michigan, a book  that includes an historical overview written in 1951 by Charles Meyer, George Lindsay, Ernest Barker, and David Dennison, a survey of research from 1945-1989 by Jens Zorn, and an overview of nuclear physics by Bill Parkinson. But the treatment was fairly brief and the coverage not at all complete.  (The text-only version of this can be found here.)    A new motivation for the collection and organization of material arises as the University of Michigan prepares to celebrate its bicentennial (1817-2017).  We hope that the contents of this site will be useful in that task.

The creation process

The items in this site will appear in a sequence that does not necessarily follow historical chronology and that should not be taken as an implication of importance. Posts will occur when material becomes available, when colleagues contribute, and when notable events occur.

Joachim Janecke has urged that we post the one-page documents (or links thereto) that are published by the University Regents upon the retirement and the death of faculty members. We’ll supplement these with newspaper obituaries and photos when those are available. Such documents are necessarily brief and follow conventions that do not encourage reminiscence, so we hope that the MichiganPhysics site will receive contributions from those who wish to write supplementary memories of our colleagues.  As a beginning,  we started collecting memories of Peter Franken (we already have a half-dozen stories, some of which may have improved over the years …. as they say, se non è vero, è ben trovato.).

We’ll add photos to text when it seems appropriate. We hope that this will be a satisfying way of sharing them with colleagues and friends.

The people of the Physics History Project

Our founder, Jens Zorn:

About me: I’ve been in the Michigan Physics Department since 1962, mainly in experimental atomic and molecular physics, but also with stints in the  Residential College and in University Administration.   In recent years, and continuing,  I’ve done graphic art and sculpture for many universities in celebration of discoveries in physics.

Our webmaster, Patrick Julius:

I grew up in Ann Arbor and have lived here almost all my life. My academic career began in physics under the mentorship of Jens Zorn; during that time I published my first book, Special Relativity from the Ground Up. But my destiny is interdisciplinary, and I soon expanded to other fields. First I studied philosophy, then psychology, and finally I completed my bachelor’s degree at Michigan in cognitive science–over three years before the Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science was founded. A few years later I traveled all the way to California for a master’s degree in economics at California State University at Long Beach. Now I’m back in Ann Arbor; while helping with the Physics History Project I am looking into opportunities at the Ford School of Public Policy and the Center for Complex Systems. I currently administrate a blog on cognitive economics provocatively titled “Infinite Identical Psychopaths,” and soon I will be a contributor to a new interdisciplinary blog on rationality and citizenship even more provocatively titled “Idiot Free Zone.”

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