history

Building a particle physics laboratory requires more than physicists. Fermilab archivist Valerie Higgins has authored a paper available in the online physics repository arXiv, and earlier this month she published an op-ed for Physics World on the importance of capturing perspectives from all parts of the laboratory. She sat down with Symmetry writer Lauren Biron to discuss her thoughts.

From Physics World, April 23, 2019: Fermilab Archivist Valerie Higgins discusses how the contributions of support staff should not be forgotten when it comes to celebrating scientific breakthroughs. Modern scientific research is often conducted through large organizational structures and thousands of participants. For archivists and others interested in the history of scientific research, developing a complete picture requires an understanding not only of the work that scientists and technical staff do but also the contributions of support staff too.

How would your life be different if the internet and the World Wide Web were switched off forever? You might nostalgically think life would be better, but it would surely be very different. Try throwing away your cell phones and computers! Last month, March, was the 30th anniversary of a note written at CERN by Tim Berners-Lee (now Sir Tim) titled “Information Management: A Proposal.” That was the origin of the World Wide Web.

From Atlas Obscura, April 2, 2019: In February 1971, physicists at National Accelerator Laboratory began testing the biggest machine in the world: a ring-shaped, 200-billion-electronvolt proton synchrotron particle accelerator. The stakes were high. They soon ran into a perplexing problem: Magnets that were essential to its operation kept failing. The low-tech solution proposed for this high-tech trouble? A ferret named Felicia.

From CNN, March 7, 2019: Fermilab scientist Don Lincoln tells the history of the start of the World Wide Web, which has its 30th anniversary this month. It started an unpublished manuscript by Tim Berners-Lee titled “Information Management: A Proposal,” was submitted to the publication office of CERN.

From CNN, Feb. 20, 2019: Fermilab scientist Don Lincoln celebrates the 150th anniversary of the invention of the periodic table of elements, which epitomizes our modern understanding of chemistry. Displayed on the wall of chemistry classrooms, it is a vast chart of over 100 elements — the chemical building blocks of every substance you’ve ever seen.

A pair of 1964 films detailing the construction of Stanford Linear Accelerator Center were recently remastered and are now available for viewing on YouTube. The films provide a fascinating look back at the origins of SLAC and the history of particle physics in the United States. At the time of the production, SLAC was the largest civilian basic science project ever undertaken in the United States.

Visit the display case in the Fermilab Art Gallery to view scientific journals from the 17th and 18th centuries. Photo: Valerie Higgins

In a new series of exhibits in the Fermilab Art Gallery, the Fermilab Archives will feature influential works loaned by the private collection of a Fermilab scientist. It kicks off with the current exhibit, which features works from the 17th and 18th centuries. Each display, which will rotate approximately once a month, will consist of several volumes illustrating a common theme in the evolution of physics.