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Smith of Tufts is named Dibner Institute's acting head


Professor George E. Smith of Tufts University has been appointed acting director of the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at MIT. The Dibner Institute is an international center for advanced research in the history of science and technology.

Smith is a professor in the philosophy department of Tufts and a practicing engineer. His primary concern as a philosopher of science is with evidence both in the advanced sciences and in engineering. His research over the last two decades has focused on the development of new approaches towards evidence with special emphasis on Newton's "Principia" in an effort to answer the question, "How did we first come to have high-quality evidence in any science?"

"My immediate goal is simply to join [executive director] Evelyn Simha in maintaining the Dibner Institute on the course that she and [former director] Jed Buchwald established over the last decade," he said.

Smith has published several articles on Newton's overall methodology in the "Principia" and on "Book Two," and he is co-editor, with I. Bernard Cohen, of the forthcoming "Cambridge Companion to Newton." He has also done work on late 19th- and early 20th-century research into the atomic and subatomic realm in physics and chemistry, and more recently on engineering epistemology and the contrast between evidence in science and engineering.

As an engineer, Smith has been associated with Northern Research and Engineering Corp. (now Concepts NREC) since 1965. He worked on computer methods in aircraft engine design in the first years that computers were applied to engine design, first as a rotor design specialist at General Electric in the late 1950s and then as head of the Math Analysis Group at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in the early 1960s. For the last 30 years he has specialized in aerodynamically induced vibration and resulting metal fatigue failures in jet engines and other turbomachinery.

Smith, a past Senior Fellow of the Dibner Institute, received his B.A. from Yale University and his Ph.D. from the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT.

The Dibner Institute was founded by Bern Dibner in 1990. In 1992, an agreement was confirmed between the president of MIT and David Dibner, president of the Dibner Fund, designating MIT as host of the Institute. Two other universities, Boston University and Harvard University, join MIT in a consortium arrangement.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 7, 2001.

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