Peter L. Galison

Peter Galison’s work explores the complex interaction between the three principal subcultures of physics--experimentation, instrumentation, and theory.

In 1997, Galison was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship; he won a 1998 Pfizer Award (for Image and Logic); and in 1999, he received the Max Planck and Humboldt Stiftung Prize. His books include How Experiments End (1987), Image and Logic (1997), Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps (2003), and Objectivity (with L. Daston, 2007).  With collaborators he has organized a series of books about the cross-currents between science and other domains including, Big Science (with Bruce Hevly); The Disunity of Science (with David Stump); The Architecture of Science (with Emily Thompson); Picturing Science, Producing Art (with Caroline A. Jones); Scientific Authorship (with Mario Biagioli) and Einstein for the 21st Century (with Gerald Holton and Sylvan Schweber).

His film on the moral-political debates over the H-bomb, “Ultimate Weapon: The H-bomb Dilemma” (2000, with Pamela Hogan) has been shown frequently on the History Channel and is widely used in courses. With Robb Moss, he directed “Secrecy” (2008) which premiered at Sundance, and, also with Moss, recently completed “Containment” (2015, premiered at Full Frame Film Festival), about the need to guard radioactive materials for the 10,000-year future. Galison collaborated with South African artist William Kentridge on a multi-screen installation, “The Refusal of Time” (2012) and the 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, and Observational Astrophysics—and is now working on a film about knowledge, philosophy, and these strangest of all objects.

His courses include: "History and Philosophy of 20th-Century Physics;" "History and Philosophy of Experimentation;" "Fascism, Art and Science in the Interwar Years;" "Scientific Realism;" "The Einsteinian Revolution;" seminars on Critical History and on the History and Philosophy of Theory in 20th Century Physics; and "Filming Science." Additionally, he leads weekly meetings of Harvard's Physical Sciences Research Group where students, faculty, and staff have the opportunity to present and discuss relevant topics in the history of science including the history of mathematics and the history of technology.

For more information, please see Professor Galison's homepage with the Department of Physics.