David Kaiser is Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science in MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society, Professor of Physics in MIT’s Department of Physics, and also Associate Dean for Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing (SERC) in MIT’s Schwarzman College of Computing. He completed an A.B. in physics at Dartmouth College and Ph.D.s in physics and the history of science at Harvard University. Kaiser’s historical research focuses on the development of physics in the United States during the Cold War, looking at how the discipline has evolved at the intersection of politics, culture, and the changing shape of higher education. His physics research focuses on early-universe cosmology, working at the interface of particle physics and gravitation. He has also designed and helped to conduct novel experimental tests of the foundations of quantum theory.
Kaiser is author of the award-winning book, Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics (University of Chicago Press, 2005), which traces how Richard Feynman’s idiosyncratic approach to quantum physics entered the mainstream. His book How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival (W. W. Norton, 2011) charts the early history of Bell’s theorem and quantum entanglement and was named “Book of the Year” by Physics World magazine. His latest book, Quantum Legacies: Dispatches from an Uncertain World (University of Chicago Press, 2020), was included among the “Best of Physics in Books, TV, and Film” by Physics World magazine. His edited volumes include Pedagogy and the Practice of Science: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (MIT Press, 2005), Becoming MIT: Moments of Decision (MIT Press, 2010), Science and the American Century, co-edited with Sally Gregory Kohlstedt (University of Chicago Press, 2013), Groovy Science: Knowledge, Innovation, and American Counterculture, co-edited with W. Patrick McCray (University of Chicago Press, 2016), and “Well, Doc, You’re In”: The Life and Legacy of Freeman Dyson (MIT Press, 2022). Kaiser serves as Chair of the Editorial Board of MIT Press, and as Series Editor for the MIT Case Studies in Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing.
Kaiser’s work has been featured in such venues as the New York Times, the New Yorker magazine, Nature, Science, and Scientific American; and on National Public Radio, BBC Radio, and NOVA television programs. In 2010, he was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Other honors include the Pfizer Prize for best book in the field (2007) and the Davis Prize for best book aimed at a general audience (2013) from the History of Science Society; and the LeRoy Apker Award for best undergraduate physics student from the American Physical Society (1993). In 2012 Kaiser was named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow, MIT’s highest honor for excellence in undergraduate teaching. That same year, he also received the Frank E. Perkins Award for excellence in mentoring graduate students. His group’s recent efforts to conduct a “Cosmic Bell” test of quantum entanglement were featured in the documentary film Einstein’s Quantum Riddle, which premiered on PBS television stations in 2019.