Oppenheimer and Los Alamos: Beyond the Movie

By Gordon Baym

I imagine that a good number of you have seen the movie, Oppenheimer, which focusses on the remarkable character of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and especially on the confrontations at the 1954 Atomic Energy Commission hearings

Stranahan Hall

Building by Design: The Architecture of the Aspen Center for Physics & the Aspen Idea

By Aruna Balasubramanian

The buildings at the Aspen Center for Physics (ACP) reflect the history of Aspen’s development in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Their very location, in a plain alongside Gillespie Street

25th Anniversary and Patio Dedication with George Stranahan, Michael Cohen, and Robert Anderson

The Founding of the Aspen Center for Physics

By George Stranahan

In 1957 I theorized that if a guy with three kids going to graduate school in Pittsburgh on the GI Bill could rent a house plus jeep in Aspen for three summer months at $400, he’d be a damn fool for not getting outta town. Part of the theory was that, since paper and pencil […]

The History and Structure of the Aspen Center for Physics: Some Comments

By Loyal (Randy) Durand

The Center started as a division of the Aspen Institute in 1962, but some members of the Institute’s rather conservative board thought we didn’t fit in after their operating head (Bob Craig, one of the most promising 100 young organizer/CEO types in the country according to Life Magazine, and a science promoter in the Institute, […]

Paula Johnson, Jane Kelly, and Patty Fox

Essay from Jane Kelly

By Jane Kelly

Pierre Ramond started his first term as president (mid-year, which was an oddity, but I didn’t know it at the time), and I began a steep learning curve...

Michael Cohen, portrait by Bernice Durand

The Tent City That Never Was

By Michael Cohen

Surely you were joking, Mr. Cohen. The notion of a bunch of physicists living in tents and exchanging thoughts when not fending off bears is ridiculous. (More so than seven curled-up dimensions?) In retrospect, my concept of a tent city was a metaphor for the idea of a group of physicists doing their own thing […]

John Schwarz, by Elisa Leonelli; and Michael Green, by Rene Sheret, from TIME Magazine, 1986

The Early Years of String Theory at ACP

By John H. Schwarz

We reminisce about some of the highlights in the development of string theory at the Aspen Center for Physics during the period 1969–1984, especially the authors’ collaboration in the period 1980–1984.

Pierre Ramond on the telephone at the NAL, now Fermilab, in the winter of 1969-1970.

Aspen on the Road to Supersymmetry

By Pierre Ramond

In 1969, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Accelerator Laboratory, known today as Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Its director, the late Bob Wilson, was ruling the roost.

Catalog Number: Reeder Donald D1 Aspen, Colorado, 1972, Fermilab Program Advisory Committee week-long meeting. L-R: June Steingart, Oakland, CA artist and teacher (Mrs. Owen Chamberlain to be); Donald Reeder, University of Wisconsin (walking), Owen Chamberlain, UC Berkeley, Nobel Laureate (seated); James Walker, Fermilab (red pants). Scanned from the J. D. Jackson Slide Collection No. J48. Credit: Photograph by J.D. Jackson, courtesy AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives, J. D. Jackson Collection

Particle Physics: The Early Years

By Loyal (Randy) Durand

The early program at the Center (then the Physics Division of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies) was very informal. There were no organized workshops, and people came when it fit their schedules and housing was available...

From left, Hans Bethe, Sally Mencimer and Phil Anderson

Letter from Sally Hume Mencimer

By Sally Hume Mencimer

In March of 1964, I was teaching English at Aspen High School, grades 9-12. Needing a summer job, I interviewed at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies to be the Secretary for the newly formed Physics Division. I was hired.

AI-generated image of particle physics

Particle Physics History

By Howard Haber and Joseph Lykken

It started small: a few dozen physicists making their way to Aspen in the summer, with plenty of time to think and discuss but no formal program. It wasn't a conference or a school; it was a new way for theoretical physicists from around the world to get together and interact.

Ravindra Bhatt, portrait by Bernice Durand

Condensed Matter Physics: the First Fifty Years

By Ravindra N. Bhatt

Condensed Matter Physics, or Solid State Physics as it was then called, had a slow start in early years of the Aspen Center of Physics (ACP). Much of the activity during the first decade involved participation by a few key players who, convinced of the unity of all subfields of physics, decided to participate in activities at the Center,

Josh Frieman at the 60th ACP Anniversary

Astrophysics: The Modern Era

By Josh Frieman

By the mid-1990’s, astrophysics had become fully integrated into the activities of the Aspen Center for Physics, on a par with particle physics and condensed matter physics in terms of the number of members and officers and the number of and participants in workshops.

Astrophysics: The Middle Years

By Michael S. Turner

I came to Aspen for the first time in 1979. I was a young postdoc attending the NASA astrophysics workshop, that year entitled Stellar Collapse and Neutrino Physics. By then, astrophysics was a well-established part of the summer program and many astrophysicists attended on a regular basis,

arXiv smiley face logo, repeated

arXiv's Beginning at the Aspen Center for Physics

By Paul Ginsparg and Joanne Cohn

My first visit to the ACP was during its 20th anniversary year of 1982 (I still have my “30th anniversary” t-shirt from 1991), one year after my doctorate. Enchanted by the mountains, the music, and the open exchange of ideas, I returned frequently during the following decades.

25th Anniversary and Patio Dedication with George Stranahan, Michael Cohen, and Robert Anderson

The Aspen Center for Physics - How It All Started

By Michel Baranger

I have been a mountain man all my life and many of my friends have been mountain people. Back in 1960, when I was at Carnegie Tech, I had two friends who were both physicists and mountain men, Michael Cohen and George Stranahan.

The Joys of Aspen

By Sydney Meshkov

Going to the ACP over the years has played a major part in my personal and scientific life. I first came to ACP in 1968. It was the year when Hilbert Hall was built – now the space where it once was is called the Hilbert space.

“Physics Utopia:” The Aspen Center for Physics

By Aruna Balasubramanian

In 2001, The New York Times described the Aspen Center for Physics (ACP) as a “physics utopia,” and for good reason. The ACP is the only place on Earth where physicists can come to “talk, think and write [...] while training like Olympians – hiking, scaling 14,000-foot peaks, cycling up mountain passes, jogging and playing cut-throat volleyball in Aspen's thin air at 8,000 feet.”

Aspen Center for Physics Founders - Michael Cohen, Robert Craig, George Stranahan (from left to right).

The Founding of the Physics Division of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies

By Robert Craig

In the fall of 1953 when I returned to my home in Aspen from an expedition to K2 in Pakistan, Walter Paepcke (despite doubts of my sanity for venturing to the Himalayas) hired me as Executive Director and Assistant to the President of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. To acquaint me with what I […]

Astrophysics: The Early Years

By J. Craig Wheeler

1962-1979 Astrophysics was entangled in the DNA of the Aspen Center for Physics from the beginning, even if it was not immediately apparent. Although George Stranahan, the visionary founder of the Physics Center, practiced condensed matter physics during his research career, he read astronomy books on his own time during his stint at the Hotchkiss […]

Rosemary Wyse, ACP President 2010-2013, at the 60th Anniversary Celebration.

Presidential Essay from Rosemary Wyse

By Rosemary Wyse

The highlight of my tenure as President was undoubtedly the 50th anniversary of the ACP in 2012, which we celebrated with a summer filled with joyful events. The physicist members plus the indefatigable staff - Jane Kelly, Paula Johnson and Patty Fox

Andrew Cohen, ACP President 2007-2010. Image from Fermilab.

Presidential Essay from Andy Cohen

By Andrew Cohen

I first came to the Physics Center as a student in the late 1980s. At the time I had not yet settled on physics as a career, and my knowledge of how physics as a profession operated was practically non-existent.

The First 35 Years

By Jeremy Bernstein

I made my first visit to the Aspen Center for Physics in June of 1969. The Center had been in operation since the summer of 1962 and from the beginning one of its founders, Michael Cohen, had been urging me to apply for a visit. There was a selection committee.

Andrei Ruckenstein at the 2012 celebration of Aspen Center for Physics' 50th Anniversary at the Wheeler Opera House

Presidential Essay from Andrei Ruckenstein

By Andrei Ruckenstein

I first visited the Aspen Center for Physics (ACP) in the summer of 1985, one year after I finished my PhD and joined the theory group at Bell Laboratories. That June I had the opportunity to spend one month with my now-good friends, Dieter Vollhardt and his post-doc supervisor, Peter Woelfle at the Max Plank Institute and the Technical University in Munich

Eric D'Hoker, Aspen Center for Physics President, 1998-2001

Presidential Essay from Eric D'Hoker

By Eric D’Hoker

My first contact with the Aspen Center for Physics dates back to 1982... Colleagues had coyly described a summer institute, high up in the Rocky Mountains. This sounded exactly like my kind of place to spend the summer.

Tom Appelquist, Aspen Center for Physics Presdient 1993-1996

Presidential Essay from Tom Appelquist

By Thomas Appelquist

During my first year as President (1993–1994), we decided to replace Hilbert Hall with a new building, and began a major development campaign for this purpose. We engaged the architectural firm of Harry Teague and Company which developed initial design ideas by the summer of 1994.

President Mike Turner at the Aspen Center for Physics 50th Anniversary

Presidential Essay from Mike Turner

By Michael S. Turner

My presidency was a transitional one, linking the “Founders' era” to the “Modern era.” I was the first “young Turk” President, by which I mean one whose roots didn't trace to the Center's Founders and one who railed against the old boys.

Mike Simmons, President of Aspen Center for Physics 1985-1988

Presidential Essay from Mike Simmons

By L. M. (Mike) Simmons, Jr.

In the 50s and 60s an important summer program in physics was the famous Boulder Summer Theoretical Physics Institute. Every graduate student studied the published lectures. As a postdoc I applied to Boulder for 1966.

Peter Kaus, portrait by Bernice Durand

Presidential Essay from Peter Kaus

By Peter Kaus

In 1956 I found myself in Princeton. I was simultaneously at RCA Laboratories, designing the deflection yoke for the first commercially successful (21 inch) color TV tube (my first salaried job) and at the Institute for Advanced Study as an (unpaid) scholar finishing my thesis work on self composite fermions (Solitons).

Photo of Elihu Abrahams

Presidential Essay from Elihu Abrahams

By Elihu Abrahams

In late summer of 1979, I was elected ACP President. It can be appreciated that by this time, the Center was a smoothly functioning institution under the firm guidance of Sally Hume Mencimer, its Administrative Vice President. Therefore, the position of President appeared to me to be not very burdensome

Paul Fishbane at the 50th Anniversary Celebration at Aspen Center for Physics.

Presidential Essay from Paul Fishbane

By Paul Fishbane

First things first: We can all be discretely proud, through our efforts to make it possible, of the scientific work that took place at the Center. I couldn't begin here to summarize the real work that took place while I partly watched from my administrator's perch

Loyal (Randy) Durand, President, 1972-1976

Presidential Essay from Randy Durand

By Loyal (Randy) Durand

I will start somewhat before the beginning of my term as President to make clear the rapid changes that were taking place in the Physics Center through the transition period, and their influence on the subsequent development of the Center.

George Stranahan

Presidential Essay from George Stranahan

By George Stranahan

In 1957 I theorized that if a guy with three kids going to graduate school in Pittsburgh on the GI Bill could rent a house plus jeep in Aspen for three summer months at $400, he’d be a damn fool for not getting outta town. Part of the theory was that, since paper and pencil […]

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George Stranahan

Presidential Essays

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One b/w negative of the Physics Institute at the Aspen Meadows, 1967. This image is in the Aspen Illustrated News on June 29, 1967 (page 2). Photo courtesy of Aspen Historical Society.

Science History

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Bernice Durand Lunch, 2021

Women at the Center

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