Roberto Lalli

Research Scholar (Jul 2013-Mar 2024)

Affiliated with Max Planck Research Program (GMPG)

Roberto has been a Research Scholar in Department I since 2013; he also works with The Research Program “History of the Max Planck Society” (GMPG). Since 2018 he has been working within the multi-institutional Berlin Center for Machine Learning where he develops approaches for the application of machine-learning techniques to the history of recent sciences. After gaining a MSc in physics in 2006 at the University of Milan, in 2011 he received a PhD in International History at the same university, engaging with comparative approaches to national receptions of modern physical theories. His career continued as a post-doctoral fellow in the History of Modern Physical Sciences at MIT’s Program of Science, Technology, and Society, where he engaged more intensively with the conceptual frameworks and methodologies of science studies.

His research focuses on the social, political, and epistemic aspects of knowledge production in the physical sciences, including its circulation and certification, from the second half of the nineteenth century to the present. Combining elements from a broad range of disciplines, including contemporary transnational history, science studies, and digital humanities, he investigates the dynamics between the diffusion of novel theoretical conceptualizations in their social and political contexts, and the infrastructural developments within their evaluation systems. A parallel line of research concerns the history of science diplomacy during the Cold War and provides a new conceptualization for the activities of the scientists who may be interpreted as non-state agents in the international political arena.




Changing Contexts and Practices of Basic Science during the Twentieth Century


Networks, Network Science, and Knowledge Graphs


Socio-epistemic networks: Modelling Historical Knowledge Processes


The Formation of the Research Field of General Relativity—Social Networks and Semantic Modeling


The Renaissance of General Relativity in the Post-World War II Period


The Role of Institutions and Commissions in Forming Research Agendas: Networks and Mass Digitization


No projects were found for this scholar.

Selected Publications

Lalli, Roberto (2021). “Crafting Europe from CERN to Dubna: Physics as Diplomacy in the Foundation of the European Physical Society.” Centaurus 63 (1): 103–131.

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Lalli, Roberto, Riaz Tony Howey, and Dirk Wintergrün (2020). “The Dynamics of Collaboration Networks and the History of General Relativity, 1925–1970.” Scientometrics 122 (2): 1129–1170.

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Blum, Alexander S., Roberto Lalli, and Jürgen Renn (2018). “Gravitational Waves and the Long Relativity Revolution.” Nature Astronomy 2 (7): 534–543.

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Lalli, Roberto (2016). “‘Dirty work’, but someone has to do it : Howard P. Robertson and the refereeing practices of ‘Physical Review’ in the 1930s.” Notes and Records 70 (2): 151–174.

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Renn, Jürgen, Dirk Wintergrün, Roberto Lalli, Manfred Laubichler, and Matteo Valleriani (2016). “Netzwerke als Wissensspeicher.” In Die Zukunft der Wissensspeicher : Forschen, Sammeln und Vermitteln im 21. Jahrhundert, ed. J. Mittelstraß and U. Rüdiger, 35–79. München: UVK Verlagsgesellschaft Konstanz.

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Blum, Alexander S., Roberto Lalli, and Jürgen Renn (2015). “The reinvention of general relativity : a historiographical framework for assessing one hundred years of curved space-time.” Isis 106 (3): 598–620.

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Lalli, Roberto (2013). “Anti-relativity in action : the scientific activity of Herbert E. Ives between 1937 and 1953.” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 43 (1): 41–104.

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Lalli, Roberto (2012). “The Reception of Miller’s Ether-Drift Experiments in the USA: The History of a Controversy in Relativity Revolution.” Annals of Science 69 (2): 153–214.

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Presentations, Talks, & Teaching Activities

“Establishing a Scientific Field in the Post-WWII Era: A Network Analysis of the Renaissance of Einstein’s Theory of Gravitation.”

Invited talk at the Image, Knowledge Gestaltung. An Interdisciplinary Laboratory. Humboldt Universität

“Back with a Flourish: Social and Epistemic Factors in the post-WWII Renaissance of General Relativity.”

Invited talk at the 36th Congress of the Italian Society for the History of Physics and Astronomy (SISFA)

‘Dirty work’ but someone has to do it: Howard P. Robertson and the refereeing practices of Physical Review in the 1930s.

invited talk at the conference Publish or Perish? Scientific Periodicals from 1665 to the Present, Royal Society, London

Building the Relativity Community in Post-World War II Era: The Role of Communication Channels and Stabilization Processes in the Renaissance of General Relativity

Space-Time Theories: Historical and Philosophical Contexts, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

Special Relativity in the USA (1920-1940): The Relationship between Experimental Confirmations and Theoretical Controversies

Invited talk at the 99th Congress of the Italian Physical Society (SIF), Trieste

‘Geometry as a Branch of Physics’: Philosophy at Work in Howard P. Robertson’s Contributions to Relativity Theories

SILFS 2014, Triennial International Conference of the Italian Society for Logic and Philosophy of Science, Rome.

Quantum Theory Enters the Bell System Laboratories: Communcating conceptual changes in an industrial laboratories

6th International Conference of the European Society for the History of Science

Establishing the standards for publication in theoretical physics: Howard P. Robertson and the refereeing practice in the United States (1930-1940)

“An Intellectual Life across Disciplines: Colloquium in Honour of John Stachel’s 85th Birthday,” at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany

Anti-Relativity in Action: The Scientific Activity of Herbert E. Ives between 1937 and 1953

Fishbein Workshops for the History of Science and Medicine, at the University of Chicago

The Interplay of Theoretical Assumptions and Experimental Practice in the History of 20th Century Ether-Drift Experiment

Invited talk at the 33th congress of the Italian Society for the History of Physics and Astronomy (SISFA), Acireale

Transferring the ether concept in the USA: Herbert E. Ives’s theory and his opposition to relativity

HSS/BSHS/CSHPS 3-Society 2012 Meeting, Philadelphia, PA

Developing Consensus on Relativity: The Controversy about Miller’s Ether-Drift Experiments

HSS Annual Meeting, Cleveland, OH

“‘The Renaissance of Physics’: Karl K. Darrow (1891-1982) and the Dissemination of Quantum Theory at the Bell Telephone Laboratories,”

Fourth conference on the History of Quantum Physics, San Sebastián, Spain

Introduction to Historical Network Research

Technische Universität Berlin

History of modern physics

University of Milano

Course History of Science

Department of Philosophy, University of Turin