Summer 2023 Bulletin

From the Archives

Maggie Boyd
A black and white photo of the presenters from the Conference on Science and the Modern Worldview, held at the Academy in May, 1956. The presenters wear suits and ties and stand in front of bookshelves.
Conference presenters, photographer unknown, May 1956. Left to right: Gerald Holton, Charles Morris, Nathan Pusey, I. I. Rabi, Robert Oppenheimer, Detlev Bronk, John E. Burchard, P. W. Bridgman, Perry Miller, Philipp Frank, Howard Mumford Jones, W. V. Quine, Harcourt Brown, and Giorgio de Santillana. Archives, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

By Maggie Boyd, Archivist

On May 5–6, 1956, the Academy hosted a conference on “Science and the Modern World View—Toward a Common Understanding of the Sciences and the Humanities.” The conference, funded by the National Science Foundation, was held in honor of physicist Percy Williams Bridgman and mathematician and physicist Philipp G. Frank. At their request, the meeting was not a celebration of their individual work. Rather, it highlighted the discipline of the philosophy of science, which they both advanced. Specifically, the conference examined the history of a scientific worldview and its intersection with the humanities in the mid-twentieth century.

The presenters included Robert Oppenheimer, Harcourt Brown, and Howard Mumford Jones, among others. In his presentation, Oppenheimer emphasized two aspects uniting the humanities and the sciences.1 First, his belief that the “terrifyingly, inhumanly rapid rate” of scientific advancement followed an order, however inadequate. “The second is simply this: we can have each other to dinner. We ourselves, and with each other by our converse, can create, not an architecture of global scope, but an immense, intricate network of intimacy, illumination, and understanding. Everything cannot be connected with everything in the world we live in. Every­thing can be connected with anything.”

The conference papers were published in the Winter 1958 issue of Dædalus, “Science and the Modern World View,” and as a book, Science and the Modern Mind, by Beacon Press in 1958. The papers of the conference’s organizing committee have been processed, and a finding aid is available on the Academy Archives website.


  • 1Robert Oppenheimer, “The Growth of Science and the Structure of Culture: Comments on Dr. Frank’s Paper,” Dædalus 87 (1) (Winter 1958): 76.