David C. Cassidy

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David Charles Cassidy (born August 10, 1945) is an American historian of science and professor emeritus at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York. His father, trained in history and business, was a labor-relations executive at the Ford Motor Company. His mother, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, became a librarian. Cassidy is best known for his contributions to the history of quantum mechanics, scientific biography, history of physics in Germany and the United States and, most recently, science-history drama.[1]


Born in Richmond, Virginia, Cassidy attended schools in Detroit, Michigan; Louisville, Kentucky; and northern New Jersey. He received the BA (1967) and MS (1970) degrees in physics at Rutgers University. His PhD (1976) was awarded in a unique arrangement involving Purdue University (physics) and the University of Wisconsin Madison (history of science). He completed his dissertation on Werner Heisenberg's route to quantum mechanics under the guidance of Daniel M. Siegel (Wisconsin history of science), Norman Pearlman (Purdue physics), and Vernard Foley (Purdue history).[2]


1976–1977. Research fellow with John L. Heilbron, Office for History of Science and Technology, University of California Berkeley.
1977–1980. Research fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation with Armin Hermann, University of Stuttgart, Germany.[3]
1980–1983. Assistant professor with Imre Toth, University of Regensburg, Germany.
1983–1990. Associate editor, The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volumes 1 and 2, in Princeton and Boston.[4]
1990–2015. Associate and full professor, Hofstra University.
2015–present. Professor emeritus, Hofstra University.

While in Stuttgart, Cassidy began his full-scale biography of Heisenberg. He also collaborated with Karl von Meyenn on the second volume of the scientific correspondence of Wolfgang Pauli, covering the 1930s.[5] This led to Cassidy’s pioneering paper on cosmic-ray showers and high-energy physics during the 1930s.[6] Additionally, he catalogued and abstracted Pauli's correspondence held in the Pauli Papers at the Scientific Information Service of CERN, near Geneva Switzerland. And he pursued 18th century meteorology in the archives and libraries of Geneva and Baden-Württemberg, which led to his paper on the Palatine Meteorological Society, the first reliable international meteorology network.[7]

While at Regensburg, Cassidy spent most of his time on the road in search of Heisenberg: first in the Heisenberg Papers in Munich, then across western and eastern Europe. He also assisted with the editing of the collected papers of Niels Bohr in Copenhagen and Heisenberg in Munich,[8] for which his complete bibliography of Heisenberg’s writings served as the basis.[9]

During leaves of absence from the Einstein Papers Project, funded by the US National Science Foundation, Cassidy completed his biography of Heisenberg in 1991.[10] Upon publication the following year, it helped bring about the transformation toward contemporary science biography.

During his years at Hofstra Cassidy taught in an interdisciplinary program of physical science for undergraduate non-science majors from a historical perspective. In addition to publishing Uncertainty, Cassidy co-authored a revision of the Harvard Project Physics textbook and other materials, updated for contemporary undergraduates,[11] He also completed a two-part study of post-war Allied occupation policy regarding German science,[12] before turning to Heisenberg’s American counterpart on the Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer. Since a full-scale biography was at that time nearing completion,[13] Cassidy’s work focused on the general themes raised by Oppenheimer, his physics, and the role of theoretical physics in U.S. history.[14]

The declassification of the Farm Hall transcripts in 1992[15] and the premiere production of Michael Frayn's Tony-award-winning play Copenhagen in 1998[16] drew Cassidy into the continuing controversies surrounding Heisenberg and the German war-time atomic project. At the suggestion of physicist Brian Schwartz, Cassidy took up the challenge of writing a theatrical play based upon the Farm Hall transcripts. With much help from dramatists his play Farm Hall reached the stage in a full production by Break A Leg Productions, New York, during the Midtown International Theatre Festival in July 2014.[17] It was published, along with historical and theatrical background essays, in 2017.[18]


Cassidy's honors and awards include the History of Science Society's Pfizer Award, the American Institute of Physics' Science Writing Award, the Abraham Pais Prize[19] of the American Physical Society, and an Honorary Doctorate of Science awarded by Purdue University.



  1. ^ "APS Physics | FHP | Recipient". Aps.org. 2016-11-01. Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  2. ^ ""Werner Heisenberg and the Crisis in Quantum Theory, 1920-1925." by David C. Cassidy". Docs.lib.purdue.edu. 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  3. ^ Martin Barth. "Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften und Technik". Uni-stuttgart.de. Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  4. ^ a b "Digital Einstein Papers Home". Einsteinpapers.press.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  5. ^ Wolfgang Pauli, Wissenschaftlicher Briefwechsel mit Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg u. a., vol. 2: 1930-1939, Karl von Meyenn, ed., with the collaboration of Armin Hermann and Victor F. Weisskopf (Springer-Verlag, 1985)
  6. ^ “Cosmic Ray Showers, High Energy Physics, and Quantum Field Theories: Programmatic Interactions in the 1930s,” Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences (HSPS), 12 (1981), 1-39
  7. ^ Meteorology in Mannheim: The Palatine Meteorological Society, 1781-1795 (PDF). 69. Leipzig: Sudhoffs Archiv. 1985. pp. 8–25. 
  8. ^ Werner Heisenberg, Gesammelte Werke, 9 vols., W. Blum, H.-P. Dürr, and H, Rechenberg, eds. (Springer and Piper, 1984-1989)
  9. ^ Werner Heisenberg: A Bibliography of His Writings (Second ed.). Whittier Publications. 2001. 
  10. ^ Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg (W. H. Freeman, 1992)
  11. ^ D. C. Cassidy; Gerald Holton; F. James Rutherford (2002). Understanding Physics. Springer-Verlag. 
  12. ^ Controlling German science, I: U.S. and Allied forces in Germany, 1945-1947, HSPS, 24 (1994), 197-235; Part II, HSPS, 26 (1996), 197-239
  13. ^ Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Vintage Books, 2006)
  14. ^ J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century (Pi Press, 2005; J. Hopkins Univ. Press, 2009)
  15. ^ Unedited publication: Operation Epsilon: The Farm Hall Transcripts (Institute of Physics Publishing, 1993)
  16. ^ Michael Frayn, Copenhagen (Methuen Drama and Anchor Books, 1998)
  17. ^ "Farm Hall - Home". Facebook. Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  18. ^ Farm Hall and the German Atomic Project of World War II: A Dramatic History (Springer)
  19. ^ "APS Physics | FHP | David C. Cassidy Wins 2014 Abraham Pais Prize". Aps.org. 2016-11-01. Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  20. ^ "Werner Heisenberg: A Bibliography of His Writings, by David Cassidy". History.aip.org. 2001-03-29. Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  21. ^ David C. Cassidy. "Understanding Physics". Dcassidybooks.com. Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  22. ^ "Plunkett Lake Press". Plunkett Lake Press. 2005-09-22. Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  23. ^ Lippincott, Sara (8 March 2009). "Review of Beyond Uncertainty by David C. Cassidy". Los Angeles Times. 
  24. ^ David C. Cassidy (2011-10-24). A Short History of Physics in the American Century. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2017-07-10.