Professor (2013– ), history of science, University of Minnesota;
Associate professor (2005–2013), history of science, University of Minnesota;
Assistant professor (2000–2005), history of science, University of Minnesota.
Assistant professor, philosophy, Boston University (1997–2000);
Editor, Einstein Papers Project, Boston (1995–2000);
Named APS Fellow (2012) for "path-breaking contributions to the history of early twentieth-century physics."
Humboldt Research Award (2016) for "accomplishments in research and teaching"
I am a historian of physics studying conceptual developments in the late 19th and early 20th century. I got a Master's in theoretical physics at the University of Amsterdam (1988) and a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh (1995). I wrote my dissertation on the history of special relativity, paying special attention to the role of my countryman, H. A. Lorentz. I then worked for several years for the Einstein Papers Project, annotating various documents (published papers, research manuscripts, and correspondence) related to the genesis of general relativity. I continue to publish on the history of both special and general relativity. The main focus of my research, however, has shifted to the history of quantum theory. Together with University of Pittsburgh physicist Tony Duncan, I have published a series of papers on the transition from the old quantum theory to modern quantum mechanics and we are currently working on a book on this topic. A great promotor of such collaborative work in history of science is Jürgen Renn, one of the directors at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, where I am a regular visitor. Guiding my research in general are broader philosophical questions about theory change. I have been pursuing two ideas in particular. The first is that a new theory sometimes gets off the ground when odd coincidences in the old theory are traced to a common origin (see my 2002 paper, "COI Stories"). Second, old theories are often used as scaffolds to build new ones (see my 2015 paper with Jürgen Renn in Physics Today). I have long been interested in making the results of my work accessible to a broad audience. I co-edited The Cambridge Companion to Einstein, an introduction to Einstein's life and work for non-specialists. And I enjoy explaining my work to undergraduates (I have taught several honors seminars at the U and given talks at various liberal arts colleges in the area) and high school students.
Michel Janssen and Jürgen Renn, Arch and scaffold: How Einstein found his field equations, Physics Today. November 2015, pp. 30–36.
Joseph D. Martin and Michel Janssen, Beyond the Crystal Maze: Twentieth-Century Physics from the Vantage Point of Solid State Physics, Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 45 (2015): 631–640 [abstract]
Anthony Duncan and Michel Janssen, The Stark Effect in the Bohr-Sommerfeld Theory and in Schrödinger’s Wave Mechanics, Pp. 217–271 in Finn Aaserud and Helge Kragh (Eds.), One Hundred Years of the Bohr Atom. Copenhagen: Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, 2015. [abstract]
Anthony Duncan and Michel Janssen, The Trouble with Orbits: The Stark effect in the Old and the New Quantum Theory, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics. 48 (2014): 68–83. [abstract]
Charles Midwinter and Michel Janssen, Kuhn Losses Regained: Van Vleck from Spectra to Susceptibilities, Pp. 137–205 in: Massimiliano Badino and Jaume Navarro (Eds.), Research and Pedagogy: A History of Early Quantum Physics through its Textbooks. Berlin: Edition Open Access, 2013. [abstract]
Anthony Duncan and Michel Janssen, (Never) Mind your p’s and q’s: Von Neumann versus Jordan on the Foundations of Quantum Theory, The European Physical Journal H—Historical Perspectives on Contemporary Physics 38 (2013): 175–259 [abstract]
Michel Janssen, The Twins and the Bucket: How Einstein Made Gravity rather than Motion Relative in General Relativity, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 43 (2012): 159–175 [abstract]
Michel Janssen, Drawing the Line between Kinematics and Dynamics in Special Relativity, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 40 (2009) 26–52 [abstract]
Michel Janssen and Matthew Mecklenburg, From Classical to Relativistic Mechanics: Electromagnetic Models of the Electron., Interactions: Mathematics, Physics and Philosophy, 1860–1930. Editors: V. F. Hendricks, K. F. Jørgensen, J. Lützen, and S. A. Pedersen. Dordrecht: Springer, 2007
Michel Janssen, Of Pots and Holes: Einstein’s Bumpy Road to General Relativity., Annalen der Physik 14, Supplement (2005)
Anthony Duncan and Michel Janssen, Pascual Jordan’s Resolution of the Conundrum of the Wave-Particle Duality of Light, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 39 (2008): 634–666 [abstract]
Anthony Duncan and Michel Janssen, On the Verge of Umdeutung: John Van Vleck and the Correspondence Principle. Part Two, Archive for History of Exact Sciences 61 (2007): 625–671
Anthony Duncan and Michel Janssen, On the Verge of Umdeutung in Minnesota: Van Vleck and the Correspondence Principle. Part One, Archive for History of Exact Sciences 61 (2007): 553–624 [abstract]
Michel Janssen and Jürgen Renn, Untying the Knot: How Einstein Found His Way Back to Field Equations Discarded in the Zurich Notebook, Jürgen Renn (Ed.), Einstein’s Zurich Notebook. Vol. 2, Commentary and Essays. Dordrecht: Springer, 2007.
Michel Janssen, The Trouton Experiment, E = mc2, and a Slice of Minkowski Space-Time, In: Abhay Ashtekar et al. (ed.), Revisiting the Foundations of Relativistic Physics: Festschrift in Honor of John Stachel. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2003. Pp. 27–54.
Michel Janssen, COI Stories: Explanation and Evidence in the History of Science, Perspectives on Science. 10 (2002): 457–522. [abstract]
Michel Janssen, Reconsidering a Scientific Revolution: the Case of Lorentz versus Einstein, Physics in Perspective 4 (2002): 421–446. [abstract]