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Lillian Hoddeson named to History of Science Chair at Illinois
Lynn, Humanities Editor
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by L. Brian Stauffer
|Lillian Hoddeson has been named the first Thomas Siebel Chair in the
History of Science at the University of Illinois. Hoddeson has been a professor of history at Illinois since 1989.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —
Lillian Hoddeson has been named the first Thomas Siebel Chair in the
History of Science at the University of Illinois.
Hoddeson, a professor
of history at Illinois since
1989, as well as a research physicist, an affiliate of the Beckman
Institute, and a Campus Honors
Program professor, holds a doctorate in physics. She has had “a
long and distinguished career as a historian of science with commitments
to rigorous academic research and to the translation of that work into
more popular forms and forums,” said Antoinette Burton, the chair
of the history department.
“Lillian is internationally known and well respected not only
among historians of science but also among physicists, a rare accomplishment
in the field,” Burton said. “Her global reputation has been
linked to historicizing the production of scientific knowledge at Illinois
and in the state more generally.”
Burton said that as co-author and editor of no fewer than seven books
and more than 50 articles in refereed journals and collections in the
history of science or technology, Hoddeson is “one of the premier
historians of modern physics in the world. The department of history
is honored to announce her appointment and is grateful to Thomas Siebel
for his generosity in endowing the chair,” Burton said.
Siebel, who earned four degrees at Illinois, made the new chair possible
with a $2 million endowment. Hoddeson was chosen by a committee of her
Siebel, the founder and former chairman of Siebel Systems Inc., has
made several large gifts to the university over the past decade, including
the 225,000-square-foot Siebel
Center for Computer Science, a laboratory where physical and digital
infrastructures are coupled with humans to create an integrated ecosystem.
Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus, described Siebel
as “among our most truly accomplished alumni.”
Hoddeson specializes in the history of 20th-century science and technology,
including modern physics, electronics, atomic weapons, “big science,”
and oral history. Her current research interests also include memory
and the nature of scientific creativity, studies that draw on her training
in physics, her years of research in the history of science and her
research in the 1960s on how children learn science.
Hoddeson is working on three book projects: a biographical study of
Stanford Ovshisky, an inventor of alternative energy technologies; a
monograph on oral history and human memory; and a study of the discontinued
Superconducting SuperCollider project. A history of “megascience”
at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is currently in press.
Her most recently published books are a history of the transistor, “Crystal
Fire: the Birth of the Information Age,” with Michael Riordan;
a biography of John Bardeen, “True Genius: the Life and Science
of John Bardeen,” with Vicki Daitch; and the edited collection
“No Boundaries: University of Illinois Vignettes.”
In 1999 “Crystal Fire” won the first Sally Hacker Prize
from the Society for the History of Technology for the best book on
technology in the previous two years aimed at popular and academic audiences.
“True Genius” was recognized as one of the best intellectual
reads of 2002 by the Times Higher Education Supplement and was the Silver
Winner 2002 for Biography in ForeWard Magazine’s Book of the Year
Hoddeson also is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Center
for Advanced Study at Illinois, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial
Foundation in 2000. She is a 2001 U. of I. Liberal Arts and Sciences
(LAS) Faculty Fellow in a Second Discipline, cognitive psychology, and
a 2000-2001 U. of I. LAS Alumni Scholar.
Three major themes run through Hoddeson’s research: solid-state
physics, “big science,” and, more recently, memory and creativity.
Between 1975 and 1980, she explored the roots of industrial research
and solid-state physics at Bell Telephone Laboratories, where the first
transistor was developed.
In 1980, as research director of the American section of the International
Project on the History of Solid-State Physics, she organized the writing
of the major history volume, “Out of the Crystal Maze: Chapters
From the History of Solid-State Physics,” which she co-edited
with Ernest Braun, Jürgen Teichmann and Spencer Weart.
She then embarked on the two overlapping projects that resulted in “Crystal
Fire” and “True Genius.”
In the course of studying the history of the atomic bomb, Hoddeson helped
found the Los Alamos archives and history program and co-write the first
technical history of building the A-bomb based on the full complement
of classified as well as unclassified documents. That history is titled
“Critical Assembly: a History of Los Alamos During the Oppenheimer
Hoddeson also established a national archives and history program focused
on particle accelerators and particle physics at Fermilab.
With Laurie Brown and others she organized three international symposia
on the history of particle physics, which resulted in three edited volumes,
“The Birth of Particle Physics,” “Pions to Quarks,”
and “The Rise of the Standard Model.”
Hoddeson’s extensive use of oral history interviews as a research
tool and her regular graduate seminar on the same subject “have
brought her deeply into questions of individual and collective memory,”
Burton said. Hoddeson explored this interest in an interdisciplinary
collaboration with other historians, as well as with writers, psychologists,
engineers, and sociologists in a faculty seminar under the auspices
of the Illinois Program for Research
in the Humanities, and later, the Center for Advanced Study. She
currently is working with Thomas Anastasio in the NeuroTech group at
the Beckman Institute on an outgrowth of the memory project in a cross-disciplinary
study of analogies between the memory processes of neural and social