The Beckman Center at the Science History Institute offers fellowships on an annual cycle for scholars doing research on our collections or in the history and social studies of chemistry, chemical engineering, and the life sciences. Fellows are expected to participate in biweekly informal writing groups and give at least one Lunchtime Lecture. They also have the opportunity to take part in a variety of outreach activities while in residence at the Institute. About 20 fellowships are given out annually, making the Beckman Center the largest private fellowship program in the history of science in the United States. Researchers travel from all over the world to use our collections and take part in a vibrant scholarly community.
The research collections at the Institute range chronologically from the 15th century to the present and include 6,000 rare books; significant archival holdings; thousands of images and other graphic materials; memorabilia of various kinds; oral histories; and a large artifact and fine arts collection, supported by over 100,000 modern primary-source volumes and journals. Within the collections are many areas of special strength, including alchemy, mining and metallurgy, dyeing and bleaching, balneology, gunpowder and pyrotechnics, gas-lighting, books of secrets, inorganic and organic chemistry, biochemistry, food chemistry, and pharmaceuticals.
The library collections can be searched online at othmerlib.sciencehistory.org. Subject guides along with information on how to use the library can be found at guides.othmerlibrary.sciencehistory.org. You can also explore a number of our digitized collections at digital.sciencehistory.org.
The Beckman Center offers several types of fellowship:
80/20 Postdoctoral fellowships (2 years):
These fellowships reflect the Institute’s commitment to providing career-launching fellowships for recent PhDs and its support for the career diversity initiatives of the American Historical Association and affiliated scholarly societies. The 80/20 postdoctoral fellowship program will enable the Beckman Center’s postdocs to build skills and experience that can enhance their opportunities outside the academy or their work within it.
During each of the two years fellows will spend on average one day a week working closely with Institute staff on projects related to their research in one of four concentrations: rare books, museum, oral history, or public programs. The rare books and museum concentrations incorporate a digital component, and all fellows undertake at least one outreach activity. The rest of the time fellows are expected to take advantage of the Institute’s considerable resources to develop and publish their own research. In addition, each 80/20 fellow will give one of our two flagship Fellow in Focus public lectures, either in the fall or the spring. There will also be an opportunity to organize jointly a two-day workshop in the Institute’s state-of-the-art conference center on a topic determined collaboratively by the fellows.
Applicants for 80/20 postdoctoral fellowships must expect to have their PhD in hand before July 2020 and have earned that degree within the last five years. Postdoctoral fellowship stipends are US$45,000, paid in monthly installments, with an additional US$2,500 subsidy for health insurance and an annual grant for travel expenses.
Dissertation fellowships (9 months):
These fellowships are open to graduate students whose PhD dissertation proposals have been accepted by their respective university departments. We also encourage applications from candidates in dissertation- or thesis-only PhD programs outside of the United States whose funding does not extend to a fourth year. The stipend is US$26,000, with an additional one-off grant for initial travel expenses.
Short-Term fellowships (1–4 months):
These fellowships are open to all scholars and researchers irrespective of career stage, including doctoral students, who plan to work closely with the Institute’s collections on an independent research project. The stipend is US$3,000 per month to defray the costs of travel, accommodation, and living expenses.
The deadline for the Fall 2019 call for fellowship applications is February 3, 2020. See our website for instructions on how to apply and the link to the online application: sciencehistory.org/fellowships/apply-for-a-fellowship.
The Bredig Archive
We would particularly like to draw attention to our recent acquisition of the personal papers of the Jewish-German émigré scientist Georg Bredig (1868–1944) and his son, Max (1902–1977). The sizable collection consists of correspondence, books, photographs, and scientific notes smuggled out of Germany during World War II. A founding figure in physical chemistry and catalytic research, Bredig became a target for persecution by the Nazi regime owing to his Jewish background and liberal political beliefs. The archive bears witness to Bredig’s significant scientific contributions and his family’s struggle to survive the Holocaust.
We are currently processing the collection and preparing a finding aid, and we anticipate opening the archive to scholars for consultation in spring 2020. We strongly encourage those with relevant historical interests to apply for short-term fellowships in order to explore its contents with the aim of developing a more substantive research program. We also invite scholars who believe that their existing work would be enhanced by materials in the Bredig collection to apply for short- or long-term fellowships.
Daniel Jon Mitchell
Director, Center for Historical Research
Science History Institute
Chemistry • Engineering • Life Sciences
315 Chestnut Street • Philadelphia, PA 19106 • U.S.A.