Cathryn Carson

Associate Professor
Office Hours: 
Wednesday & Thursday 5-6
3221 Dwinelle
(510) 642-2701

A.B., 1990, University of Chicago, history and philosophy of science; also completed requirements for A.B., physics, and S.B., mathematics
A.M., 1993, Harvard University, physics
Ph.D., 1995, Harvard University, history of science

Curriculum Vitae: 
Research Interests: 


Primary fields

History of physics: conceptual, cultural, social, political
History of quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, and many-body physics
Relations between science and philosophy and between scientists and philosophers
History of science in Germany and the U.S.
Nuclear history

Secondary fields

History of technology
Modern German history
Intellectual history (European, U.S.)

Current research

Heidegger and modern theoretical physics
Engineering nuclear waste: Constructing knowledge and uncertainty across timescales
Nuclear Berkeley, nuclear world
Shaping evolutionary biology in Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology




not teaching

Some previous courses

Science and society since the Scientific Revolution (History 30B)
Nuclear Berkeley, nuclear world (History 100)
Science in the U.S. (History 138)
Modern physics (History 181B)
Science under Hitler, Stalin, and Mao (History 103) -- undergraduate seminar
Introduction to history of science II (History 275S) -- graduate seminar
Reading seminar: American science (History 280) -- graduate seminar
Intellectuals, institutions, and the modern university (History 285) -- graduate seminar
Modernity and science (History 280/285) -- graduate seminar
Historical colloquium (History 290) -- graduate lecture series

Campus Service

Associate Dean of Social Science
Acting Director, Social Sciences Data Laboratory (D-Lab)

Mailing Addresses

Department of History
3229 Dwinelle Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-2550

Office for History of Science and Technology
543 Stephens Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-2350

Representative Publications: 


Co-Editor (with Alexei Kojevnikov and Helmuth Trischler), Weimar Culture and Quantum Mechanics: Selected Papers by Paul Forman and Contemporary Perspectives on the Forman Thesis (London: Imperial College Press, 2011).

Heisenberg in the Atomic Age: Science and the Public Sphere (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Co-Editor (with David A. Hollinger), Reappraising Oppenheimer: Centennial Studies and Reflections (Berkeley: Office for History of Science and Technology, 2005).


Carson, Cathryn. "Modern or antimodern science? Weimar culture, natural science, and the Heidegger-Heisenberg exchange." In Weimar culture and quantum mechanics: Selected papers by Paul Forman and contemporary perspectives on the Forman Thesis, ed. Cathryn Carson, Alexei Kojevnikov, and Helmuth Trischler, 523-542. London: Imperial College Press, 2011.

Carson, Cathryn. "Science as instrumental reason: Heidegger, Habermas, Heisenberg." Continental Philosophy Review 42 (2010): 483-509.

Carson, Cathryn. "Beyond reconstruction: CERN's second generation accelerator program as an indicator of shifts in West German science." In Physics and politics: Research and research support in twentieth century Germany in international perspective, ed. Helmuth Trischler and Mark Walker, 107-130. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft, v. 5. Stuttgart: Steiner, 2010.

Carson, Cathryn. "Science policy as Ordnungspolitik: Heisenberg as social and political theorist in the scientific-technical age." In Who is making science? Scientists as makers of technical-scientific structures and administrators of science policy, ed. Albert Presas i Puig, MPI Preprint 361, 35-44. Berlin: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, 2008.

Carson, Cathryn. "The revolution in science." In A companion to Europe, 1900-1945, ed. Gordon Martel, 19-34. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

Carson, Cathryn. "Heisenberg als Wissenschaftsorganisator." In Werner Heisenberg 1901-1976: Beiträge, Berichte, Briefe — Festschrift zu seinem 100. Geburtstag, ed. Christian Kleint, Helmut Rechenberg, and Gerald Wiemers, 214-222. Stuttgart: S. Hirzel, 2005.

Carson, Cathryn. "Reflections on Copenhagen." In Michael Frayn's Copenhagen in debate: Historical essays and documents on the 1941 meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, ed. Matthias Dörries, 7-17. Berkeley: Office for History of Science and Technology, 2005.

Soo, Mary, and Cathryn Carson. "Managing the research university: Clark Kerr and the University of California." Minerva 42 (2004): 215-236.

Carson, Cathryn. "Objectivity and the scientist: Heisenberg rethinks." Science in context 16 (2003): 243-269.

Carson, Cathryn. "Bildung als Konsumgut: Physik in der westdeutschen Nachkriegskultur." In Physik im Nachkriegsdeutschland, ed. Dieter Hoffmann, 73-85. Frankfurt: Harri Deutsch, 2003.

Carson, Cathryn. "Nuclear energy development in postwar West Germany: Struggles over cooperation in the Federal Republic's first reactor station." History and technology 18 (2002): 233-270.

Carson, Cathryn, and Michael Gubser. "Science advising and science policy in postwar West Germany: The example of the Deutscher Forschungsrat." Minerva 40 (2002): 147-179.

Carson, Cathryn. "Heisenberg and the framework of science policy." Fortschritte der Physik 50 (2002): 432-436.

Carson, Cathryn. "Old programs, new politics? Nuclear reactor studies after 1945 in the Max-Planck-Institut für Physik." In Geschichte der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus: Bestandaufnahme und Perspektiven der Forschung, ed. Doris Kaufmann, 726-749. Göttingen: Wallstein, 2000.

Carson, Cathryn. "The origins of the quantum theory." Beam line (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center) 30:2 (2000): 6-19.

Carson, Cathryn. "New models for science in politics: Heisenberg in West Germany." Historical studies in the physical and biological sciences 30, no. 1 (1999): 115-171.

Carson, Cathryn. "The peculiar notion of exchange forces — I: Origins in quantum mechanics, 1926-1928." Studies in history and philosophy of modern physics 27 (1996): 23-45. "II: From nuclear forces to QED, 1929-1950." Studies in history and philosophy of modern physics 27 (1996): 99-131.

Carson, Cathryn. "Who wants a postmodern physics?" Science in context 8 (1995): 635-655.


Chair of the Editorial Board, Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences



Semester Course Title Syllabus
Spring 2014 285S History of Science, Technology, Environment, and Medicine
Spring 2012 290 Historical Colloquium
Fall 2010 24.001 Scientific Revolutions