Cover: A Short History of Physics in the American Century, from Harvard University PressCover: A Short History of Physics in the American Century in PAPERBACK

A Short History of Physics in the American Century

Add to Cart

Product Details


$21.50 • £16.95 • €19.50

ISBN 9780674725829

Publication: September 2013


224 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

6 tables

New Histories of Science, Technology, and Medicine


This is a must read for physics students and indeed anyone who wants to understand the development of the American physics enterprise and the interlocking roles of universities, private laboratories, and the federal government.—A. Spero, Choice

A Short History of Physics in the American Century by David Cassidy presents a brisk but excellent institutional and political history of the discipline, ornamented by lucid descriptions of physics concepts and discoveries… [It] deserves a wide audience, including physicists curious about their discipline’s prominent role in modern U.S. history… A snappy and enjoyable read.—Benjamin Wilson, Physics Today

David Cassidy tells a big story in a short book written for anyone interested in the place of science in American society. American physics began to stir at the end of the 19th century and rose to world hegemony by the beginning of World War II. The creation of the atomic bomb, the Cold War, and the consequent lavish support for physics meant that American dominance endured until the last decades of the 20th century. Cassidy stresses the perennial opposition between pure and applied physics, the gigantizing of science dependent on the federal purse, the transition from powerful science administrators to functionaries, globalization, and the relative marginalization of women. His conclusion on the rise of solid-state physics, computing, and the Internet brings this dramatic story to a dramatic close.—J.L. Heilbron, author of Galileo

The real history of America in the twentieth century was shaped by the obscure struggles of physicists: from the electrification of the nation, to the nuclear standoff of the Cold War, to the information revolution, the lives of Americans have been affected in fundamental ways by the achievements of the physics community. Cassidy tells this essential story with brevity and style, filling a major gap in modern historiography.—Spencer Weart, AIP Center for History of Physics