Nye, Mary Jo 1944-

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Nye, Mary Jo 1944-

PERSONAL:

Born December 5, 1944, in Nashville, TN; daughter of Joe Allen and Mildred Mann; married Robert Allen Nye, February 17, 1968; children: Lesley Noel. Education: Attended Vanderbilt University, 1962-64; University of Wisconsin, B.A., 1965, Ph.D., 1970.

ADDRESSES:

Home—OR. Office—History Department, 306 Milam Hall, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

University of Oklahoma, Tulsa, from assistant professor to full professor, 1970-1994; University of Oregon, Corvallis, professor of humanities and history, 1994—. Served as visiting professor at University of Pittsburgh, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Harvard University, and Rutgers University; also served as a By-Fellow at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, and a visiting scholar, Max Planck Institut fuer Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin, Germany.

MEMBER:

American Academy of Arts and Sciences, fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, fellow, Phi Beta Kappa.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Dexter Award for Outstanding Achievement in the History of Chemistry, given by the Division of the History of Chemistry of the American Chemical Society, 1999; Sarton Medal for Lifetime Scholarly Achievement, History of Science Society, 2006.

WRITINGS:

Molecular Reality: A Perspective on the Scientific Work of Jean Perrin, American Elsevier (New York, NY), 1972.

The Question of the Atom: From the Karlsruhe Congress to the First Solvay Conference, 1860-1911: A Compilation of Primary Sources, Tomash Publishers (Los Angeles, CA), 1984.

Science in the Provinces: Scientific Communities and Provincial Leadership in France, 1860-1930, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1986.

(Editor, with Joan L. Richards and Roger H. Stuewer) The Invention of Physical Science: Intersections of Mathematics, Theology, and Natural Philosophy since the Seventeenth Century: Essays in Honor of Erwin N. Hiebert, Kluwer Academic Publishers (Boston, MA), 1992.

From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry: Dynamics of Matter and Dynamics of Disciplines, 1800-1950, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1993.

Before Big Science: The Pursuit of Modern Chemistry and Physics, 1800-1940, Twayne Publishers (New York, NY), 1996.

(Editor, with David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers) The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 5: Modern Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 2002.

Blackett: Physics, War, and Politics in the Twentieth Century, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS:

Writer and educator Mary Jo Nye was born December 5, 1944, in Nashville, Tennessee. She began her undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University, then continued on to earn her bachelor's degree at the University of Wisconsin, where she also earned a doctorate. Over the course of her career, Nye has taught at a number of universities, both on faculty and as a visiting professor, including the University of Oklahoma, the University of Pittsburgh, Harvard University, and the University of Oregon. She has served as a professor of humanities and history at Oregon since 1994. Nye's primary areas of research and academic interest include the history of science, particularly chemistry and physics, since the eighteenth century, focusing in particular on the United States, Great Britain, and Europe. She is also interested in the social and cultural aspects of science, including laboratory work and scientific education at the university level, how scientists relate to politics, and how philosophy applies to scientific study, including the ways that theory and evidence relate to one another. Her research has resulted in a number of books, including The Question of the Atom: From the Karlsruhe Congress to the First Solvay Conference, 1860-1911: A Compilation of Primary Sources, Science in the Provinces: Scientific Communities and Provincial Leadership in France, 1860-1930, From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry: Dynamics of Matter and Dynamics of Disciplines, 1800-1950, Before Big Science: The Pursuit of Modern Chemistry and Physics, 1800-1940, and Blackett: Physics, War, and Politics in the Twentieth Century.

Science in the Provinces examines the different types of facilities that performed scientific work in the French provinces during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Rather than attempt to cover all such facilities, Nye concentrates on a few examples and provides in-depth looks at their characteristics and policies, focusing on a single scientist of import at each one. In addition, she analyzes how location affected each facility, mentioning any rivalries between scientists and how proximity between nations—in this case France and Germany, known for their animosity toward one another—often encouraged competition. R. Steven Turner, reviewing the book for Science, commented that "the approach is brilliantly successful, yielding a fine integration of scientific biography, institutional history, and internalist analysis."

In Before Big Science, Nye seeks to provide readers with a comprehensive history of science, primarily physics and chemistry, leading up to the major scientific discoveries of the mid-twentieth century. Specialization in science officially began at the start of the nineteenth century, and so that is approximately where Nye begins her review. By 1940, government sponsorship of scientific activity, particularly as it pertained to research into nuclear power and into various illnesses that are traditionally pre-treated through vaccination, had become widespread, and so Nye ends her survey at this point. She addresses the major points of scientific achievement during the years between, particularly regarding atomic theory and also the development of organic chemistry as a field. Seymour Mauskopf, reviewing for Science, noted that Nye fails to cover biochemistry, and that there is little comparison of the advancements between different fields of science. However, overall he praised the book, concluding that "what Nye has wrought is, in fact, an extraordinarily well-knit and comprehensive historical account of the development of modern physical science."

Blackett, Nye's biography of Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, a British physicist and winner of the Nobel prize, addresses the issue of mixing politics with science, and whether the two can co-mingle without risk of putting the interests of one before the interests of the other. Blackett was a respected and accomplished scientist and researcher, but as Nye reveals, he was also a political leader known for speaking his mind regarding politics and war in addition to the direction in which science should develop. The question arises as to whether these interests are mutually exclusive and whether to engage in both causes a conflict that is ultimately damaging to the progress of either field. Nye notes that Blackett attended Cambridge University at a time between the two World Wars, at which point political discussion, particularly among intellectuals of his class, was de rigueur. With the rise of Hitler, and the approach of World War Two, Blackett sought to apply his scientific knowledge toward ways in which Great Britain's defenses could be improved. While in many instances his work resulted in improved tactics, he also created tension between allies, particularly in the case of disagreements between British and U.S. strategists regarding the development of nuclear weaponry. Nye is careful to relate Blackett's general scientific achievements as separate from his war efforts, but also notes where his interests overlapped. In 1948, he received a Nobel Prize in Physics, and Nye also recounts the politics leading up to the award. Reviewing the book for American Scientist, W. Patrick McCray wrote: "By displaying his commitment to science and society through his moral courage, Blackett exemplified the modern scientist acting as a good public citizen."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Historical Review, April, 1987, H.W. Paul, review of Science in the Provinces: Scientific Communities and Provincial Leadership in France, 1860-1930, p. 431; October, 2005, Robert Bud, review of Blackett: Physics, War, and Politics in the Twentieth Century, p. 1250.

American Scientist, March 1, 2005, W. Patrick McCray, "Political Science," p. 186.

Biography, fall, 2005, Patrick McCray, review of Blackett.

BJHS: The British Journal for the History of Science, June, 1995, David Knight, review of From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry: Dynamics of Matter and Dynamics of Disciplines, 1800-1950, p. 242; March, 2006, Matthew Stanley, review of The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 5: Modern Physical and Mathematical Sciences, p. 123; March, 2007, Roy Macleod, review of Blackett, p. 150.

Chemical & Engineering News, June 27, 1994, John J. Gilman, review of From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry, p. 44.

Chemical Heritage, spring, 2005, "Where We Are."

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September, 1994, P.A. Gebauer, review of From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry, p. 145; May, 1997, review of Before Big Science: The Pursuit of Modern Chemistry and Physics, 1800-1940, p. 1520; April, 2005, E.R. Webster, review of Blackett, p. 1420.

Contemporary Sociology, November, 1987, H. Gilman McCann, review of Science in the Provinces, p. 866.

Isis, June, 1988, Susan Sheets-Pyenson, review of Science in the Provinces, p. 315; December, 1995, Frederic L. Holmes, review of From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry, p. 658; December, 2003, Stephen G. Brush, review of The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 5, p. 687.

Journal for the History of Astronomy, February, 2004, review of The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 5, p. 121.

Journal of Chemical Education, June, 1994, review of From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry, p. 164; July, 1997, David Todd, review of Before Big Science, p. 766.

Journal of Modern History, September, 1989, Rosemary M. Wakeman, review of Science in the Provinces, p. 619.

Journal of Social History, winter, 1992, review of Science in the Provinces.

Nature, May 20, 1999, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, review of Before Big Science, p. 220; January 27, 2005, "Armed Only with Knowledge: Physicist Patrick Blackett Made a Stand against Atomic Weapons," p. 359.

New Republic, August 1, 2005, "Particles of Truth," p. 28.

New Scientist, December 25, 2004, "Left and Right," p. 76.

Physics Today, August, 1997, Erwin N. Hiebert, review of Before Big Science, p. 56; September, 2005, David Edgerton, review of Blackett, p. 57.

Science, March 13, 1987, R. Steven Turner, review of Science in the Provinces, p. 1408; July 22, 1994, Diana Barkan, review of From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry, p. 551; April 11, 1997, Seymour Mauskopf, review of Before Big Science, p. 216.

SciTech Book News, March, 1987, review of Science in the Provinces, p. 4; March, 2003, review of The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 5, p. 11.

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, March, 1995, Mi Gyung Kim, review of From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry, p. 155; December, 2004, "Cry ‘Good for History, Cambridge and Saint George’?," p. 861.

Technology and Culture, July, 2005, Erik P. Rau, review of Blackett, p. 655.

Times Higher Education Supplement, September 19, 2003, "The Cantabrigian Tales," p. 30; January 28, 2005, "Frosty Face of a White-hot Intellect," p. 27.

Times Literary Supplement, April 11, 1997, David M. Knight, review of Before Big Science, p. 31.

ONLINE

American Institute of Physics Web site,http://www.aip.org/ (February 18, 2008), author profile.

Oregon State University History Department Web site,http://oregonstate.edu/cla/history/ (February 18, 2008), faculty profile.