By David C. Cassidy
Because the 20th century drew to a detailed, desktops, the web, and nanotechnology have been relevant to fashionable American existence. but the advances in physics underlying those purposes are poorly understood and broadly underappreciated via U.S. electorate this present day. during this concise evaluation, David C. Cassidy sharpens our standpoint on glossy physics by means of viewing this foundational technological know-how during the lens of America’s engagement with the political occasions of a tumultuous century.American physics first stirred within the 1890s—around the time x-rays and radioactivity have been chanced on in Germany—with the founding of graduate faculties at the German version. but American learn lagged at the back of the nice eu laboratories until eventually powerful household guidelines, including the exodus of physicists from fascist nations, introduced the kingdom into the 1st ranks of worldwide examine within the Thirties. The production of the atomic bomb and radar in the course of global struggle II ensured lavish govt help for particle physics, in addition to computation, solid-state physics, and armed forces conversation. those advances facilitated area exploration and ended in the worldwide growth of the Internet.Well into the Sixties, physicists strengthened the USA’ overseas prestige, and the state repaid the desire via giant outlays of federal, army, and philanthropic investment. yet steadily the US relinquished its postwar dedication to medical management, and the kingdom stumbled on itself suffering to take care of a aggressive side in technology schooling and study. this present day, American physicists, depending totally on commercial investment, needs to compete with smaller, scrappier countries motive on writing their very own short heritage of physics within the twenty-first century.
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Extra resources for A Short History of Physics in the American Century
Needs no proof at this late day. ” The Times explained that it is not that women are inferior to men, “but that more men than women have latent capabilities in those directions . . ”38 The numbers of PhDs by gender reveal more of the story (see Table 1 in the Appendix). Prewar discrimination in doctorates was less virulent than in employment. As noted earlier, in 1921 roughly 63 percent of women physicists held PhDs, while 80 percent of men physicists did so. By 1938 the percentages, if not the numbers, were nearly equal, 73 percent of women, 75 percent of men.
It was a role that George Ellery Hale perfected and played to great advantage before and after the outbreak of war in 1914. A man of driven personality and unbounded ambition, George Ellery Hale was born into a wealthy family in the upscale Kenwood section of Chicago in 1868. After attending private schools in Chicago, he graduated from MIT in 1890 and performed research at the Harvard College Observatory. He received his doctorate in physics in 1894 at the University of Berlin, where he attended lectures by the future quantum theorist Max Planck.
Millikan readily accepted a commission as a major in the army reserve, as did Theodore Lyman and Augustus Trowbridge at Harvard, Albert Michelson at Chicago, and Charles Mendenhall at the University of Wisconsin. Even the president of the National Academy of Sciences received an army commission. As A. Hunter Dupree writes in his classic history, “With this beginning, Squier put virtually the whole physics committee into uniform and hence under orders. ”9 However eager they were to avoid government political influence, Millikan and his colleagues expressed no regrets at their sudden subordination to military authority.