AIP Endowed Professor in History of Natural Sciences Named
September 09, 2019 History
Scholar and editor Melinda Baldwin selected as first AIP Endowed Professor in the History of Natural Sciences at Maryland.
History of science author and editor Melinda Baldwin has been named the AIP Endowed Professor in the History of Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland (UMD) in partnership with the American Institute of Physics (AIP), effective fall 2020.
The professorship was made possible by a $1 million pledge by AIP to the University of Maryland’s College of Arts and Humanities. The ongoing collaboration between the college and AIP’s Center for the History of Physics will encourage deeper insight into the nature and origin of the physical sciences and their impact on society.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity to work at the University of Maryland, which is an amazing flagship institution and research university with strength in the sciences and humanities,” says Baldwin. “I’m excited to be part of the effort to connect AIP’s resources to UMD students and to contribute to both organizations.”
AIP made the pledge to the university as part of a multi-million ongoing investment in developing a world-class archive and history programs at its College Park headquarters. As the AIP Endowed Professor in the History of Natural Sciences at UMD, Baldwin will teach a wide range of history of science courses as well as serve as a mentor to students.
“We look forward to welcoming Melinda Baldwin to campus,” says Philip Soergel, chair of UMD’s Department of History. “The endowed professorship allows us to renew our commitment to the history of physics and the physical sciences and provides an invaluable opportunity for students to expand their research.”
Baldwin is a senior editor for Physics Today, AIP's flagship magazine, and author of “Making ‘Nature’: The History of a Scientific Journal.” She earned a master’s and a doctoral degree in history from Princeton University, a master’s in history and philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and history from Davidson College.
“Melinda is a tremendous colleague and contributes to our mission every day at the American Institute of Physics,” said Michael Moloney, CEO of the AIP. “We are delighted Melinda was chosen by the College of Arts and Humanities for this professorship, and we know our future collaborations will be a loud statement of partnership with our neighbors here in College Park.”
Beyond her work with AIP, Baldwin has teaching experience at Harvard University and York University, specifically having taught classes on the history of science and its relationship with society. She has written several research and professional articles and is a member of the American Physical Society Forum on the History of Physics Executive Committee and on the History of Science Society’s Committee on Advocacy.
“I love bringing primary sources into the classroom that show historical actors grappling with the implications of a new scientific theory or finding, for example, poems about X-rays, or science fiction about genetic engineering,” Baldwin said. “I think those kinds of sources help students put the history of science in conversation with political and cultural history, and they usually get students excited and engaged as well.”
In addition to teaching, Baldwin will collaborate with AIP on conferences and public lectures. She will have access to their Niels Bohr Library and Archives as well as the recently acquired Wenner Collection of rare books and manuscripts that contains nearly 4,000 books and publications documenting the important discoveries in physics and physical sciences going back 500 years.
Photo of Melinda Baldwin by Hyun Joo Kim/AIP.