Niels Bohr, Hans Christian Oersted, Svante Arrhenius, Alfred Nobel…..these are a few of the famous scientists I learned about on my trip to Scandinavia this summer. After reading an article titled “Periodic Table Is New Touchstone of Geek Chic” and learning about the seven different elements discovered near Stockholm, I wanted to learn more about the history of chemistry and physics in Scandinavia. Turns out there are many famous and not so famous scientists from this region. Thanks to a grant from the APT, I was able to visit Copenhagen and Stockholm this summer and follow in the footsteps of some of these scientists. I visited universities, birthplaces, gravesites, parks, courtyards and museums. I have been teaching about them for years, but standing in Niels Bohr’s office or looking at the actual thermometer made by Celsius reminds me that these are not just names in a textbook but real people who accomplished amazing things. It also reminds me how new and developing the science I teach is. The modern atomic theory we take for granted in class is largely a development of the 20th century. Looking at the incredible progress of science in that relatively short time makes me excited to see what discoveries the 21st century will bring. I am very grateful to the APT for giving me this opportunity and hope that my experiences will help me teach my students how exciting science is.
Sarah Oakes by statue of chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in Stockholm