Paper 3

Instructions for Paper 3


An original research paper

Due Date

Ses #26


10–12 double-spaced pages. You should use standard margins (1-inch to 1.25-inches on each side of the page) and a 12-point font.


Your grade on Paper 3 will contribute 35% of your final course grade.

In this assignment you will be writing a 10–12 page paper that advances your own specific historical argument and supports it by citing primary and secondary sources. In order to construct and present your argument, you will have to bring to bear all of the skills that you have been practicing this semester. You should select one of the two topics listed below. Your paper must draw on at least two primary sources and at least four secondary sources. A "primary source" is any text written by a physicist at the relevant historical moment. For example, the 1949 report by the General Advisory Committee (GAC) to the Atomic Energy Commission is a primary source; the article analyzing the GAC report by historians Peter Galison and Bart Bernstein ("'In any light'...") is a secondary source.

For the two topics listed below, we have compiled a list of references and made them available on the course website. You are not required to restrict yourself to these sources; however, you are strongly encouraged to talk with Prof. Kaiser or the TAs to help you identify additional sources that might be of interest. Likewise, if you prefer to write about a different topic, you must discuss your topic ahead of time with us, so we can help you identify good sources to use.

Your paper must articulate an historical argument, with a clearly stated thesis, and back up that argument with specific examples from the primary and secondary sources. The goal is not to summarize what other historians have said about the topic. Use those historians' writings as information and sources to help you craft your own argument.

First, you should do a close reading of your primary sources. What exactly do the authors say? How do they argue for the points that they make? What is taken for granted? What remains ambiguous or unclear at the end of your reading? What do the authors assume about their readership? Are there obvious ways that the text has been shaped by its social, cultural, intellectual, institutional, or political context? Next you should read your secondary sources to determine how scholars have interpreted the events in question and to identify relevant themes or sources. Have historians understood these sources in the same way that you do? How do they position these sources in the flow of history? What points have been particularly interesting, contentious, or murky? What is your own interpretation about the events in question?

As you are reading and rereading your sources, take detailed notes. You will need to know where you found a particularly interesting quotation or idea so that you can cite the source properly. Proper footnote and bibliography citations are required.

When you start to compose your paper, think carefully about its structure. Do you have an introductory paragraph that sets up the problem, clearly states your thesis, and outlines your ensuing discussion? Do each of the points that you raise in the body of your paper support your thesis in a clear and compelling way? Do you have a concluding paragraph that wraps up your argument and gestures at its wider significance? Is your writing concise, precise, and explicit? Is it lively? Are your TAs going to fall to their knees and bless your name for putting such a thing of grace and beauty into their hands?

Topics for Paper 3

  1. Analyze some specific interrelationships between physicists and politics in the United States after World War II.

  2. Examples of Primary Sources

    1. Amazon logo York, Herbert. "The GAC report of October 30, 1949." In The Advisors: Oppenheimer, Teller, and the Superbomb(Stanford Nuclear Age Series). 2nd ed. Stanford University Press, 1989 [1976], pp. 153–62. ISBN: 9780804717144. Reprinted. [Preview with Google Books]
    2. Amazon logo Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. Soviet Atomic Espionage. Government Printing Office, 1951, pp. 1–37. ISBN: 9781589631342.
    3. Excerpts from FBI file on J. Robert Oppenheimer.
    4. Amazon logo Polenberg, Richard, ed. In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: The Security Clearance Hearing (Cornell Paperbacks). Cornell University Press, 2002, pp. 94–111. ISBN: 9780801437830.

    Examples of Secondary Sources

    1. Bernstein, Bart. "'In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer.'" Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 12 (1982): 195–252.
    2. Forman, Paul. "Behind Quantum Electronics: National Security As Basis for Physical Research in the United States, 1940–1960." Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 18 (1987): 149-229.
    3. Galison, Peter, and Barton Bernstein. "'In Any Light': Scientists and the Decision to Build the Hydrogen Bomb." Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 19 (1989): 267–347.
    4. Wang, Jessica. "Science, Security, and the Cold War: The Case of E. U. Condon." Isis 83 (1992): 238–69.
    5. Kaiser, David. "The Atomic Secret in Red Hands? American Suspicions of Theoretical Physicists During the Early Cold War." Representations 90 (2005): 28–60. (This resource may not render correctly in a screen reader.PDF)
    6. Freire, Olival. "Science and Exile: David Bohm, the Cold War, and a New Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics." Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 36 (2005): 1–34.
    7. Kaiser, David. "The Physics of Spin: Sputnik Politics and American Physicists in the 1950s." Social Research 73 (2006): 1225–52.

  3. Analyze specific instances of the involvement of German physicists with nuclear weapons research during World War II.

  4. Examples of Primary Sources

    1. Amazon logo Hentschel, Klaus, ed. Selections from Physics and National Socialism: An Anthology of Primary Sources. Translated by Ann Hentschel. Birkhäuser Basel, 1996, pp. 332–406. ISBN: 9783764353124. [Preview with Google Books] [This contains several separate primary sources; you need not draw on all of the sources included here.]
    2. Amazon logo Frank, Charles, ed. Farm Hall Transcripts. University of California Press, 1993, pp. 70–91. ISBN: 9780520084995.
    3. Documents regarding the 1941 meeting in Copenhagen between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, available on-line at the Niels Bohr Archive website.

    Examples of Secondary Sources

    1. Amazon logo Powers, Thomas. Heisenberg's War: The Secret History of the German Bomb. Knopf, 1993, pp. 110–52 and plus endnotes on pp. 506-16. ISBN: 9780394514116.
    2. Amazon logo Walker, Mark. Nazi Science: Myth, Truth, and the German Atomic Bomb. Basic Books, 1995, pp. 183–268 and plus endnotes on pp. 301–16. ISBN: 9780306449413.
    3. Amazon logo Cassidy, David. Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg. W. H. Freeman, 1992, pp. 417–46 and plus endnotes on pp. 621–6.
    4. Carson, Cathryn. Particle Physics and Cultural Politics: Werner Heisenberg and the Shaping of a Role for the Physicist in Postwar West Germany. Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1995, pp. 250–334.