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Collection Development Policy Guidelines
Guidelines for writing collection development policies for specific subject areas, to be followed by all selectors.

  1. General Scope

    In 1767 when Dartmouth College was founded, Physics as a discipline was known under a much broader heading: Natural Philosophy.  The curriculum then had courses in surveying, mensuration, natural philosophy, and astronomy.  The first scientific apparatus arrived at Dartmouth from London in 1785.  The books in use at Dartmouth College for natural philosophy before the 19th century were the works of James Ferguson in four volumes: vol. 1, Astronomy; vol. 2, Lectures on select subjects in mechanics, hydrostatics, hydraulics, pneumatics, and optics; vol. 3, Introduction to electricity; and vol. 4, Select mechanical exercises.  The scientific periodical in use was: Miscellanea curiosa, a collection of some of the principles in nature written by Edmund Halley.  The first scientific observations begun at Dartmouth under Ebenezer Adams who was Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, between 1810-1833.  These observations were the beginning of the Thermometrical register.  Ira Young's tenure as professor (1833-1858) put Dartmouth College at the forefront of physics and astronomy by his literally designing, building, and stocking with instruments Reed Hall and the Shattuck Observatory.  He was the first science professor at the College who believed in scientific knowledge for its own sake, unencumbered by its theological implications.  Ira's son, Charles A. Young, was Professor of Natural History and Astronomy from 1865-1877.  His research was in the then new science of astronomical spectroscopy.  He also found pleasure in inventing equipment for the physics laboratory.  He published widely and was Dartmouth's last and greatest natural philosopher.  In 1893 Dartmouth changed the designation of Professor of Natural Philosophy to Professor of Physics to address the growing resentment of the philosophic implications of the older designation.  The standard physics textbook for the late 1800's was Elementary treatise on physics, experimental and applied by Adolphe Ganot.  In 1883-84 Professor Charles Emerson took a copy of this text to Leipzig and personally updated the text based on what new things he saw and learned.  The text remains in Special Collections.  Emerson oversaw the building of Wilder Physical Laboratory.  Physical Review in 1901 considered the building to be an advanced design.  Between 1899-1903, Ernest Nichols led the Department of Physics to an international reputation for experimental physics.  He is known at Dartmouth for his experimental work on the pressure of light.  During the 20th Century the Department of Physics lost its sole thrust on research and turned its attention to teaching as equally important.  Though the first Ph.D in physics was granted in 1926, the current Ph.D program had its beginnings in 1965.  The Department faculty has grown from five in 1896 to twenty-one plus three research faculty and twelve adjunct/visiting professors in 2016.  The curriculum today has such courses as Plasma Physics, Relativistic Quantum Field Theory, and Solid State Physics.

    The collection primarily supports the instructional and research needs of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty in physics, as well as serving the needs of visiting scholars from other institutions.  The collection also supports instructional and research needs related to programs at the Thayer School of Engineering and the various constituencies associated with the Geisel School of Medicine.

    Physics plays a prominent role in the academic teaching and research programs of Dartmouth College.  The Department of Physics offers undergraduate, Masters and Doctorate degree programs.

    The undergraduate degree in physics is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in analytic thinking, problem solving, and the fundamentals of physics.  Students are required to take courses covering topics such as wave mechanics, quantum mechanics, special relativity, atomic and particle physics, electricity and magnetism, classical mechanics, and statistical physics.  The modified major allows students to specialize in geophysics, biophysics, chemical physics, medicine and medical imaging. The Engineering Physics major is a joint program of the Department of Physics and the Thayer School of Engineering.  This program combines the fundamental aspects of physics with the practical training of engineering.  Courses such as Science of Materials, Solid Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Fluid Dynamics, Instrumentation and Measurement, and Applied Mechanics are taken in addition to standard physics courses.  A Masters degree can also be granted to undergraduates if they have sufficient advanced placement credits and they satisfy all the requirements for both degrees.

    The Doctorate degree program requires its students to complete at least twelve graduate courses, including those in Methods of Experimental Physics, Methods in Applied Mathematics, Classical Mechanics, Advanced Quantum Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics, and Electromagnetic Theory I and II.  Additional courses must be taken among fluid mechanics, quantum field theory, microscopic plasma theory, microscopic theory of solids, general relativity and cosmology, magnetohydrodynamics, space plasma physics, nonlinear systems theory, optics, laser spectroscopy, and semiconductor theory.  The program places strong emphasis on individually guided research and study.  Two terms of undergraduate teaching is required of all Ph.D students.

    1. Audience

      Programs leading to undergraduate, masters and Ph.D. degrees are offered.  Research is completed at all levels.

      The research programs in physics may be divided into:

      • plasma and space physics (space plasmas, computer simulations of plasmas, studies of auroral particle acceleration and heating, studies of the ionosphere, magnetosphere, and geomagnetic storms, nonlinear magnetohydrodynamics, and turbulence in plasmas and fluids, studies of magnetic reconnection, fusion devices, analytical dynamics, computational physics, and plasma simulation and theory, and Smith-Purcell radiation as a basis for compact free-electron lasers),
      • condensed matter physics (excitons, optical properties of semiconductors, picosecond laser spectroscopy of quantum wires and dots, superconductivity, transport in solid state systems, phase transitions, nanostructures, low temperature transport in semiconducting and metallic mesoscopic systems, and scanning probe microscopy),
      • astrophysics (cosmology and the large-scale structure of the universe, general relativity, field theory, and phase transitions in the early universe).
    2. Boundaries

      Physics is the QC1-QC849 and QA801-QA939 classifications of the Library of Congress classification scheme and 530-540 of the Dewey system.  All Dewey classed material is housed in the Storage Library; the major portion of the QC and QA materials are housed in Kresge Physical Sciences Library.  Some QC material is housed in other libraries, based on imprint date (Special Collections), popular treatment (Baker-Berry Library), subject treatment (Feldberg Library), or major subject treatment other than physics (Cook Mathematics Collection at Baker-Berry Library).

      In addition, some material in the subject area of instrumentation (Q184-Q185, TA165) is also housed outside of the Physical Sciences Library, in Baker Library, Feldberg Library, or Dana Biomedical Library.  Scientific instruments of historical interest to the College have been preserved over the years.  The Curator of Scientific Instruments has traditionally been a member of the Physics Department.  In order to support this interest, the collection has also been developed in this area.  Due to an important gift of early American clocks, works related to time-keeping instruments are acquired regularly.

      Subjects excluded in this policy are: meteorology, climatology, and geophysics; while they do class in the QCs, they are treated in other collection development policy statements.  For meteorology and climatology, see the Climatology statement; for geophysics, see both the Earth Sciences and Engineering Sciences statements.  Astronomy is also excluded since it is treated in its own policy statement.

    3. Partnerships

      The Library seeks opportunities to build partnerships in building the physics collection through strategies for shared print collections retention projects and shared evidence-based electronic book collections.

  2. Specific Delimitations to collecting in this subject area

    1. Languages

      English is the predominant language, but no language is excluded.  Materials in Russian are no longer actively collected.

    2. Geographical Areas (if applicable)

      There are no geographical limitations to the acquisition of physics materials.

    3. Types of Materials Collected

      Monographs, monographic series, journals, proceedings, society publications, and other standard reference works are purchased in print and electronically.  Indexes and abstracts are no longer collected in print.  Preprints are collected via pointers to internet preprint archives.  One example is (hosted by the Cornell University Library).

    4. Format of Materials Collected

      No format is excluded. Monographs are collected in mostly print, but occasionally electronically. Most journals have moved to an electronic subscription. Popular physics magazines are still received in print.

      Special Collections and Manuscripts

      The papers of Count Rumford (Benjamin Thompson) and Charles Augustus Young are housed in Special Collections. These papers are of interest to the history of science and physics. The following monographs and papers will also be of interest to historians and physicists: The Elementary treatise on physics, experimental and applied by Adolphe Ganot which contains miscellanious comments and drawings by Prof. and Mrs. Charles Emerson interleaved throughout the text. The four 1905 papers by Albert Einstein appearing in Annalen der Physik : "Uber die von der molekularkinetischen Theorie der Warme geforderte Bewegung von in ruhenden Flussigkeiten suspendierten Teilchen" on brownian movements; "Uber einen die Erzeugung und Verwandlung des Lichtes betreffenden heuristischen Gesichtspunk" on photons and quantum theory; "Ist die Tragheit eines Korpers von seinem Energieinhalt abhangig?" on relativity and mass; and "Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Korper" on relativity and electrodynamics. And, the second edition of Isaac Netwons' Opticks; or, A treatise of the reflections, inflections and colours of light published in 1718.

    5. Collective Collections

      The Library's resource sharing services (DartDoc and BorrowDirect) provide access to materials not collected in physics.

  3. Revision History
    • September 2016, updated by Lora Leligdon
    • 2012, updated by Shirley Zhao
    • 1997, updated by Mark Mounts
    • 1991, updated by Susan C. George


    Current Bibliographer: Lora Leligdon (

Last Updated: 9/29/16