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The Shaping of Interwar Physics by Technology: The Case of Piezoelectricity

  • Shaul Katzir (a1)

Concentrating on the important developments of quantum physics, historians have overlooked other significant forces that shaped interwar physics, like that of technology. Based on the case of piezoelectricity, I argue that interests of users of technics (i.e. devices of methods) channeled research in physics into particular fields and questions relevant for industrial companies and governmental agencies. To recognize the effects of such social forces on physics, one needs to study the content of the scientific activity (both experimental and theoretical) of the researchers within its social and disciplinary contexts. By examining paths of individual scientists along with a study of the research in the field as a whole this paper exposes a range of reasons that led researchers to studies pertinent to technics. In particular, it shows that commercial, social, and military powers shaped interwar research through institutions aimed at fostering technology, some of them newly founded, and by a general view that academic research should help technology, a position that became more common at the time.

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