Ex Libris Universum

Thursday, 15 July 2021

July Photos of the Month

https://history.aip.org/exhibits/cosmology/tools/tools-first-telescopes.htm To continue our recent alphabet theme, here are some photos of the month, brought to you by the letter R. 

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Q and A with a real, live Niels Bohr Library & Archives researcher!

We are delighted to welcome author Jeffrey Orens to the blog! Orens is a former chemical engineer and business executive with Solvay Chemical who has written for several history publications. His first book is entitled The Soul of Genius: Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, and the Meeting that Changed the Course of Science, which will be available on July 6, 2021 from Pegasus Books. We first heard about the book when he researched with us last year and we were thrilled that he agreed to answer our questions about his book. 


Please tell us a bit about the book. What drew you to the Solvay Conference and the meeting between Albert Einstein and Marie Curie?

My initial attraction to the Solvay Conference came in the form of a picture. It’s often referred to as “The Most Intelligent Picture Ever Taken,” a shot of the participants of the 1927 Fifth Solvay Conference on Physics. Seventeen of the twenty-nine participants at the conference were, or would eventually become, Nobel Prize winners in physics or chemistry.

I had recently become employed by Solvay Chemical via a merger with my previous company, Cytec Industries. Many Solvay offices have a life-sized image of this picture gracing a wall, a reminder of the heritage of the company and its dedication to science. Albert Einstein and Marie Curie are clearly seen in the first of three rows of scientists in the picture, impassively staring out at the observers along with the others in the black and white photo. The picture sparked a desire to learn more about these individuals and what brought them together.

Monday, 28 June 2021

Hello, history-of-science horde! Here we’ll happily heed historical happenings having highly-held heroines, HBCUs, humanitarian helpers, and hypothesis-supporting hollows. 

In other words: In a continuation of last month’s alphabetically themed photos of the month, let’s explore the letter H in the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives!

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Happy Pride Month! Please enjoy this list of books and articles by LGBTQ+ scientists and books about queer science issues and history, recommended by your favorite Niels Bohr Librarians and Archivists. From biographies to science popularizations to best practices guides and fiction, there’s a little something here for everyone:

Friday, 4 June 2021

In early 2019, the Niels Bohr Library & Archives (NBLA) acquired a book of particular interest to both the history of science generally and our personal history as an archive: Emilio Segrè’s own copy of the physics textbook he wrote, Nuclei and Particles (1965). 

Physics textbooks have something of a reputation for being on the dry side, especially older ones written for a university-level audience, as is the case with Nuclei and Particles: An Introduction to Nuclear and Subnuclear Physics. However, I would argue that there are elements of these older physics textbooks that spark interest and lines of intrigue, even in a non-physicist such as myself.

Friday, 21 May 2021

May Photos of the Month

NBL&A is having so much fun with our rare book ABCs series; we’re expanding our alphabet-based collection exploration to the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives. I've decided to kick off May's Photos of the Month by highlighting terms that begin with the letter S, quoted to be “the best letter of the alphabet” by your unbiased author, Sarah. 


Wednesday, 28 April 2021

April Photos of the Month

People have been fascinated by alchemy since ancient times. Little did they know, however, their dreams to convert the lead into gold would one day result in breakthrough cures and unprecedented imaging capabilities for physicians.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Collection Development in an Unusual Year

I don’t think there’s much left to write about 2020 that hasn’t already been written. We can all agree that it was a challenging year. We spent the months of March - July with almost no access to our physical collections. And from July - December we had very limited access. But we didn’t let that stop us from growing our collections in exciting new ways. This blog is hopefully the first in a series that will shine a spotlight on some of the library’s newest acquisitions. 

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

A Deep Dive into an NBLA Acquisition

The Niels Bohr Library & Archives has recently acquired a rather unusual book of poetry and photographs written by missionary and physicist Laura Dickinson. Despite its unassuming cover, this book, entitled Optimism and Other Poems, has some unique touches, including an inscription by the author to a “Cousin Carrie,” as well as, still tucked within its pages, a bookmark belonging to an early owner. Cousin Carrie was likely Dickinson’s second cousin, Carrie Gaylord, who worked at Spelman College as a Matron and then Hostess. Inside the book are 40 short poems, as well as 6 photographs also taken by Dickinson.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

March Photos of the Month

Last month, humanity got a small break from the humdrum reality of lockdown life on Earth to celebrate otherworldly scientific achievement:

The Perseverance rover successfully landed on the Jezero Crater of Mars on February 18, 2021. Events like these always boggle my mind with their sheer human scientific ingenuity - cool enough on its own - but I also enjoyed this chance to contemplate the existence of astrobiology, a.k.a. one of my favorite science fiction tropes ever: aliens! The Perseverance’s mission is to “seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.” Besides the aliens (!), equally sci-fi worthy goals of the mission include technological demonstration of the rover’s equipment for future missions to Mars, as well as geological exploration of the planet. As the Perseverance explores the terrain, the mission’s team will assign names to the geological features it encounters in Navajo, in cooperation with the Navajo Nation. 

The Perseverance’s hunt for traces of long-extinct Martian microorganisms inspired me to think about the history of our search for extraterrestrial life (SETI) and the history of our attempts to contact this life. Although we do not anticipate reciprocal communication on this mission, I would consider the search for evidence of life to be a kind of contact in itself. On a somewhat silly note, March seems an auspicious month to think about Mars and SETI, as the month of March in French is “mars,'' and World Contact Day is celebrated on March 15th. On a more serious note, I wondered what threads of the scientifically grounded story of our search for life and contact might be lurking in our photo collections. Let’s take a look.