Throughout the twentieth century, sciences experienced major reconfigurations in all aspects that characterized their quest, reconfigurations that were conceptual, technological, social, political, economic. Nowhere were these transformations more tangible than in the trajectory of physics and physical sciences where the passage from a small-scale curiosity-driven pursuit to a large-scale military-sensitive field manifested itself in all its dramatic consequences. This umbrella theme includes research projects aimed at uncovering the historical dynamics of major reconfigurations in physics, as well as in the activities of physicists with respect to changing political contexts. These investigations are not limited to understanding how the changing social environment influenced the content of physical sciences, but also how science and scientists acted to transform such contexts via diplomatic and political actions. This umbrella theme is the programmatic continuation of long-term research projects pursued in Department I on major conceptual reconfigurations in theoretical physics. These projects on the emergence and development of general relativity and quantum mechanics have been elaborated by situating careful reconstructions of the intellectual transformative processes in the broader socio-political context, focusing in particular on the institutional preconditions and social network dynamics of practitioners, as shown by a new series of books recently published in the series “Springer Briefs in the History of Science and Technology,” the final outcome of the project on the history and foundations of quantum physics.
Research Theme (2017-)