Mary Jo Nye

Mary Jo Nye

Horning Professor in the Humanities and Professor of History Emerita
History of Modern Physical Sciences

322 Milam Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331-6202
Phone: (541) 737-3421

Fax: (541) 737-1257
E-mail: nyem@onid.orst.edu

Mary Jo Nye's research interests include the history of chemistry and physics since the eighteenth century in western Europe, the UK, and the United States; the social and cultural history of science, including laboratory science, university education, and the political activities of scientists; and the philosophy of science, especially relations between theory and evidence.  

(Photo: Mary Jo Nye in Special Collections Valley Library OSU.  Photo by Jim Folts)

Research and Activities

  • Professor Nye completed her undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University and the University of Wisconsin, taking her Ph.D. in History of Science at the University of Wisconsin. From 1970 she taught at the University of Oklahoma, where she was named George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the History of Science in 1991. She was appointed a Thomas Hart and Mary Jones Horning Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History at OSU in 1994. Other affiliations include visiting research appointments at the University of Pittsburgh, Rutgers University, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, and the Max Planck Institut fur Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Berlin.
  • Professor Nye received the History of Science Society's Sarton Medal for Lifetime Scholarly Achievement awarded for 2006. She has received two awards for outstanding achievement in the history of chemistry: the 1999 Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society and the 2012 Morris Award from the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Corresponding Member of the Académie Internationale d'Histoire des Sciences. Her 2011 book Michael Polanyi and His Generation received the 2013 Roy G. Neville Prize in Biography or Bibliography from the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Selected Publications


Michael Polanyi


Michael Polanyi and His Generation: Origins of the Social Construction of Science.

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Blackett Cover


Blackett: Physics, War, and Politics in the 20th Century. 

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.

Before Big Science Cover


Before Big Science: The Pursuit of Modern Chemistry and Physics, 1800-1940. 

New York: Simon-Schuster / Twayne, 1996 . 

Paperback edition, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.

From Chemical Philosophy Cover


From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry:

Dynamics of Matter and Dynamics of Disciplines, 1800-1950. 

Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.


Science in the Provinces: Scientific Communities and Provincial Leadership in France, 1860-1930


Science in the Provinces: Scientific Communities and Provincial Leadership in France, 1860-1930.  

Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

Molecular Reality Cover 



Molecular Reality:
A Perspective on the Scientific Work of Jean Perrin

London: Macdonald / New York: American Elsevier, 1972.


Edited Books:

Ed. The Question of the Atom: From the Karlsruhe Congress to the First Solvay Conference. 1860-1911. A Selection of Primary Sources.  Los Angeles: Tomash and New York: American Institute of Physics, 1984.

Ed., with Joan Richards and Roger Stuewer. The Invention of Physical Science: Intersections of Mathematics, Theology and Natural Philosophy since the Seventeenth Century.  Essays in Honor of Erwin N. Hiebert.  Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Volume 139.  Dordrecht:  Kluwer, 1992.

Associate Editor. The Pauling Symposium: A Discourse on the Art of Biography. Proceedings of the Conference on the Life and Work of Linus Pauling (1901-1994), ed. Ramesh S. Krishnamurthy with Clifford Mead, Mary Jo Nye, Sean C. Goodlett, and Marvin E. Kirk. Corvallis: Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections, 1996.

Ed.  Modern Physical and Mathematical Sciences.  Volume 5 (2003) of The Cambridge History of Science, eds. David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers. 8 volumes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003- .



Select Recent Articles:

“Thomas Kuhn, Case Histories, and Revolutions,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 42, #3 (2012): 557-561.

“Michael Polanyi and the Social Construction of Science,” Tradition and Discovery: The Polanyi Society Periodical, 39:1 (2012-13): 6-16.

“Science and Politics in the Philosophy of Science:  Popper, Kuhn, and Polanyi.” In Science as Cultural Practice, eds. Moritz Epple and Falk Müller. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2010: 201-215.

“Scientific Families: Biographies and ‘Labographies’ in the History of Science.” Review essay. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 39 (2009): 104-114.

“Re-reading Bernal: History of Science at the Crossroads in 20th-Century Britain.” In  Aurora Torealis: Studies in the History of Science and Ideas in Honor of Tore Frängsmyr, eds. Marco Beretta, Karl Grandin and Svante Lindqvist. Sagamore Beach, MA: Science History Publications/USA, 2008: 237-260.

“Blackett, Patrick Stuart Maynard (1897-1974).” New Dictionary of Scientific Biography, ed. Noretta Koertge. 8 vols. New York: Thomson Gale/Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2007. Vol. 1: 290-294.

“Pauling, Linus Carl (1901-1994).” New Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2007. Vol. 6: 36-44.

“Polányi, Mihály (1891-1976).” New Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2007. Vol. 6: 125-127.