Science at the American Frontier


Science at the American Frontier

A Biography of DeWitt Bristol Brace

David Cahan and M. Eugene Rudd

227 pages


June 2000


$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Science at the American Frontier is both a biography of American physicist DeWitt Bristol Brace (1859–1905) and a study of the processes by which scientific knowledge and associated instrumentation were transferred from Europe to the United States and from the east coast to the American frontier. The authors trace Brace’s first-class scientific education in Boston, Baltimore, and Berlin, and they follow his career as he founded and built a department of physics at the University of Nebraska and pursued a research program at that institution. In doing so, they show how Brace’s career brought him into the vanguard of the American scientific community, and they illuminate the developmental process of departments of science at the newly founded land-grant colleges.

Author Bio

David Cahan is a professor of history at the University of Nebraska and the author of An Institute for an Empire. M. Eugene Rudd is a professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at the University of Nebraska. He is coauthor of Atomic Collisions: Heavy Particle Projectiles.


"The authors emphasize the transplantation of East Coast and European science, particularly physics, to the Great Plains by men like Brace, educated at Boston University, MIT, Johns Hopkins, and Berlin. In recounting the history of the department of physics, essentially Brace's creation, at the University of Nebraska, the authors illustrate the emergence of scientific community in the US between 1880 and 1905, the year of Brace's untimely death at age 46. Although physics had been taught at Nebraska from its earlier years, it was Brace, appointed in 1887, who created the curriculum. By 1895 he had established a small but important graduate research school, and by 1900 was recognized as a leader in US physics. He was internationally known as a gifted and innovative experimentalist whose measurements achieved remarkable precision. In his last 18 months of life he published six significant papers on the problem of ether drift. Recommended for general readers."—Choice