Monday, April 18, 2016

Incorporating scientist biographies into lectures

A few years ago I decided I wanted to include brief biographies of relevant great scientists in my undergraduate lectures. I posted (5 years ago!) about how I started with Landau but I lost momentum. This year I have put more effort into it. I just taught my second year undergraduate thermo class about Gibbs free energy and so I profiled Gibbs.
In solid state physics I have profiled Drude, Sommerfeld, von Laue, and Bloch.
I have found this quite enjoyable for myself and hopefully for the students. I have learnt quite a bit, just by reading the relevant Wikipedia pages. It also introduces students to the human dimension of science. For example, Drude died by suicide and so it is a good opportunity to flag mental health issues. Sommerfeld was a mentor of many great scientists. von Laue actively opposed the Deutsche Physik of the Nazis. Bloch was the first Director General of CERN.

Has anyone else experience at doing similar things? Any suggestions?

1 comment:

  1. I remember this fondly from my undergrad studies while using the book titled Quantum Chemistry by Donald A McQuarrie. It contains brief biographical sketches of people connected to the topics discussed in that particular chapter. I think it made quite an interesting reading.