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Jed Z. Buchwald

Doris and Henry Dreyfuss Professor of History
Jed Z. Buchwald
Contact information for Jed Z. Buchwald
Contact Method Value
Mail Code: MC 101-40
Office: 202 Dabney Hall
Phone: 626-395-3210
Administrative Assistant:
B.A., Princeton University, 1971; M.A., Harvard University, 1973; Ph.D., 1974. Caltech, 2001-.

Research Interests

History of Physics; Philosophy of Physical Sciences; History of Understanding of Pre-Classical Antiquity


Intellectual History; Origins and Foundations of Science


Jed Buchwald studies the development of scientific concepts and the instruments used to create and explore new effects, and he is also interested in the historical understanding of the origins of writing and language. He has written extensively on the history of optics and electromagnetism, but since arriving at Caltech in 2001, he has been examining how scientists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries engaged with new archeological discoveries and historical chronology. This interest led to a collaboration with Caltech professor Mordechai Feingold focused on Isaac Newton's attempt to date the past using astronomical evidence, resulting in their 2012 book, Newton and the Origin of Civilization (Princeton University Press). Buchwald is now studying the history of how Egyptian hieroglyphics were deciphered and the replication of Heinrich Hertz's experiments on electric waves.

In 1974, Buchwald joined the faculty of the University of Toronto, where he remained until 1992. From 1991 to 1992, he was the director of that university's Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. He then became the director of the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology and the Bern Dibner Professor of the History of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining Caltech in 2001. In 2004, Buchwald was a Zeeman Visiting Professor at the University of Amsterdam. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, a member of the International Academy of the History of Science, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was also a MacArthur Fellow (1995) and a Killam Fellow (1990–1991). He continues to edit and co-edit three book series and one journal, and he sits on the editorial board of several others.

Selected Awards

American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow MacArthur Fellow (1995-2000)
Killam Fellow (Canada, 1990-1991).

Professional Societies

American Philosophical Society, Member 
Académie Internationale d'Histoires des Sciences. Membre effectif, #275

Selected Publications


8.     2012     A  Master  of  Science  History.  Essays  in  Honor  of  Charles Coulston Gillispie. Edited. Archimedes, vol. 30

7.     2005     Wrong for the Right Reasons. Edited, with an introduction, by J.Z. Buchwald and Allan Franklin. Archimedes, vol. 11.

6.     2004     "Fisica",  Part  III  of  Storia  della  Scienza,  vol.  VII,  pgs.  282-507. Edited by J. Z. Buchwald. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana.

5.     2001     Histories of the Electron. The Birth of Microphysics. Edited, with an introduction, by J. Z. Buchwald and A. Warwick. MIT Press.

4.     2000     Isaac Newton's Natural Philosophy. Edited, with an introduction by J. Z. Buchwald and I. Bernard Cohen. MIT Press.

3.     1997     Aspects of Mid to Late Nineteenth Century Electromagnetism. Vol. 33 of Physis. Edited, with an introduction, by J. Z. Buchwald.

2.     1996    Scientific    Credibility    and    Technical    Standards, Kluwer. Archimedes, vol. 1. Edited, with an introduction, by J. Z. Buchwald.

1.     1995     Scientific Practice: Theories and Stories of Physics. Edited by J. Z. Buchwald. The University of Chicago Press.


5.     2013     (with Mordechai Feingold) Newton and the Origin of Civilization. xii+530pp. Princeton University Press.

4.     2010     (with  Diane  Greco  Josefowicz)  The  Zodiac  of  Paris.  How  an Improbable Controversy over an Anicent Artifact Provoked a Modern Debate over Religion and Science. vi+440 pp. Princeton University Press.

3.     1994     The Creation of Scientific Effects. Heinrich Hertz and Electric Waves. xiv+500 pp. The University of Chicago Press. Hardcover and paper.

2.     1989     The Rise of the Wave Theory of Light. Aspects of  Optical Theory and Experiment in the First Third of the Nineteenth Century. xxiv + 467 pp.  The University of Chicago Press. Hardcover and paper.

1.     1985      From Maxwell to Microphysics. Aspects of Electromagnetic Theory in the Last Quarter of the Nineteenth Century. xiii + 339 pp. The University of Chicago Press, 1985 in hardcover; 1988 in paper.


67.         2012      "Kuhn's Structure Four and a Half Decades Later," Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 42:485-90.

66.         2012      (with  Diane  Greco  Josefowicz)  "The  cipher  of  the  zodiac,  review symposium response," Metascience, 21.

65.         2012      "Cauchy's theory of dispersion anticipated by Fresnel," in A Master of Science History, Archimedes, 30: 399-416.

64.         2011      (with Diana Kormos-Buchwald) "Martin J. Klein, 1924-2009,) Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, 1-16.

63.         2010      "A reminiscence of Thomas Kuhn," Perspectives on Science, 18:279-83.

62.         2009      (with D.  Graham Burnett) "Michael S.  Mahoney, 1939-2008," Isis 100:623-6. Reprinted in M. S. Mahoney, Histories of Computing, Harvard University Press, 2010.

61.         2007      "Descartes' Experimental Journey Past the Prism and Through the Invisible World to the Rainbow", Annals of Science, 65:1-46.

60.         2007      "Discrepant Measurements and Experimental Knowledge in the Early Modern Era," Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 61:1-85.

59.         2006      "Huygens' Experimental Determination of the Optical Parameters in Iceland Spar", Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 60:67-81.

58.         2005      "An error within a mistake?", in Wrong for the Right Reasons, Archimedes, vol. 11, ed. Buchwald and Franklin, Kluwer, 2005, pgs. 185-208.

57.         2005      Introduction (with A. Franklin) to Wrong for the Right Reasons, Archimedes, vol. 11, ed. Buchwald and Franklin, Kluwer, 2005, pgs. 1-16.

56.         2004      "Afterword: F. L. Holmes and the History of Science", pgs, 193-202 in F. L. Holmes, Investigative Pathways, Patterns and Stages in the Careers of Experimental Scientists, New Haven: Yale University Press.

55.         2004      "Egyptian Stars Under Paris Skies," Engineering & Science, 66: 20-31.

54.         2004      "Raggi e ondi luminosi", chap. 34, Part III, vol. VII, pgs. 342-357 of Storia della Scienza, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana.

53.         2004      "L'elettromagnetismo e il campo", chap. 39, Part III, vol. VII, pgs. 405-426 of Storia della Scienza, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana.

52.         2003      "Physics: Its methods, practitioners, boundaries", co-authored      with Sungook Hong, chap. 6 (pgs. 163-195) in From Natural Philosophy to the Sciences: Historiographical Essays on Nineteenth-Century Science, ed. David Cahan, The University of Chicago Press.

51.         2003      "Sadi Carnot and Augustin Jean Fresnel" in The Oxford Companion to the History of Modern Science, ed.  John Heilbron, Oxford University Press.

50.         2003 "The Scholar's Seeing Eye", pgs. 309-25 in Reworking the Bench: Research Notebooks in the History of Science, ed. Jürgen Renn, Larry Holmes, Hans-Joerg Rheinberger (Archimedes, vol. 7) Kluwer: Dordrecht.

49.         2002 (with George E. Smith) "Incommensurability and the discontinuity of evidence", Perspectives on Science, 9:463-98.

48.         2002 "Comment Maxwell finit par triompher", Les Cahiers de Science et Vie, 67:86-96.

47.         2001      "Notas sobre conocimiento inarticulado, experimentacion y traduccion", Theoria, 17:243-63.

46.         2001 "A potential disagreement between Helmholtz and Hertz", Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 55:365-93.

45.         2000      "Reply to Mattingly", Stud. Hist. Phil. Mod. Phys., 32:1-3.

44.         2000 "How the ether spawned the micro-world", pgs. 203-225 in Biographies of Scientific Objects, ed. Lorraine Daston. Chicago: the University of Chicago Press.

43.         1999 with Kostas Gavroglu, Preface to vol. 2 of Archimedes, The Sciences in the European Periphery During the Enlightenment, pgs. 7-11.

42.         1998 "Issues for the history of experimentation", pgs. 374-91 in Experimental Essays – Versuche zum Experiment, eds. M. Heidleberger and F. Steinle, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden.

41.         1998 "Reflections on Hertz and the Hertzian dipole", in D. Baird et al. (eds.), Heinrich Hertz: Classical Physicist, Modern Philosopher, pp. 269-80.

40.         1998 (with George E. Smith) "Thomas S. Kuhn, 1922-1996", Philosophy of Science, 64:361-76.

39.         1997      Introduction to Aspects of Mid to Late Nineteenth Century Electromagnetism, Physis, vol. 33.

38.         1996 "Mathematics in 19th century physics", Journal of the Center for Applied Computing, Holland

37.         1996 Introduction to Scientific Credibility and Technical Standards, vol. 1 of Archimedes, pp.vii-ix.

36.         1995      "Why Hertz was right about cathode rays". In Scientific Practice, ed. J. Z. Buchwald, pp. 151-169.

35.         1995      "The practice of physics", with Sam Schweber. Concluding essay to Scientific Practice, ed. J. Z. Buchwald, pp. 345-352.

34.         1995 (with Tom Archibald) "Heinrich Hertz. La Scoperta delle onde elettriche", in Cento Anni di Radio. Le Radici dell'Invenzione, Torino:Edizioni Seat, pp. 123-174.

33.         1995 "Ottica, stòria déll': dal 1800 ai primi del novecento", Enciclopaedia Italiana delle Scienze, pp.419-425.

32.         1995 "Heinrich Hertz's attempt to generate a novel account of evaporation", No Truth Except in the Details, ed. A. J. Kox and D. M. Siegel, Amsterdam:Kluwer.

31.         1994 "How Hertz fabricated Helmholtzian forces in his Karlsruhe laboratory", Universalgenie Helmholtz, ed. Lorenz Kruger, pp. 43-65. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

30.         1994      "Elettricita", Enciclopaedia Italiana delle Scienze, pp. 259-269.

29.         1994 (contributing editor for mechanics) The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, vol. 3. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

28.         1994 "Kinds and (In)commensurability", Trends in the Historiography of Science, pp. 49-63. Kluwer:the Netherlands.

27.         1993      "Waves, philosophers and historians", PSA, 2:205-211.

26.         1993 "Helmholtz's electrodynamics in context: object states, laboratory practice and anti-Idealism." Hermann von Helmholtz and the Foundations of Nineteenth-Century Science, pgs. 334-373. Ed. D. Cahan. University of California Press.

25.         1993 "Campo, storia del concetto di,", Enciclopaedia Italiana delle Scienze, pgs. 483-492.

24.         1992 "Design for Experimenting". World Changes. Thomas Kuhn and the Nature of Science, pgs. 169-206. Ed. Paul Horwich. MIT.

23.         1992      "Kinds and the Wave Theory of Light". Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, 23:39-74.

22.         1992 "The training of German research physicist Heinrich Hertz" in The Invention of Physical Science. Edited by J. Richards, M. J. Nye, and R. Stuewer. Kluwer.

21.         1992 "Why Stokes never wrote a treatise on optics". The Investigation of Difficult Things. Edited by Alan Shapiro and Peter Harman. Cambridge University Press.

20.         1992 Introduction (co-authored with Kurt Pedersen) to a translation by T. Archibald of Erasmus Bartholin's Experimenta. Royal Copenhagen Library.

19.         1990      "The background to Heinrich Hertz's experiments in electrodynamics". In Nature, Experiment, and the Sciences, eds. T. H. Levere and W.R. Shea, Dordrecht:Kluwer, pgs. 275-306.

18.         1989 "The battle between Arago and Biot over Fresnel".  Journal of Op- tics/Nouvelle Revue d'Optique, 20, 109-117.

17.         1989 "The Invention of Polarization". In New Trends in the History of Science, Dordrecht.

16.         1989      "The Michelson Experiment and Electrodynamics circa 1900." In The Michelson  Era in American Science 1870-1930. Eds. S. Goldberg & R. H. Stuewer. New York: AIP Conference Proceedings 179, 55-70.

15.         1985      "Oliver  Heaviside:  Maxwell's  Apostle  and  Maxwellian  Apostate", Centaurus 28, 288-330.

14.         1985      "Modifying the Continuum: methods of Maxwellian electrodynamics". In Wranglers and Physicists. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 225-41.

13.         1983      "Fresnel and Diffraction Theory", Archives internationales d'histoire des sciences 33, 36-111.

12.         1981      "The Quantitative Ether in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century". In Conceptions of Ether, ed.  G. Cantor and M.J.S. Hodge. Cambridge: 215-37.

11.         1981      "The Abandonment of Maxwellian Electrodynamics: Joseph Larmor's Theory of the Electron", Archives internationales d'histoire des sciences 31: 135-180 and 373-438.

10.         1980      "Optics and the Theory of the Punctiform Ether", Archive for History of Exact Sciences 21, 245-78.

9.            1980      "Experimental Investigations of Double Refraction from Huygens to Malus", Archive for History of Exact Sciences 21, 311-73.

8.            1979      "The Hall Effect and Maxwellian Electrodynamics in the 1880's: The Discovery of a New Electric Field", Centaurus 23, 51-99.

7.            1979      "The Hall Effect and Maxwellian Electrodynamics in the 1880's: The Unification of Theory, 1881-1893", Centaurus 23, 131-75.

6.            1977      "William Thomson and the Mathematization of Faraday's Electrostatics", Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 8, 101-36.

5.            "Emilio Villari", Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 14: 32-3, ed. C. C. Gillispie et al. (New York).

4.            "Leopoldo Nobili", Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 10: 134-6, ed. C. C. Gillispie et al. (New York).

3.            "Macedonio Melloni", Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 9:264-5, ed. C. C. Gillispie et al. (New York).

2.            "Ottaviano Fabrizio Mossotti", Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 9:547-9, ed. C. C. Gillispie et al. (New York).

1.            "Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin)", Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 13: 374-88, ed. C. C. Gillispie et al. (New York).


12.         2001      (with George Smith) review of The Ozone Layer in American Scientist, 89:546-49.

11.         2001      Obituary of Clifford Truesdell. Isis.

10.         1997      Obituary of T.S. Kuhn for Physics Today

9.            1997      "The  origins  of  the  wave  theory  of  light",  for  the  Encyclopedia  of Physics, MacMillan & Co

8.            1996      "Memories of Tom Kuhn" for the HSS Newsletter

7.            1995      Reply  to  review  of  Creation  of  Scientific  Effects  by  David  Cahan. Metascience.

6.            1994      (with N. M. Swerdlow) Stillman Drake: an appreciation. Isis, 85:663-6.

5.            1991      Essay review of Energy and Empire by M. N. Wise and C. Smith, Cambridge University Press, 1989. For British Journal for the History of Science, 24, 85-94.

4.            1989      D. B. Wilson, Kelvin and Stokes, British Journal for the History of Science.

3.            1988      Clifford Truesdell, An Idiot's Fugitive Essays on Science. Centaurus.

2.            1987      Jungnickel & McCormmach, Intellectual Mastery of Nature. Isis 78, 244-9.

1.            1981      J. L. Heilbron, Electricity in the 17th and 18 Centuries and R.W. Home,  Aepinus's  Essays  on  the  Theory  of  Electricity  and Magnetism, Centaurus 25, 149-52.