Monday, August 1, 2016

Why should physicists study history?

For one reason, to understand the importance of diversity in cultivating new ideas: "Marietta Blau (1894–1970) developed the nuclear emulsion technique—critical to the emergence of the field we now call particle physics ... As a Jewish woman in interwar Austria, Blau ... was doubly excluded. Women were often refused entrance to laboratories, sometimes on the grounds that their hair was too flammable. Jews were rarely allowed to hold high-ranking positions even before the rise of the Nazis.

Such restrictions meant that if Blau wanted to study particles, she had to develop cheap, portable detectors that could be made with commonly available materials. With her techniques from the margins, she created an essential observational tool that was utterly surprising to those in the largely homogenous physics community of the time."

Great reading via Physics Today:

Marietta Blau (1894–1970), as a Jewish woman in interwar Austria, was excluded from the center of physics action. From the margins, she created the nuclear emulsion technique.

Photograph, from 1937, courtesy of the AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives.
Corina Marinescu

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