Dr. Luisa Bonolis

Focus Area:

Astronomy and Astrophysics


Luisa Bonolis’ main research interests are in the history of 20th century physics, particularly the evolution of cosmic ray research into astroparticle physics, the birth of high-energy astrophysics and relativistic astrophysics, the emergence of collider physics in Europe, and internationalism in European physics during the 1930s.

She received a master degree in physics (1993) at Sapienza University of Rome and a PhD in History of Science at the University of Bari (2009). Between 2001 and 2013 she was involved in several research projects at the Physics Department of Sapienza University of Rome: “Enrico Fermi in the perspective of the centennial of his birth,” “From cosmic-ray researches to the rise and development of Frascati National Laboratories, and the collaboration with CERN,” “Nuclear and subnuclear physics in Italy from the 1930s to the 1970s: From cosmic rays to accelerators,” “The birth of research on plasmas and nuclear fusion in Rome,” “Bruno Pontecorvo, the man and the scientist.” During this period she collaborated with the Archives of the Physics Department to collect and catalog the personal papers of Italian physicists, and since 1998 she led several oral history projects. In 2007 she was a visiting scholar at Kavli Institute for Astrophysics (MIT) with the research project: “Bruno Rossi: from Earth Laboratories to Physics in Space,” and in 2009–2010 at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), Trieste, with a project on the life and sciences of Abdus Salam. From 2006 until 2009 she lectured on the history and didactics of physics at the University of Basilicata, Potenza. In 2011 she was Scholar in Residence at the Deutsches Museum in Munich with a project on the correspondence of Arnold Sommerfeld with Italian physicists.

Since 2013 she has been visiting scholar at Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, and is now working on a research project on the birth of relativistic astrophysics. A parallel project focuses on the transformation and evolution of the Max Planck Institute for Physics into the present cluster of Institutes for Physics, Astrophysics, Extraterrestrial Physics and Gravitational Physics, following the advances in astrophysics, astronomy and particle astrophysics during the second half of the 20th century.

Personal Page at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Selected Publications

Bonolis, Luisa: "Stellar Structure and Compact Objects Before 1940: Towards Relativistic Astrophysics." The European Physical Journal H 2017, 1–83. https://doi.org/10.1140/epjh/e2017-80014-4

Bonolis, Luisa: "From Cosmic Ray Physics to Cosmic Ray Astronomy: Bruno Rossi and the Opening of New Windows on the Universe." Astroparticle Physics 53 (2014), 67–85. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.astropartphys.2013.05.008

Bonolis, Luisa: "International Scientific Cooperation During the 1930s: Bruno Rossi and the Development of the Status of Cosmic Rays into a Branch of Physics." Annals of Science 71/3 (2014), 355–409.

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

Di Castro, Carlo and Luisa Bonolis: "The Beginnings of Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics in Rome: A Personal Remembrance. The European Physical Journal H 39/1 (2014), 3–36. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1140/epjh/e2013-40043-5


more publications


Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Prague
“Enduring Ideas, New Alliances: Social and Epistemic Factors in the Renaissance of General Relativity,” 7th International Conference of the European Society for the History of Science
The Emergence of Relativistic Astrophysics in the early 1960s (invited talk)

06/09/2016 – 08/09/2016
Workshop “Opening New Windows on the Cosmos: Astrophysics and Astronomy in the History of the Max Planck Society”, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
The Beginning and Early Evolution of Astrophysical Research at the Max-Planck Institutes. Aspects and Impact of the “Biermann’s Era”
The Renaissance of General Relativity in Rome: Main Actors, Research Programs and Institutional Structures. XIV Marcel Grossmann Meeting
(invited talk)

Sapienza University, Rome
The Renaissance of General Relativity in Rome: Main actors, research programs and institutional structures. XIV Marcel Grossmann Meeting (invited talk)
DESY, Hamburg
Bruno Maksimovich Pontecorvo. From slow neutrons with Enrico Fermi in Rome to neutrino oscillations in Dubna (invited talk)
International School for Advanced Studies, Trieste
Bruno Pontecorvo. Universality of Weak Interactions and Muon Decay. National Conference of the Italian Physical Society (invited talk)
Bad Saarow/Pieskow
Conference 100 Years Cosmic Rays. From Cosmic Ray Physics to Cosmic Ray Astronomy. Bruno Rossi and the Opening of New Windows on the Universe (invited talk)

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