Harvard Project Physics

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Project Physics, cover, main text

Harvard Project Physics was a national curriculum development project to create a secondary school physics education program in the United States. The project was active from 1962 to 1972, and produced the Project Physics series of texts, which were used in physics classrooms in the 1970s and 1980s. The project was centered at Harvard University, but drew from schools and educators from across the country. The directors of this project were: F. James Rutherford, Project Coordinator (and after completion of the project, Professor at the Department of Science Education at New York University); Gerald Holton, with the Department of Physics, Harvard University; and Fletcher G. Watson, with the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Project Physics course work was broken into six main subject areas - books:[1] The course also includes readers, tests, and other teaching aides.

  • Concepts of Motion, Project Physics Text and Handbook Volume1
  • Motion in the Heavens, Project Physics Text and Handbook Volume 2
  • The Triumph of Mechanics, Project Physics Text and Handbook Volume 3
  • Light and Electromagnetism Project Physics Text and Handbook 4
  • Models of the Atom, Project Physics Text and Handbook Volume 5
  • The Nucleus, Project Physics Text and Handbook Volume 6

-The texts and all other aids are available for free on the Project Physics Collection web site.

The books presented the material from a historical perspective with human interest wrapped into the text. The approach is quite sophisticated building a conceptual understanding of Physics while not over simplifying the curriculum. Frequent reference to the historical works where concepts were first discovered and debated drives to make physics a fundamental search for understanding of the universe.

In addition to the texts there were readers to further explore a topic and lab exercises to verify for ones self that the conclusions reached agree with nature.

See also[edit]


  • [1] "The Project Physics Course, Then and Now" by Gerald Holton, from the journal Science & Education
  • [2] "Harvard Project Physics: a report on its aims and current status" by Gerald Holton, from the journal Physics Education, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp. 19–25 (1969)
  • [3] "Harvard project physics - A cogent approach" by Arnold J. Moore, from Science Education
  • [4] an example of a slide rule developed for the project

External links[edit]