The Forum on the History of Physics (FHP) of the American Physical Society is proud to announce the 2020 History of Physics Essay Contest.
The contest is designed to promote interest in the history of physics among those not, or not yet, professionally engaged in the subject. Entries can address the work of individual physicists, teams of physicists, physics discoveries, or other appropriate topics. Entries should not exceed 2,500 words, including notes and references. Entries should be both scholarly and generally accessible to scientists and historians.
The contest is intended for undergraduate and graduate students, but is open to anyone without a PhD in either physics or history. Entries with multiple authors will not be accepted. Entries will be judged on originality, clarity, and potential to contribute to the field. Previously published work, or excerpts thereof, will not be accepted. The winning essay will be published as a Back Page in APS News and its author will receive a cash award of $1,000, plus support for travel to an APS annual meeting to deliver a talk based on the essay. The judges may also designate one or more runners-up, with a cash award of $500 each.
Entries will be judged by members of the FHP Executive Committee and are due by September 1, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. US Eastern Time. They should be submitted, as Word documents or PDFs, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with “Essay Contest” in the subject line. Entrants should supply their names, institutional affiliations (if any), mail and email addresses, and phone numbers. Winners will be announced by October 1, 2020.
The Essay Contest received a record number of entrants in 2019, with submissions from four continents and essay writers ranging from high school students to graduate students. The winning essay “A Changing Dichotomy: The Conception of the ‘Macroscopic’ and ‘Microscopic’ Worlds in the History of Physics” was submitted by Zhixin Wang, a graduate student in applied physics at Yale University. Wang's essay examines scientists' shifting views on the what distinguishes micro and macro over four centuries, from seventeenth-century hypotheses of hidden mechanical mechanisms as explanations for visible phenomena to more contemporary distinctions where it is not size, but quantum metrics that are often appealed to. This year's runner-up essay "Isabelle Stone: Breaking the Glass Ceiling with Thin Films and Teaching" was submitted by Melia Bonomo, a PhD candidate in applied physics at Rice University. Bonomo's essay charts the career of the largely unknown Stone who, under the supervision of Albert Michelson, became the first American woman to be awarded a physics doctoral degree in 1897 and went on to be a co-founder of the American Physical Society while making significant contributions to multiple schools of higher education that served women. These and other winning essays from previous years can be read below.