Hervé Delime

Finding a New Passion: Preserving the History of Physics

Hervé Delime spent much of his career passing on his love of physics to the next generation as a high school physics and chemistry teacher in France. He has enjoyed a long teaching career, but after almost 30-years he seized an opportunity to fulfill his second passion and study the history of physics. In 2015, Hervé began his master’s degree which eventually led to pursuing his PhD at the University of Strasbourg, all while working full time. It has been an extremely fulfilling journey that has involved a lot of hard work, great time management, and having access to resources, which is how he was introduced to AIP.

As Hervé began his dissertation on the contributions of French physicists in the early years of nuclear physics research he was looking for source material. After a bit of Google searching, he discovered in 1979 the archives of French physicist, Dr. Lew Kowarski, had been donated to AIP’s Niels Bohr Library & Archives. Hervé knew having access to these materials was important for the success of his dissertation, but he had no idea how he would find time to come to Maryland let alone afford the airfare and accommodations. On the advice of his university advisor, Hervé reached out to AIP’s Dr. Gregory Good and applied to the Grants-in-Aid program. Through this program, Hervé received $2,500 to cover living expenses in Maryland for two weeks while he studied at the library.

At the time, Hervé did not realize how impactful the resources at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives would be on his dissertation, but it turned into the opportunity of a lifetime. When it was all said and done almost 50% of his cited sources came from the library. He credits much of that to the wonderful librarians who assisted him throughout his time. The first day he visited there was a cart waiting with all the selections he had requested prior to his arrival and he noted, “Because of the extremely helpful librarians, I didn’t waste a single hour.”

Hervé felt like history was at his fingertips. At one point his table held the archival boxes of Dr. Kowarski, which contained research papers that not many had seen. It was a special moment for Hervé as he opened the boxes and laid eyes on Dr. Kowarski’s work. According to Hervé, “There’s nothing that compares to being onsite at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.”

AIP’s Niels Bohr Library & Archives is honored to play a role in the success of our colleagues, just like Hervé, who are passionate about the history of physics. For Hervé, the Grants-in-Aid program gave him access to some of the most unique resources in the physical sciences community housed at the Center for History of Physics and the Niels Bohr Library & Archives. It has been a long, exciting road, but In April 2022 Hervé will be defending his dissertation.