Dr. Roberto Lalli

Focus Area:

Astronomy and Astrophysics


Roberto Lalli is a historian of modern physical sciences whose work focuses on the interconnections between social and epistemic factors in the production and circulation of novel products in theoretical physics and in the international standardization of scientific practices during the 20th century. After having received a master degree in physics (2007), Roberto Lalli earned a PhD in International History at the University of Milan in 2011 with a dissertation on the controversial reception of relativity theories in France and the USA. From 2011 to 2013, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the STS Program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the supervision of David Kaiser. Since 2013 he has been a Research Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. Roberto Lalli has published extensively on the history of relativity theories, on the international and inter-institutional transfer of quantum theory, and on the evolution of editorial practices in physics. Currently, he is elaborating new methodologies based on the concepts and tools of network theory in order to jointly analyze the evolution of scientific knowledge in physics, the creation of transnational scientific communities and the developments of scientific institutions.

In the framework of the GMPG Research Program Roberto Lalli is developing approaches informed by network theory to explore the historical evolution of the fields of astrophysics and astronomy within the Max Planck Society from 1948 to 2002. More specifically, he is focusing on the transformation of collaboration and decision-making networks in shaping the research agendas of the Max Planck Institutes that pursued research activities in these fields.  

Selected Publications

Lalli, Roberto: "‘Dirty Work’ But Someone Has To Do It: Howard P. Robertson and the Refereeing Practices of Physical Review in the 1930s." Notes and Records of the Royal Society 70 (2016), 151–174.

Blum, Alexander, Roberto Lalli und Jürgen Renn: "The Reinvention of General Relativity: A Historiographical Framework for Assessing One Hundred Years of Curved Space-Time." Isis (2015), 598–620.

Lalli, Roberto: "Anti-Relativity in Action: The Scientific Activity of Herbert E. Ives between 1937 and 1953." Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 43 (2013), 41–104.


Renn, Jürgen, Dirk Wintergrün, Roberto Lalli, Manfred Laubichler and Matteo Valleriani: “Netzwerke als Wissensspeicher.” In: Jürgen Mittelstraß und Ulrich Rüdiger (Hg.): Die Zukunft der Wissensspeicher. Forschen, Sammeln und Vermitteln im 21. Jahrhundert. Konstanz: UVK Verlagsgesellschaft 2016, 35–79.

Lalli, Roberto: "The Renaissance of Physics: Karl K. Darrow (1891–1982) and the Dissemination of Quantum Theory at the Bell Telephone Laboratories." In: Raffaele Pisano (Hg.): A Bridge between Conceptual Frameworks: Sciences, Society and Technology Studies. Dordrecht: Springer 2015, 249–273.

Blum, Alexander S., Luisa Bonolis, Roberto Lalli and Jürgen Renn: “La relatività dopo la guerra.” Le Scienze. Edizione italiana di Scientific American 567 (2015), 48–53.

Wintergrün, Dirk, Jürgen Renn, Roberto Lalli, Manfred Laubichler and Matteo Valleriani: Netzwerke als Wissensspeicher. Berlin: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science 2015.

Lalli, Roberto: "A New Scientific Journal Takes the Scene: The Birth of Reviews of Modern Physics." Annalen der Physik 526 (2014), A83–87.

Lalli, Roberto: "The Reception of Miller’s Ether-Drift Experiments in the USA: The History of a Controversy in Relativity Revolution." Annals of Science 69 (2012), 153–214.

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