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Dr Joseph D. Martin

Assistant Professor (History of Science and Technology)

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Assistant Professor (History of Science and Technology) in the Department of History  


I am a historian of science and technology, focusing on the modern physical sciences. I earned a PhD from the Program in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of Minnesota in 2013. Before joining Durham, I spent time at Colby College, Michigan State University, the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, and the University of Cambridge.

My current research investigates history of categorisation practises in science. How did scientists and societies negotiate the boundaries of concepts, including the boundaries of science itself, from the nineteenth through the early twenty-first centuries? How have these boundaries been enforced by institutions, and with what consequences? What happens to the categories we use to make cultural sense of science as scientific practice changes around them? These questions are crucial for understanding the solidification of science’s cultural authority during the twentieth century, and for navigating our contemporary relationships with scientific expertise.

Some of my other interests include:

· The sciences of stuff—that is, solid state physics, condensed matter physics, and materials science. My 2018 book, Solid State Insurrection, traced the growth of American solid state physics, showing how it remade the scope and mission of American physics and the identity of American physicists in ways that helped physics maintain its outsized role on Cold War American society.

· The role of industrial patronage in post–World War II university research. I have examined how universities like Michigan and Chicago partnered with industry in order to check government influence over basic research, especially in nuclear science, from the conviction that industry support offered an avenue to academic freedom.

· The pedagogy and popular image of science. The communication of science—through both teaching and public engagement—is crucial to understanding its historical importance. My work has examined the pedagogical practices of the carbon physicist Mildred Dresselhaus, the public prestige asymmetries between different areas of physics, and John Tyndall’s 1872–73 American lecture tour.

· Philosophical questions about contingency in the history of science and how they can inform the methodology of history and philosophy of science.

I welcome inquiries from potential postgraduate students interested in studying any aspect of modern science and technology, particularly the physical sciences, scientific institutions and patronage, or Cold War science and technology.

Research groups

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • History & Archaeology: History of Modern Science and Technology


Authored book

  • Martin, Joseph D. (2018). Solid State Insurrection: How the Science of Substance Made American Physics Matter. University of Pittsburgh Press.

Book review

Chapter in book

Edited book

  • Martin, Joseph D. & Mody, Cyrus C. C. M. (2020). Between Making and Knowing: Tools in the History of Materials Research. WSPC Encyclopedia of the Development and History of Materials Science. World Scientific.

Edited Journal

  • Martin, Joseph D., Mateos, Gisela, Munns, David P. D. & Suárez-Díaz, Edna (2021). Revealing the Michigan Memorial–Phoenix Project. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 51 (2).
  • Fisher, Amy A. & Martin, Joseph D. (2016). Emerging Prospects for History of the Physical Sciences. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 46 (3).
  • Martin, Joseph D. & Janssen, Michel (2015). Making the History of Physics Dirtier. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 45 (5).

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)