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Department of Physics

2019 Ernest Fox Nichols Distinguished Alumni Lecture

Joanna Behrman 

Joanna Behrman, PhD candidate in History of Science and Technology at John Hopkins University, will present the 2019 Ernest Fox Nichols Distinguished Alumni Lecture in Physics on Monday, March 25, at 4:15 p.m. in Room 103 of Cardwell Hall at Kansas State University. 

This non-technical lecture titled “Bridging Physics and the Household: Madalyn Avery’s Career at K-State” is the story of the largely forgotten history of K-State faculty member, Madalyn Avery, a native of nearby Wakefield, Kansas, and of the field of household physics.

Madalyn Avery, a graduate of K-State and professor in the physics department for many decades, earned her Bachelor’s in General Science in 1924 and her Master’s in Physics in 1932, back when Kansas State was still the Kansas College of Agriculture and Applied Science. 

Avery built her career at Kansas College working at the border of applied physics and home economics. Like many women of her generation who were trained in science, she found greater acceptance and respectable employment by concentrating on scientific problems traditionally associated with women. 

Although Avery is not well known today, she was the author of the highly influential textbook Household Physics, which was used in over a hundred colleges and universities around the world. The talk will detail how Madalyn Avery taught generations of K-State students to apply their physics knowledge to problems of the household. 

Behrman is a PhD candidate at John Hopkins University who was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. She earned her Bachelor’s in Physics, with honors, at Harvard in 2013 and her Master’s in the History of Science at the University of Chicago in 2014. She is active in the History of Science Society and in the American Association of Physics Teachers as a member of the History and Philosophy of Physics Committee.

Behrman’s research focuses on physics, gender, and the history of science education in the United States. Her work has appeared in various journals including History of Education and Physics Today. She is now writing her dissertation on the history of American women in physics from 1870 to 1940.

This non-technical lecture is open to the public and is free of charge.  Students, faculty and community members are encouraged to attend to hear Ms. Behrman speak about Madalyn Avery’s education and work. 

Refreshments will be served prior to the lecture at 3:45 p.m. in Room 119 of Cardwell.

This lecture series honors distinguished physics alumni from Kansas State University.

Lecture Poster