Peter L. Galison

Peter Galison’s work in writing and film explores the complex interaction between the three principal subcultures of physics--experimentation, instrumentation, and theory—and the embedding of physics in the wider world.

In 1997, Galison was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship; he won a 1998 Pfizer Award (for Image and Logic); in 1999, he received the Max Planck and Humboldt Stiftung Prize; in 2017, the Pais Prize from the American Physical Society.  More recently, as a member of the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, he shared in the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for the capture of the first image of a black hole. 

His other books include How Experiments End (1987); Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps (2003); and Objectivity (with L. Daston, 2007). He has explored cross-currents between science and other domains including, Big Science (with B. Hevly); The Disunity of Science (with D. Stump); The Architecture of Science (with E. Thompson); Picturing Science, Producing Art (with C. A. Jones); Scientific Authorship (with M. Biagioli) and Einstein for the 21st Century (with G. Holton and S. Schweber).

Galison’s film on the moral-political debates over the H-bomb, Ultimate Weapon: The H-bomb Dilemma (2000, with P. Hogan) has been broadcast frequently. With Robb Moss, he directed Secrecy (2008) about national security secrecy and democracy premiered at Sundance, also directed with Moss, Containment (2015, premiered which launched at Full Frame Film Festival), about the need to guard radioactive materials for the 10,000-year future. As dramaturg, Galison collaborated with South African artist William Kentridge on a multi-screen installation, “The Refusal of Time” (2012) and the associated chamber opera, “Refuse the Hour.”

He is now finishing a book, “Building Crashing Thinking” about the back and forth between the self and modern technologies. In 2016, he established the Black Hole Initiative with colleagues in Astronomy, Physics, Mathematics. As part of his work at the BHI, he completed a film about these most mysterious objects, Black Holes | The Edge of All We Know (2020), currently available on Netflix, Amazon, and DVD.

His courses include: "Scientific Visualization: From Galileo to Black Holes,” "History and Philosophy of Experimentation;" "Fascism, Art and Science in the Interwar Years;" "Scientific Realism;" "The Einsteinian Revolution;" “Critical History,” “Doubt,” and “Filming Science.” Additionally, he leads regular meetings where students, faculty, and staff have the opportunity to present and discuss topics in the history and philosophy of physics, mathematics, technology, and, of course, black holes.