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History and Philosophy of Physics

The main focus of the History and Philosophy of Physics group is on the history and philosophy of modern physics.

Van Dongen researches the Science and Life of Albert Einstein and his contemporaries, and the history and philosophy of gravity. He has also studied science during the Cold War and general problems in science historiography. Van Dongen served as editor of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein (California Institute of Technology; Princeton University Press) and authored Einstein’s Unification (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Multiple projects are currently conducted at the History of Physics group at the University of Amsterdam. In collaboration with the astronomers of the Anton Pannekoek Institute (API) of the UvA, we are researching the astronomy and socialism of Anton Pannekoek. These may be able to illustrate the history of objectivity as epistemic norm, a subject which has attracted great attention in current historiography of science, and at the same time inform us about Pannekoek’s scientific ideals and epistemic virtues. Pannekoek was a prominent socialist theorist and activist, and always maintained a strict separation between his socialist theorizing and his astronomical work. However, we hope to find a unified understanding of Pannekoek’s intellectual engagement through our focus on his epistemological ideals.

Research is also conducted on the history and philosophy of dark matter science, in collaboration with members of Amsterdam’s GRAPPA group, and Van Dongen further has a long standing interest in the history and philosophy of black hole physics, on which he currently collaborates with dr. Sebastian de Haro (University of Amsterdam/Cambridge University).

The History of Physics group collaborates in the Vossius Center for the History of Humanities and Sciences of the University of Amsterdam (which van Dongen co-directs together with Rens Bod and Julia Kursell) with other historians of knowledge at the University of Amsterdam. This Center, supported by the UvA’s CvB, aims for a unified historiography of all scholarly disciplines. This is done concretely through the NWO funded project The Flow of Cognitive Goods (together with the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, ILLC).

The History of Physics group offers teaching in the UvA’s Physics and Chemistry degree programs and through the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS) of the UvA.

Group leaders

Prof. dr. J.A.E.F. (Jeroen) van Dongen

Faculty of Science


Dr. S. (Sebastian) De Haro Ollé

Faculty of Science