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The collection
The Past will Forever Lead
the Future

The collection of rare books contains the most important discoveries in physical sciences over the past four centuries. The 3,800 volumes were carefully curated over a 25-year period by David Wenner and feature works by Ptolemy, Galileo, Huygens, Halley, Newton, Curie, LaPlace and more.

Enhancing the Niels Bohr Library & Archives

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is proud to own the Wenner Collection of rare books and materials and invites you to support the cataloguing, activation and digitization of the collection.  With generous support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, AIP will house and make available over 3800 items in the history of the physical sciences.

The Story

Activating the Rare Book Collection by making it broadly available
and searchable

The Wenner Collection of rare books and manuscripts is housed in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives now.  Plan to visit us in 2020 to see the collection and learn more about the cataloguing and promotion of the rare books through online exhibits, private tours, research opportunities and more. 

This video captures the promotion of the collection at the Danish Embassy on June 20, 2019 with special guest, Wilhelm Bohr, grandson on Niels Bohr.

In 1982 David Wenner began to assemble a collection of unique and rare books in the physical sciences, which soon began to outgrow his home library.  As Wenner relates:

“I figure that a collection of this size should be made accessible to others. My collection has outgrown my house and now also occupies two climate controlled storage rooms, and I have neither the means nor the energy to make it accessible to historians of science or the public.

AIP is the ideal organization to do that: It is a prestigious physics institution with an important library and the aspiration to increase its outreach and impact on the history of physics.” 

Physics Today: The history of physics, in 4000 manuscripts

Physics World article, February 2018

Wenner Collection arrives at AIP!

On May 24, 2018, after 1,000 miles of travel, the Wenner Collection of rare books and manuscripts arrived at AIP in College Park.  Over 3800 items were carefully wrapped and boxed in Florida and transported to College Park.  Each volume was then unpacked and unwrapped and placed on the shelves in the archives of the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.  Melanie Mueller, Director of the Niels Bohr Library & Archives, and Allison Rein, Assistant Director of Special Collections, supervised the rare book movers as they packed up the materials in Florida and made sure the individual volumes were shelved in College Park.  To learn more about the rare books’ arrival and to watch a video on the plans for activating the collection, see this video.

An Extraordinary Collection

Mr. Wenner did not set out to create the world's most complete collection of the history of physics.  He started by gathering the Nobel Prize winning physicists' works and gradually built his library to include the formative works of physical science.

Topics in the collection include classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, condensed matter physics, astrophysics, cosmology and particle physics.

“ The Wenner Collection is a comprehensive and coherent whole that tells the story of the history of physics through primary sources that is unprecedented in its breadth and depth...walking through Wenner's library, one gets the sense that one is walking through history. ”

Michael E. DiRuggiero
The Manhattan Rare Book Company

Testimonies from Friends of the Center for History of Physics

Michael D. Gordin

Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History
Director, Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts
Princeton University

"The American Institute of Physics has long been one of the world’s greatest resources for the history of physics. From the oral histories stored at the Center of the History of Physics, to its voluminous archives of scientific correspondence, to the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, it would be impossible to write the history of modern physics without building on the documents and materials that they have stewarded over many decades. Now with the extraordinary Wenner Collection, the AIP has become more indispensable than ever as a repository of the most important and scarcest sources necessary to uncover the legacy of this essential science."

Photo: Erika Lorraine Milam

"With the extraordinary Wenner Collection, the AIP has become more indispensable than ever as a repository of the most important and scarcest sources necessary to uncover the legacy of this essential science."

Michael G. Gordin
Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History
Princeton Uuiversity

Robert MorseRobert A. Morse

Physics Master Emeritus, St. Alban's High School, Washington, DC

"As a high school teacher, trained years ago in the Project Physics curriculum, I found reading in original works and older physics textbooks, fascinating in itself, also helped me develop my understanding and gave insights into crafting activities for students to build their conceptual understanding. For those reasons among others, I will continue to contribute to the Center for the History of Physics."

Photo: Breton Littlehales

“ This collection will transform the Niels Bohr Library & Archives and promote the study of the history of physics in the 18th and 19th century. ”

Robert A. Morse, Physics Master Emeritus
St. Albans School, Washington, DC.

Robert H.G. Helleman

The Center for History of Physics received a generous bequest from the estate of Robert H.G. Helleman.  Helleman was retired from the University of Houston where he was a professor in the department of physics.  Helleman was born in Dordrecht, the Netherlands and earned his Ph.D. in statistical mechanics from the University of Utrecht.  He earned a second doctorate in physics at Yeshiva University.

If you are interested in remembering the Center for History of Physics at AIP in your will, please contact Mariann Salisbury at 301-209-3098 or email msalisbury [at]

How you can help

For more information on how you can contribute to Physics Heritage & Promise please contact:

Mariann Salisbury, Director of Development
American Institute of Physics
One Physics Ellipse
College Park, MD 20740
(301) 209-3098
msalisbury [at]

Ready to Give?

Let's make history together!

Image credits

LIGO image: Karan Jani and Christopher Evans, Georgia Tech / All historical images courtesy of the AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives.