Alex Wellerstein
Stevens Institute of Technology
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I have been involved with teaching the history of science at Harvard, MIT, and Georgetown. Below are some of the teaching resources I have developed. I post them here so that they might be of use to other instructors working on similar topics, looking for something fresh.

Course syllabi

These are the course syllabi from the courses I taught as a Lecturer at Harvard in Spring 2011. Course assignments are also attached to the syllabi.

History of Science 97: Sophomore Tutorial (Spring 2011). This course was a mandatory introduction course for new concentrators in "History and Science" at Harvard University. Every year this course has been done somewhat differently; for my go at it, I tried to make it into a "big idea" seminar course that covered some of the major historiographical questions and theories in the fields of history of science and science studies. I lectured for an hour once a week to introduce the reading and the questions, and then a fleet of amazing teaching fellows each had a small (no more than 8) group of undergraduates for a two-hour discussion seminar.

History of Science 129: Science in the Cold War (Spring 2011). This was a new course entirely of my own devising, giving a history of the Cold War through the lens of science and technology. I lectured twice a week for an hour, and then there was a weekly discussion session. It covered a broad range of subjects relating to Cold War science and technology, although a lot of it naturally covered developments in the American physical sciences and the military-industrial complex. It featured a field trip to an operating research reactor (at MIT), which coincidentally happened not long after the Fukushima reactor accident.


I am a big believer in paper handouts: they do a certain amount of intellectual and pedagogical work to augment lectures and dicussions that can't be accomplished by slides, such as prolonged contemplation of complex images and text. As a result I make handouts somewhat compulsively. Below are some of the ones I've made that I feel might be useful more generally; if you are a teacher of any sort and want to use them, please feel free.

Map of the Manhattan Project. Designed to give an idea of the primary sites of the Manhattan Project, along with their purpose, and a sense of scale for the whole thing.

Map of A.Q. Khan's nuclear network. A geographical summary of Pakistani proliferator A.Q. Khan's international network of nuclear suppliers and customers. Designed to emphasize the spatial dimension rather than the chronological one.

Timeline of the H-bomb debate. A detailed timeline of the H-bomb debate, with a priority given to noting who knew what, and when.

Selections from the FBI file of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer has a monumentally large FBI file; this is a 37-page excerpt from the file. It was chosen to give a flavor of these kinds of FBI files, and Oppenheimer's in particular. Special attention has been given to pick entries which reveal (by reading between the redacted lines) the methods by which the file was compiled, and the kinds of "dirt" the agents were most fascinated by.


I have found the primary source documents below useful for teaching undergraduates in the past. You are free to use them as far as I am concerned.

Draft of a letter from J. Robert Oppenheimer to David Bohm (2 December 1966). This draft of a letter (which indicates the edits made to the final letter sent two days later) was written from Robert Oppenheimer to his former student David Bohm two months before Oppenheimer's death. It was written in response to a query from Bohm about whether to participate in the writing of Philip Stern's book, The Oppenheimer case: Security on trial (published in 1969). It serves as an opportunity for Oppenheimer to give some of his last-recorded views on his security hearing, the question of regret, and his assessment of Heinar Kipphardt's play about the hearing. I find the letter a nice way to portray Oppenheimer's own complicated feelings about his trial and the bomb itself, a nice contrast to the more simplistic "martyr" image that is usually presented in popular media.

Transcript of Executive Session Meeting of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, "Development of a Super Weapon" (9 January 1950). In this transcript of a formally top-secret hearing, the powerful Joint Committee on Atomic Energy read and response to the 1949 General Advisory Committee recommendation against the development of the hydrogen bomb. It is a document that does dual-duty, containing the entire 1949 GAC report (minus the important minority annex, though) as well as contemporary and immediate responses from the powerful congressmen. It is a document with many rich layers, and of course has the additional fun of looking especially "raw" and gritty.


Below is a skit I arranged for performance in the Spring 2009 semester of Peter Galison's "Einstein Revolution" course at Harvard. It combines elements of Michael Frayn's Copenhagen and excerpts from the Farm Hall transcripts. The file contains extensive notes detailing the production of the skit and its goals.

   • Student skit: Copenhagen and Farm Hall: (PDF, 120KB) or (DOC, 56KB)
   • Powerpoint backdrop (see notes for details): (PPT, 2.4MB)
   • BBC Radio announcement of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) (MP3, 552KB)

Last updated August 2010.

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