Institute of Field Physics, Inc: Pivate Patronage and The Renaissance of Gravitational Physics

The Institute of Field Physics was established at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1955, primarily to study gravitational physics. It was, in no small way, behind the shift from what Jean Eisenstaedt has labeled “the low water mark of general relativity” (1925-1955) to what Clifford Will has labelled “the renaissance of general relativity”. The Institute of Field Physics was the brainchild of Agnew Bahnson (closely guided by John Wheeler), a wealthy industrialist with a love physics (and physicists). It followed closely behind another such venture, the Gravity Research Foundation, established and underwritten by Roger Babson, again a wealthy businessman with a taste for physics (primarily all things Newtonian). Though seemingly unlikely, together these two businessmen transformed the research landscape of gravitational physics. In this talk I describe the evolution of gravity research (primarily quantum gravity) as driven by these and other forces, from 1947-1957. In so doing I aim to fill in what I take to be incompletenesses in other discussions of this important transition in the status of general relativity.

Harnack-Haus Tagungsstätte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Ihnestr. 16-20
14195 Berlin