Online International Conference on the History of Physics

Yesterday, I participated in a virtual conference on the history of physics. The event, supported by the Institute of Physics and the European Physics Society, formed part of an ongoing series of international conferences on the history of physics, a biennial series of meetings that aims to bring together professional historians and physicists with an interest in the history of their subject. I have been involved with the organization of these conferences for some time now and it was great to see this year’s version, an online conference, go off without a hitch.

There were many interesting talks spanning across several centuries of physics, such as: The Ghost of Galileo and the Spirit of Copenhagen (John Heilbron): To G or not to G : JH Poynting and the Gravitational Constant in the 19th Century (Isobel Falconer): The Marie Curie Effect (Patricia Fara): Political Opportunism and Friendly Disservice: On the Premature Nobel Prize to Otto Hahn and the Missed Nobel Prize to Lise Meitner (Karl Grandin): The Rayleigh Archive: Unpublished Correspondence with Kelvin and Others (Paul Ranford): Changes in the Measurement and Understanding of Electromotive Force (Hasok Chang).  The full programme can be found here.

I myself chaired the session containing the last two talks above. This was quite a challenging task as I felt I should come up with a few decent questions after each talk, to give members of the audience some time to type in theirs!

The last session of the conference saw a lovely tribute, in the form of poetry, reminiscences and music, to our late colleague Peter Schuster, an inspirational figure in the history of physics and one of the founders of this series of conferences. Sadly, Peter passed away quite suddenly last year.

All in all, a most enjoyable conference. Not for the first time, I found myself hoping that at least some conferences will stay online in the future!

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