Abstract: Using newly uncovered archival sources, this essay traces the meteoric rise and fall of the peculiar interdisciplinary German scientific journal Physis, founded by the physicist Pascual Jordan and the biologist Adolf Meyer-Abich in 1941. Launched when victory for Nazi Germany seemed certain, Physis was intended by Jordan and Meyer-Abich to be a premier international journal for all sciences suitable for the new “German-led Europe” forged by conquest. Yet the journal was simultaneously a vehicle for institutionalizing Jordan’s remarkably prescient vision of the future of the scientific enterprise in Hitler’s state—a vision nearly identical to what is now termed “big science,” yet suitably “Nazified” for wartime Germany. Behind the scenes, Physis was accompanied by a campaign of intrigue, through which Jordan and Meyer-Abich hoped to find a patron for the journal and big science among the various power centers of the Nazi state. These efforts failed, yet they nevertheless demonstrate that big science is not inherently democratic.
Review of Jan Rüger and Nikolaus Wachsmann, eds, Rewriting German History: New Perspectives on Modern Germany, H-Net Online, 2017. [link]
This edited volume (published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015) is a Festschrift for historian Richard J. Evans containing sixteen essays written by Evans’s former doctoral students. All of the contributions touch on modern German history. I examine the volume from the perspective of a historian of science; as I conclude, it “provides a superb snapshot of current trends in German historical research, and can be recommended to any historians of science whose interests touch on the German-speaking world.”