Virtual Trimble Lecture Series Features Spies, Kings, Robots, Fake News

WASHINGTON, September 24, 2020 — A new Lyne Starling Trimble Science Heritage Public Lecture Series begins with six speakers, who are scheduled for online talks in late 2020-early 2021.

The first lecture in the series will be held Sept. 30 and will be streamed online with an interactive question-and-answer period after the talk. The series is normally hosted at the American Center for Physics in College Park, Maryland, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the presenters and audience will be connected through a webinar.

Those who wish to watch the lectures can find registration information on the AIP History Programs website. The talks will be archived on the History Center YouTube channel for later watching.

Schedule of upcoming Trimble lectures (as of Sept. 24, 2020):

  • Sept. 30, 5:30 p.m. Eastern U.S.
    “Manufacturing Hands: Japanese Robotics and Human Labor”
    Speaker: Yulia Frumer, Johns Hopkins University
    Industrial robots do not look anything like humans. Their operation is often described as trans-human, performing repetitive operations forever and working in conditions dangerous to flesh-and-blood humans. Looking at the history of robotics design in Japan, however, we discover a surprising fact. The basic understanding of the movement and function of robots was based on analyses of working human hands. Attempting to automate human functions, Japanese engineers transformed the motion and the structure of human hands into mathematical formula. In so doing, they embedded in their design assumptions about human labor — assumptions that continue to reverberate today, shaping our perception of what counts as labor and what does not.
  • Oct. 21, 3 p.m. Eastern U.S.
    “Tests and Testing: The Case of Hearing and the Making of Modern Aurality in the Long Twentieth Century”
    Speaker: Alexandra Hui, Mississippi State University
    Test subjects and testing practices suffuse the history of modern science and medicine. Like the ubiquitous “experiment,” tests carry epistemological power. Yet the history of testing remains undertheorized. In this talk, Hui will examine testing through a series of exemplary cases of testing of hearing and testing with hearing during the 20th century, from the “Tone Test” of the Edison Phonograph Company to the worker surveys of Muzak to the training protocols of early sonar operators in the U.S. Navy.
  • Nov. 11, 3 p.m. Eastern U.S.
    “ATOMIC SPY: The Dark Lives of Klaus Fuchs”
    Speaker: Nancy Greenspan
    German by birth, British by naturalization, communist by conviction, Klaus Fuchs was a fearless Nazi resister, a brilliant scientist, and an infamous spy. He was convicted of espionage by Britain in 1950 for handing over the designs of the plutonium bomb to the Soviets and has gone down in history as one of the most dangerous agents in American and British history. He put an end to America’s nuclear hegemony and single-handedly heated up the Cold War. But was Klaus Fuchs really evil? The question of moral accountability is difficult to resolve. In our current, chaotic world, as in the Iron Curtain world of the mid-20th century, ambiguity prevails.
  • Dec. 2, 3 p.m. Eastern U.S.
    “When Condensed Matter Physics Became King”
    Speaker: Joseph D. Martin, University of Durham
    Accounting for physics’ rapid rise from obscure origins to become the country’s marquee scientific enterprise has been one of the central tasks historians of Americans science have set themselves. However, it is surprising that so little historical attention has been paid to solid state and condensed matter physics. Although they lacked the flash and the soaring philosophical rhetoric of high-energy physics and cosmology, which defined the public image of physics by the late 20th century, these areas provided many of the most notable technical accomplishments physics could boast, helped redefine the boundaries of the field, and were crucial in the ongoing renegotiation of American physicists’ self-image. This talk will provide an account of what solid state and condensed matter physics contributed and explore how our historical perspective on the 20th century shifts when we include the stories of those disciplines among its defining narratives.
  • Jan. 27, 3 p.m. Eastern U.S. 
    “Science in the Post-Truth Era: A Decolonial Approach”
    Speaker: Katemari Rosa, Universidade Federal da Bahia
    A discussion on how ideas about fake news and fears of science disbelief are not new for Black people in relation to our knowledge production. Although post-truth may be considered “new,” Rosa argues mainstream science has long been a state of post-truth as it systematically disregarded science and technology developed by people of color throughout history.
  • Feb. 17
    Speaker: Kathryn Olesko, Georgetown University
    Title and description TBA

The series is named after Lyne Starling Trimble, who held patents for a number of color reproduction systems and was an innovative chemist. The series was initially endowed from by Virginia Trimble, daughter of Lyne Trimble and an accomplished astronomer, who has published more than 900 works in astronomy, astrophysics, science history, and scientometrics.


About American Institute of Physics

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is a 501(c)(3) membership corporation of scientific societies. AIP pursues its mission—to advance, promote, and serve the physical sciences for the benefit of humanity—with a unifying voice of strength from diversity. In its role as a federation, AIP advances the success of its Member Societies by providing the means to pool, coordinate, and leverage their diverse expertise and contributions in pursuit of a shared goal of advancing the physical sciences in the research enterprise, in the economy, in education, and in society. In its role as an institute, AIP operates as a center of excellence using policy analysis, social science, and historical research to promote future progress in the physical sciences