I trained as a physicist and then as a historian of science. My PhD dissertation, as well as my first publications in the field, dealt with the history of electromagnetism (H. Hertz’s work on electromagnetic waves) and quantum electrodynamics. I clarified the first attempts to provide a quantum and relativistic theory of the electron, and showed the connection of experimental tests with the correspondence principle in quantum mechanics. These works of a technical character introduced me to historical research and would prove useful, later on, when I had to deal with 4th year students in Physics and Mathematics.
During an extended postdoctoral stay at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science of the University of Cambridge (1993-1995) and the Centre de Recherche en Histoire des Sciences et des Techniques at La Villette, Paris (1996), the focus of my work widened to include the social and cultural history of contemporary science. My research on radioactive laboratories and the rise of the nuclear sciences took into account the material and social dimension of scientific practice, including its industrial connections. In “The manufacture of the positron” I reflected upon the relation between theory and experiment in contemporary physics and about the ways it was portrayed in discovery accounts. My stay in Paris resulted in a special issue of History & Technology, jointly edited with S. Boudia, on Science, medicine, and industry: The Curie and Joliot-Curie laboratories. This issue, and subsequent book chapters in edited books, established a new image of Curie as an entrepeneurial scientist, an advocate of state support for science, and a researcher who pioneered the joint management of domestic and professional life. These remain amongst my main research interests.
Back to Spain, in 1997 I got a permanent position at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, which had recently established a Centre for the History of Science (CEHIC) and had pioneered postgraduate education in the field from the late 1980s. In 2000 I was appointed director of the CEHIC and coordinator of an interuniversity PhD programme in the History of Science. I held both positions for ten years, during which the centre consolidated and we established a new Official Master in History of Science: Science, History and Society, the first in the discipline in the country. I coordinated it until 2010 and coordinate it again since 2013. Through this period I also set up and directed the Servei d’Arxius de Ciència, which to this day seeks to preserve and make known the papers of contemporary Catalan scientists. Together with researchers at the University of València, I led a research project on the material culture of contemporary science in Spain, closely connected to our archival endeavours. All these research-enabling activities required much administrative work and resulted in substantial funding.
During the same period I was deeply involved in two book series in the history of science (Clàssics de la Ciència and Ciència i Acció), and supervised the edition or edited several books for them both, including, amongst others, a translation of Einstein’s major works on relativity, M. Curie’s biographical texts, or T. S. Kuhn’s Structure.
I spent the year 2010-2011 at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in Cambridge. I had recently begun work on the history of the physical sciences in Spain and was leading a new project on the subject. This work led to a major paper on physics, culture and power in Francoist Spain, and to an edited book in Spanish (La física en la dictadura). I have analyzed the coproduction of physics and politics in Spain through Francoism, paying particular attention to international relations and specifically to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). I have contributed a chapter on the subject to an edited book on Science Policies and Twentieth-Century Dictatorships: Spain, Italy and Argentina (Ashgate, 2015) and am currently working on physics and politics during the so-called Transition to democracy, after Franco’s death, in the framework of new project on Physics in the Construction of Europe.