Past Nauenberg History of Science Lectures

The Nauenberg History of Science Lecture was established in honor of Michael Nauenberg, a founding faculty member in the Physics Department at UCSC who came to the campus in 1966. During his distinguished academic career, he contributed to a remarkably broad range of fields, including particle physics, condensed matter physics, astrophysics, chaos theory, fluid dynamics, and the history of physics in the 17th-18th centuries.

Michael in December, 1999, proposed  to UCSC to create a History of Science and Technology lecture series, but it didn’t get funded. It is something he strongly felt UCSC should have. The UCSC Emeriti Association worked with Michael’s family to establish the History of Science Lecture series that he always wanted. In 2019, after Michael’s passing, Professor Emeritus Todd Wipke, then President of the UCSC Emeriti Association, established the annual lecture series, a UCSC account for the Emeriti Association to help fund the lecture series, and the EA-HOST speaker selection committee ( The first two lectures were to be in Physics and thereafter, the lectures would rotate among the science disciplines. The date formula is the second Friday in May. Unfortunately the first lecture was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and forced to be a virtual Zoom presentation, because the speaker had Covid-19.

1        May 13, 2022 Jed Z. Buchwald, Doris and Henry Dreyfuss Professor of History, Caltech University, Isaac Newton and the Origin of Civilization, presented by Zoom. See video of Lecture.

Isaac Newton, who renovated the foundations of mathematics, optics, and mechanics in the 17th century, aimed also to overturn the entire history of civilization. By the late 1690s Newton had become convinced that the natural rate of population growth implied that elaborately organized social life had not arisen until near the time of Solomon’s kingdom. He canvassed ancient texts for words that could be pruned and transformed into supporting evidence – deploying in the process the earliest known procedures for handling discrepant data, and reconstructing the very plan of Solomon’s temple. Here we will find Newton’s unorthodox religious convictions interacting in complex ways with the new methods that he had introduced into experimental science. And we will also see how the most sophisticated of techniques can produce error when data is massaged to fit a strongly-held conviction.

Jed Z. Buchwald is the Doris and Henry Dreyfuss Professor of History at Caltech. After earning degrees in physics and science history at Princeton and Harvard, Professor Buchwald taught for twenty years at the University of Toronto. After several years as director of the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he moved to the California Institute of Technology in 2001. He has authored or co-authored six books in the history of science and, more recently, on the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Buchwald is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the International Academy of the History of Science, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was also a MacArthur Fellow in 1995.