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Historian of Science Receives Doctoral Degree at Convocation

Public Relations
Posted: Friday Apr 25, 2014

April 25, 2014

Dr. Gregory Good, a Saint Vincent College graduate who is director of the American Institute of Physics Center for the History of Physics, was the main speaker at the annual spring honors convocation of Saint Vincent College on Wednesday, April 23 in the Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica. His talk was entitled, “A Life Built on the Liberal Arts.” He was also honored with the conferral of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

The degree citation read during the presentation summarized Good’s extraordinary career. “If you travel to Marilla Park in Morgantown, W.Va., and you are near Deckers Creek, take time to read a small metal plaque near the pedestrian bridge. You will note that it is named the ‘Good Bridge,’ not a good bridge in the sense of architecture or construction, but named for Dr. Greg Good. This plaque honors Good, who spent nearly a quarter of a century as a history professor at West Virginia University and is currently Director of the American Institute of Physics Center for the History of Physics in College Park, Md., for his advocacy of urban green spaces and walking trails in the Morgantown area. Teaching, research, in particular the history of geophysics, and his work with the Greenspace Coalition in West Virginia are characteristic of this Latrobe native who exemplifies the values of a Saint Vincent College Catholic, Benedictine and liberal arts education. When he received the Mary C. Rabbitt History of Geology Award in 2008, Dr. Good remarked that his first love was astronomy—he bought telescopes, built an observatory and lectured to school children at planetariums—all of this led him to become a physics major at Saint Vincent. Dr. Good was nurtured and encouraged by members of this department, but he also fondly recalls the influences of his German, history and philosophy teachers. A good liberal arts education prepared him for an unforeseen career. As he was applying for graduate school in 1974, he discovered a new option: history of science. ‘When I was filling out applications to graduate schools for astronomy, I noticed that three had programs in the history of science. Two seconds with an eraser changed my future.’ After he earned a Ph.D. in history and philosophy of science from the University of Toronto in 1982, Good began his academic vocation as an author, educator and historian of science at West Virginia University, and in 2009 he became Director of the American Institute of Physics Center for the History of Physics. The mission of the Center is ‘to preserve and make known the history of modern physics and allied fields’ through education programs and by assisting scholars in their research, Greg Good’s academic background and love of the liberal arts and physics, which began at Saint Vincent College, continues and will continue to guide and inspire him. For a life devoted to scholarship, teaching, mentoring of students and concern for the environment, Saint Vincent College is proud to present the degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, to you, Gregory A. Good.”

Good has described his work as “a repository for our memories of what we have tried, of what has been good and what has not . . . based on an honest, hard-nosed evaluation of what we have known about the Earth.” He has also written that “a passion for the world and the living augments scholarship.”

A 1974 graduate of Saint Vincent College who earned a bachelor of science degree in physics with highest honor, he earned a master of arts and Ph.D. in history and philosophy of science from the University of Toronto. He is the son of the late Albert and Hilde (Stauffer) Good, of Latrobe, and a 1970 graduate of Derry Area High School. He and his wife, Lynn Sobolov, live in Takoma Park, Md. Their two daughters, Colleen and Anna, graduated from Macalester College and Allegheny College, respectively.

A distinguished historian of science, Good’s numerous publications include works on the history of astronomy, geophysics, geoscience and physics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He edited a history of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. His two-volume Sciences of the Earth: An Encyclopedia of Events, People and Phenomena published in 1998 remains a definitive resource in the history of geology. Today, he authors a blog – GEOcosmoHISTORY – Human stories at the boundaries of Earth and Cosmos: science, technology and environment.

Good held a variety of distinguished positions during his career. These include a postdoctoral position with the Smithsonian Institution, a research associate at the Carnegie Institution and a visiting scholar at Cambridge University. He served as editor of Earth Science History from 1998-2004. He was the chairperson of the history department and director of graduate studies in history at West Virginia University until 2009 when he became the director of the American Institute of Physics’ Center for the History of Physics. In that position, he carries forward its mission “to preserve and make known the history of modern physics and allied fields.” This includes documentation programs, educational programs (including Web exhibits), and support for the next generation of historians of physics. He is a member of the International Commission on the History of Geological Sciences and chaired the American Institute of Physics’ History Advisory Committee from 2004 to 2008. He is an officer of the International Commission for the History of Physics.

In 2008, Good was awarded the Mary C. Rabbitt History of Geology Award. The citation for the award stated that Good’s ability to make connections between various disciplines and establish community among scholars were his defining characteristics. Good “creates essential connections within the subject matter by drawing together multiple threads of the earth sciences in his own scholarship and by his editorial work.” In addition to his numerous professional accomplishments, Good has also assisted local schools in grant writing for science and environmental education.


Photo: Dr. Gregory Good, center, receives an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., left, and Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., right. 


Watch the Video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqHhtIn2XGY&list=PLBCUpgiWdqG-4sRlDIbKvZmLqNkLW48zd 


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