Emeritus Appointment

Profile Field Tabs

Research/Career Interests: 

Mary Jo Nye's research interests include the history of chemistry and physics since the eighteenth century in western Europe, the UK, and the United States; the social and cultural history of science, including laboratory science, university education, and the political activities of scientists; and the philosophy of science, especially relations between theory and evidence. She is the recipient of the 2017 Abraham Pais Prize for History of Physics. The Pais Prize is given annually by the American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics to recognize outstanding scholarly achievements in the history of physics.

(Photo Right: Mary Jo Nye in Special Collections Valley Library OSU.  Photo by Jim Folts)


Research and Activities

  • Professor Nye completed her undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University and the University of Wisconsin, taking her Ph.D. in History of Science at the University of Wisconsin. From 1970 she taught at the University of Oklahoma, where she was named George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the History of Science in 1991. She was appointed a Thomas Hart and Mary Jones Horning Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History at OSU in 1994. Other affiliations include visiting research appointments at the University of Pittsburgh, Rutgers University, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, and the Max Planck Institut fur Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Berlin.
  • Professor Nye received the History of Science Society's Sarton Medal for Lifetime Scholarly Achievement awarded for 2006. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Corresponding Member of the Académie Internationale d'Histoire des Sciences.
  • In 2013 she received the John and Martha Morris Award from the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry for outstanding achievement in the history of chemistry and the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Roy G. Neville Prize for her book Michael Polanyi and His Generation: Origins of the Social Construction of Science (2011).

  • On Wednesday, February 9, 2022 she will receive the 2020 Franklin-Lavoisier Prize. Awarded jointly to Mary Jo Nye and Alan J. Rocke, Bourne Professor of History Emeritus at Case Western Reserve University, the Prize is sponsored biannually by the Fondation de la Maison de la Chimie in Paris and the Science History Institute in Philadelphia. The Prize recognizes individuals or organizations for their work in preserving and enhancing knowledge of our chemical and scientific heritage and/or contributions to the French-American relationship in Chemistry. The Prize includes a silver medal and an award of 15,000 euros, which is shared between the co-recipients. Presentation of the 2020 Prize was postponed from November 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The 9 February 2022 award presentation will be live-streamed and recorded, with Professor Nye and Professor Rocke each making remarks and giving brief talks by video about their historical work. Both talks focus on the theme of the role of biography in history.  The next Franklin-Lavoisier Prize will be presented in November 2022 at the Science History Institute, where Professor Nye and Professor Rocke have been invited for the occasion.
    For further information:


Selected Publications


Michael Polanyi


Michael Polanyi and His Generation: Origins of the Social Construction of Science

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

*** 2013 Winner of the Chemical Heritage
Foundation’s Roy G. Neville Prize ***


Blackett Cover


Blackett: Physics, War, and Politics in the 20th Century 

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.


Before Big Science Cover


Before Big Science: The Pursuit of Modern Chemistry and Physics, 1800-1940

New York: Simon & Schuster / Twayne, 1996 . 

Paperback edition, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.

From Chemical Philosophy Cover


From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry:

Dynamics of Matter and Dynamics of Disciplines, 1800-1950

Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.


Science in the Provinces: Scientific Communities and Provincial Leadership in France, 1860-1930



Science in the Provinces: Scientific Communities and Provincial Leadership in France, 1860-1930 

Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

Molecular Reality Cover 



Molecular Reality:
A Perspective on the Scientific Work of Jean Perrin

London: Macdonald / New York: American Elsevier, 1972.


Edited Books:

Ed. The Question of the Atom: From the Karlsruhe Congress to the First Solvay Conference. 1860-1911. A Selection of Primary Sources.  Los Angeles: Tomash and New York: American Institute of Physics, 1984.

Ed., with Joan Richards and Roger Stuewer. The Invention of Physical Science: Intersections of Mathematics, Theology and Natural Philosophy since the Seventeenth Century.  Essays in Honor of Erwin N. Hiebert.  Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Volume 139.  Dordrecht:  Kluwer, 1992.

Associate Editor. The Pauling Symposium: A Discourse on the Art of Biography. Proceedings of the Conference on the Life and Work of Linus Pauling (1901-1994), ed. Ramesh S. Krishnamurthy with Clifford Mead, Mary Jo Nye, Sean C. Goodlett, and Marvin E. Kirk. Corvallis: Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections, 1996.

Ed.  Modern Physical and Mathematical Sciences.  Volume 5 (2003) of The Cambridge History of Science, eds. David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers. 8 volumes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003- .

Select Articles:

“Shifting Trends in Modern Physics, Nobel Recognition, and the Histories That We Write,” Physics in Perspective, 21 (2019): 3-22.   

“Boundaries, Transformations, Historiography: Physics in Chemistry in the 1920s to 1960s,” Isis, 109, #3 (2018): 587-596.
“Michael Polanyi: Science as Personal Knowledge and Social Practice,” Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 56 (2017): 3426-3433. 

“The Republic vs. The Collective: Two Histories of Collaboration and Competition in Modern Science,” NTM (Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin), 24, #2 (2016): 169-194.

"Foreword" to Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, enlarged edition with a new foreword by Mary Jo Nye (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015): xi-xxv.

"Biography and the History of Science," in Relocating the History of Science: Essays in Honor of Kostas Gavroglu,  eds. Theodore Arabatzis, Jürgen Renn and Ana Simões. Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, Volume 312 (New York: Springer, 2015): 218-296.

“Reaction Intermediates and Transition States: States of Matter or States of Mind.” In Objects of Chemical Inquiry, eds. Ursula Klein and Carsten Reinhardt. Sagamore Beach, MA: Science History Publications/USA, 2014: 237-258.