From the Physics Today Archives (perfect proposal) – January 2016

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By Amanda Nelson, Associate Archivist

Physics Today January 2016 coverPhysics Today magazine has a new look and as editor-in-chief, Charles Day writes in his editorial “Constants and changes” from the January issue, “Physics Today’s latest redesign has another goal: To present editorial content in a cleaner, more direct way and to more strongly emphasize figures, photos, and other artwork.” While the magazine may have a new look and feel, they continue to cover a wide range of physics topics that interests readers.


To help highlight their new look, we wanted to showcase one of the more history-centered articles from the new January 2016 issue, “A Perfect Proposal.” The article by Daniel Kleppner and Paul Horowitz shows the 1950 grant application by Edward Purcell to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for an experiment to detect the microwave signature of interstellar hydrogen. According to the authors, "We regard the proposal as perfect because of its lofty goal, its clarity of vision, its transparency, its honesty, and its respect for other citizens of the scientific community. Anyone lucky enough to have known Purcell will recognize his voice and will delight in the grace and simplicity of his style." The proposal is only 800 words and is printed in its entirety in the magazine. Be sure to see the additional resources at the bottom of the page where two of the Niels Bohr Library & Archives’ oral histories are mentioned. This article is free content for the next six months from the link above.