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Robert L. Weber collection on humor in physics, 1937-1988

Description of Collection


American Institute of Physics. Niels Bohr Library & Archives.

Papers created by

Weber, Robert L., 1913-

Size of collection

1.25 linear feet
Plus 4 lantern slide boxes

Short description of collection

This collection includes glass lantern slides and clippings of science related cartoons and a draft of the manuscript for "Droll Science: being a treasury of whimsical characters, laboratory levity and scholarly follies."

Language(s) of collection


Collection number:


Biographical Note

Robert L. Weber received a Ph.D. in physics from Pennsylvania State University, where he was later an associate professor of physics from 1937 until his retirement in 1977. During his tenure, he wrote many books including a college textbook "College Technical Physics," co-authored with Kenneth V. Manning and Marsh White; "Pioneers of Science," a collection of biographies of scientists; and the humorous "Droll Science: being a treasury of whimsical characters, laboratory levity and scholarly follies" and "Science with a Smile."

Scope and Contents of Collection

Robert L. Weber collected newspaper and magazine clippings over many years while doing research for some of his books: More Random Walks in Science, Droll Science and Science with a Smile. The clippings, both original and photocopies, are mainly science-related cartoons. They appeared in magazines such as American Scientist and The New Yorker, and in daily newspapers. Robert L. Weber solicited humorous anecdotes, cartoons, pranks, etc. through requests in magazines such as Physics Today and New Scientist. The cartoon subjects include relativity, mechanics, mathematics, nuclear physics, optics, computers, space exploration, meteorology, chemistry, medicine, and academic life.

This collection contains a copy of the manuscript for Droll Science. The working title of the book was Scientists at Play: An Anthology of Humor in Science and Scholarship, in which he had laid out two different arrangements of the chapters.

This collection also contains glass lantern slides. The glass slides (3 1/4" x 4"), mostly from the 1940s, are of physics-related cartoons from various periodicals. Topics include mechanical waves, sound, heat, optics, electricity, magnetism, and thermodynamics. The slides were collected by Robert S. Shaw and came to Robert L. Weber through Mark Zemansky.

Restrictions on Use and Access

Selected Search Terms

These papers have been indexed in the International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics and Allied Sciences (ICOS) using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.


Weber, Robert L., 1913-1997

Subject terms

Physicists. Humor.
Science. Humor.

Genre terms

Lantern slides.

Organization and Arrangement of Collection

This collection is organized into three series:

  • Series I: Cartoon clippings
  • Series II: “Droll Science” manuscript – “Scientists at Play: An Anthology of Humor in Science and Scholarship”
  • Series III: Glass lantern slides

Series I is arranged alphabetically by subject, series II is arranged by chapter of the book and series III is arranged as it was found.

Material Separated from Collection

Charcoal and pencil sketches of the following people were removed to the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives:

  • Alfven, Hannes Olaf Gosta
  • Alvarez, Luis Walter
  • Anderson, Carl David
  • Appleton, Sir Edward Victor
  • Bardeen, John
  • Barkla, Charles Glover
  • Basov, Nikolai Gennadievich
  • Becquerel, Henri
  • Blackett, Patrick Maynard Stuart
  • Bohr, Niels Hendrik David
  • Born, Max
  • Bothe, Walther Wilhelm Georg
  • Bragg, William Henry
  • Bragg, Sir William Lawrence
  • Brattain, Walter Houser
  • Braun, Karl Ferdinand
  • Bridgman, Percy Williams
  • De Broglie, Prince Louis
  • Chadwick, Sir James
  • Chamberlain, Owen
  • Cherenkov, Pavel Alekseivich
  • Cockcroft, Sir John Douglas
  • Compton, Arthur Holly
  • Cooper, Leon N.
  • Curie, Marie Sklowdowska
  • Curie, Pierre
  • Dalen, Nils Gustaf
  • Davisson, Clinton Joseph
  • Dirac, Paul Adrien Maurice
  • Einstein, Albert
  • Esaki, Leo
  • Fermi, Enrico
  • Feynman, Richard Phillips
  • Frank, Ilya Mikhailovich
  • Franck, James
  • Gabor, Dennis
  • Gell-Mann, Murray
  • Giaever, Ivar
  • Glaser, Donald Arthur
  • Guillaume, Charles-Edouard
  • Heisenberg, Werner Karl
  • Hertz, Gustav Ludwig
  • Hess, Victor Franz
  • Hofstadter, Robert
  • Jensen, J. Hans D.
  • Josephson, Brian David
  • Kastler, Alfred
  • Kusch, Polykarp
  • Lamb, Willis Eugene Jr.
  • Landau, Lev Davidovich
  • Lawrence, Ernest Orlando
  • Lee, Tsung Dao
  • Lenard, Phillip
  • Lippmann, Gabriel
  • Lorentz, Hendrik Antoon
  • Marconi, Guglielmo
  • Mayer, Maria Goeppert
  • Michelson, Albert Abraham
  • Millikan, Robert Andrews
  • Mossbauer, Rudolf Ludwig
  • Neel, Louis Eugene Felix
  • Onnes, Heike Kamerlingh
  • Pauli, Wolfgang
  • Perrin, Jean Baptiste
  • Planck, Max Karl Ernst Ludwig
  • Powell, Cecil Frank
  • Prokhorov, Alexander Mikhailovich
  • Purcell, Edward Mills
  • Rabi, Isidor Isaac
  • Raman, Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata
  • Rayleigh, Third Baron, John William Stratt
  • Richardson, Sir Owen Willans
  • Rontgen, Wilhelm Conrad
  • Schrieffer, John Robert
  • Schrodinger, Erwin
  • Schwinger, Julian Seymour
  • Segre, Emilio Gino
  • Shockley, William
  • Siegbahn, Karl Manne Georg
  • Stark, Johannes
  • Stern, Otto
  • Tamm, Igor Evgenievich
  • Thomson, Sir Georg Paget
  • Thomson, Sir Joseph John
  • Tomonaga, Sin-itiro
  • Townes, Charles Hard
  • Walton, Ernest Thomas Sinton
  • van der Waals, Johannes Diderik
  • Victor, Pierre Raymond
  • von Laue, Max Theodor Felix
  • Wien, Wilhelm
  • Wigner, Eugene Paul
  • Wilson, Charles Thomson Rees
  • Yang, Chen Ning
  • Yukawa, Hideki
  • Zeeman, Pieter
  • Zernike, Frits

Provenance and Acquisition Information

Robert L. Weber donated this collection to the Niels Bohr Library and Archives in 1988. The collection was received in two sections, the cartoons and the manuscript, and was combined in 2007, due to their similarities, for ease of access.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Lara D'Agaro in 2007.

The collection was formed through the combination of two separate accessions. The records have been maintained in the original order in which they were received. Duplicate materials were removed from the collection. Paper clips and staples were removed from the documents and in some cases replaced with archival quality paper clips. All materials were rehoused in archival quality, acid-free folders and boxes. The original charcoal sketches of Noble Prize winning physicists and photographs of the drawings were removed to the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives in 2007. The combined collection was processed by Lara D'Agaro in September 2007.

Preferred Citation of Collection

Box [number], Folder [number], Robert L. Weber collection on humor in physics, . American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, College Park, MD 20740, USA.

Administrative Information


Finding Aid to the Robert L. Weber collection on humor in physics, 1937-1988


American Institute of Physics Niels Bohr Library & Archives

One Physics Ellipse
College Park, MD 20740


Encoding Information

Machine-readable finding aid encoded by Melanie J. Brown in 2007. Any revisions made to this finding aid occurred as part of the editing and encoding process.

Series I: Cartoons

Box 1 Folder 1 Academic life research, undated
Folder 2 Atomic and nuclear physics, undated
Folder 3 Chemistry, undated
Folder 4 Earth Science and meteorology, undated
Folder 5 Electricity and magnetism, undated
Folder 6 From Charles A. Spiegel, undated
Folder 7 From David J. Piggins, undated
Folder 8 From Louis Berman, undated
Folder 9 From National Science Teachers Association, undated
Folder 10 From T. Michael Duncan, undated
Folder 11 Heat and thermodynamics, undated
Folder 12 Life Science and medicine, undated
Folder 13 Light optics, undated
Folder 14 Math and computers, undated
Folder 15 Mechanics, undated
Folder 16 Miscellaneous (1 of 2), undated
Folder 17 Miscellaneous (2 of 2), undated
Folder 18 Physics general history and measurements, undated
Folder 19 Relativity, undated
Folder 20 Space exploration, undated
Folder 21 Wave motion sound, undated

Series II: Droll Science manuscript - Scientists at Play: An Anthology of Humor in Science and Scholarship

Box 2 Folder 1 Preface and index, undated
Folder 2 A. Personalities, undated
Folder 3 B. Academic life, undated
Folder 4 C. Classroom missteps, undated
Folder 5 D. Administration, undated
Folder 6 E. Women in science, undated
Folder 7 F. Research, undated
Folder 8 G. Interdisciplinary striving , undated
Folder 9 H. Publish and perish, undated
Folder 10 I. Reports, conferences , undated
Folder 11 J. Confusion, frustration, undated
Folder 12 K. Warnings, undated
Folder 13 L. Metrication mess, undated
Box 3 Folder 1 M. Travesty, undated
Folder 2 N. Pranks, undated
Folder 3 O. Food and environmental concerns, undated
Folder 4 P. Looking back, undated
Folder 5 Lantern slide inventory, undated

Series III: Lantern slides

See box 3, folder 5 for handwritten inventory of slides

Box 4 Slides 1 - 64, undated
Box 5 Slides 65 - 128, undated
Box 6 Slides 129 - 194, undated
Box 7 Slides 195 - 260, undated