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Jacqueline Jones, Chair 128 Inner Campus Dr., Stop B7000, GAR 1.104 Austin, TX 78712-1739 • 512-471-3261

Fall 2005

HIS 350L • Einstein in Age of Conflict-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
38608 M
3:00 PM-6:00 PM
MEZ 1.122
Martinez, Al

Course Description

While age-old scientific concepts were being overturned by the rise of modern physics, Europe was torn apart by wars of unprecedented scale. This history course analyzes these developments, examining the rise of the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics against the stage of international political upheavals. Following the life of Albert Einstein, the course focuses on conceptual developments (from the 1880s through the 1940s) and intellectual conflicts. It also studies the lives of physicists such as Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, and J. Robert Oppenheimer, in the context of changing cultural and political environments. We will read and discuss various kinds of materials: manuscripts, letters, accounts by historians, physicists, essays, and even secret transcripts of controversial conversations. The material will be understandable even to students with no significant background in physics. Among the topics involved are the following: How did relativity and the quantum clash with earlier conceptions of nature? Why did physics become so apparently difficult to understand? In Europe and America, how did scientists and politicians behave in times of international catastrophe? How were the academic and social orders affected by the development of nuclear weapons?

Grading Policy

One reaction essay, of 600 words in length. One historical analysis paper, 1000 words. Plus, a final Research Paper, of at least 2500 words. A draft of the introduction or outline of the Research Paper will be expected 3 weeks before the final due date; for critical feedback. The topic of the historical analysis paper will be individually selected by each student from a few alternatives. The subject of the final Research Paper will be designed by each student under advisement with the Instructor. This will equal 75% of the grade for the course.


John Stachel, ed. Einsteins Miraculous Year (Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2005) John Heilbron, The Dilemmas of an Upright Man; Max Planck and the Fortunes of German Science (Cambrdige, Harvard University Press, 2000). Other readings assigned from journals or handouts, or individual research selections.


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