Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology

The Dibner Library is the Smithsonian’s collection of rare books and manuscripts relating to the history of science and technology. Contained in this world-class collection of 35,000 rare books and 2,000 manuscript groups are many of the most important works dating from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries in the history of science and technology including engineering, transportation, chemistry, mathematics, physics, electricity, and astronomy. The Dibner Library shares this collection with the public through exhibitions in an adjacent gallery, through loans to other institutions’ exhibits, and through public programs.

Programs and Publications

Digital Collections from the Dibner Library

  • Scientific Identity: The Dibner Library's collection of portraits of men and women of science and technology
  • Incunabula: The Dibner Library's collection of rare books printed before 1501.
  • Ramelli's Machines: Original drawings of 16th century machines for Agostino Ramelli's Le diverse et artificiose machine (Paris, 1588).
  • Heralds of Science: The Heralds of Science are the 200 books and articles selected by Bern Dibner, and donated to us in 1976, as the most significant titles in the formation and development of Western science and technology.


Dibner Library Lectures On The History Of Science And Technology (in PDF format where available)

  • 2014: Alchemy
    Lawrence Principe (Johns Hopkins University) on "Alchemy on the Cutting-Edge: Theoretical Innovations and the Pursuit of Transmutation"
    December 11, 2014
  • 2013: Astronomy
    Robert S. Westman (University of California, San Diego) on "Copernicus and the Astrologers"
    December 12, 2013
  • 2012: Engineering and Literature
    Rosalind Williams (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) on "Engineering Romance in Late Nineteenth Century LIterature"
    November 28, 2012
  • 2011: History of Science
    Laura J. Snyder (St. John's University) on "The Philosophical Breakfast Club and the Invention of the Scientist"
    December 6, 2011
  • 2006: Political Arithmetic 
    Joyce Chaplin (Harvard University) on "Benjamin Franklin's Political Arithmetic: A Materialist View of Humanity"
    December 13, 2006
  • 2004: Astronomy
    Albert Van Helden (Rice University and the University of Utrecht) discusses the beginnings of telescopic astronomy. View the webcast.
    October 27, 2004
  • 2003: Metrology
    Ken Alder (Northwestern University) on "The Measure of the World." 
    November 5, 2003.
  • 2002: Technology
    Anthony Grafton (Princeton University) discusses "Magic and Technology in Early Modern Europe." 
    October 15, 2002
  • 2001: The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology at 25 Years: Celebrating the Collector's Vision and Its Legacy
    Owen Gingerich (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Harvard University) on "Icons of Understanding: Celebrating Bern Dibner's Heralds of Science."
    October 3, 2001.
  • 2000: Scientific Discoveries
    Kenneth L. Caneva (Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Greensboro) on "The Form and Function of Scientific Discoveries."
    November 16, 2000
  • 2000: Astronomy 
    Steven J. Dick (U. S. Naval Observatory) on "Extraterrestrial Life and Our World View at the Turn of the Millennium." 
    May 2, 2000