Bern Dibner: Comparison
Please note this is a comparison between Version 2 by Amina Yu and Version 1 by Amina Yu.
  • history of science
  • technology
  • electrical

1. Introduction

Bern Dibner (18 August 1897 – 6 January 1988) was an electrical engineer, industrialist, and historian of science and technology. He originated two major US library collections in the history of science and technology.

2. Early Life and Education

Dibner was born in Lisianka, near Kiev, Ukraine in 1897. His family was Jewish.[1] He moved to the United States with his family at the age of 7. In 1921, he graduated from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

3. Career

Soon after graduating, Dibner designed and patented the first solderless electrical connectors and founded the Burndy Engineering Company in 1924. The company later became the Burndy Corporation and was bought by the French corporation Framatome Connectors International (FCI) in 1988.[2] In 2009, Burndy was acquired and became a subsidiary of Hubbell Incorporated.[3] Dibner died at his home in Wilton, Connecticut on January 6, 1988.[4]

The "Burndy" appellation, used for both his company and the library he would found, was invented by Dibner himself and represents a portmanteau or blend of his first and last names.

4. Historical Research and Libraries

In addition to electrical engineering, Dibner studied the history of technology. He was an avid collector of original scientific works and of books on the history of science, as well as thousands of portraits of various scientists. Bern Dibner also wrote a great number of books on the history of science, such as The Atlantic Cable in 1955.[5] In 1976 he was awarded the Sarton Medal by the History of Science Society.

Dibner, who was fascinated by both art and technology, found great pleasure in studying Leonardo da Vinci. This interest led him to obtain a small library of works about da Vinci which grew over the years as Dibner's interests expanded into the history of electricity, the history of Renaissance technology, and finally the history of science and technology in general. His collection continued to grow, and in 1941 he formally set up the Burndy Library as a separate institution "to advance scholarship in the history of science." By 1964, the Burndy Library collection totaled over 40,000 volumes and Dibner opened a new building in Norwalk, Connecticut, to house the Library.

In 1974, Bern Dibner donated one-quarter of the Burndy Library's then holdings to the Smithsonian Institution to form the nucleus of a research library in the history of science and technology, to be located in the decade-old National Museum of History and Technology (now called The National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center). In 1976, the Smithsonian's Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology[6] was established, providing the Smithsonian Institution Libraries with its first rare book collection, containing many of the major works dating from the fifteenth to the early nineteenth centuries in the history of science and technology including engineering, transportation, chemistry, mathematics, physics, electricity and astronomy. The Smithsonian Dibner Library, then numbering 35,000 volumes, was reopened after construction in spring 2010, and is located in the National Museum of American History on the National Mall in Washington DC.[7] The Smithsonian Institution Libraries have cataloged the books and manuscripts of the Dibner Library and entered the records into the international database OCLC and the Smithsonian's own online catalog, SIRIS.[8]

After Bern Dibner's death in 1988, the Burndy Library moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1992, where it became the research library for the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In November 2006, the complete Burndy Library collection, by then consisting of 67,000 rare volumes and a collection of scientific instruments, was donated to and became part of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, where it is available to scholars. The Huntington Library now offers a Dibner History of Science Program to fund fellowships, a lecture series and annual conference.[9]

5. Publications

  • Leonardo da Vinci, Military Engineer (1946)
  • Doctor William Gilbert (1947)
  • Faraday Discloses Electro-magnetic Induction (1949)
  • Moving the Obelisks (1950)
  • Galvani-Volta, A Controversy that led to the Discovery of Useful Electricity (1952)
  • Ten Founding Fathers of the Electrical Science (1954)
  • Heralds of Science (1955)
  • Early Electrical Machines (1957)
  • Agricola on Metals (1958)
  • The Atlantic Cable (1959)
  • Darwin of the Beagle (1960)
  • Oersted and the Discovery of Electromagnetism (1961)
  • The Victoria and the Triton (1962)
  • The New Rays of Prof. Röntgen (1963)
  • Alessandro Volta and the Electric Battery (1964)
  • Röntgen and the Discovery of X-rays (1968)
  • Luigi Galvani (1971)
  • Leonardo da Vinci, Machines and Weaponry (1974)
  • Benjamin Franklin - Electrician (1976)
  • The Burndy Library in Mitosis (1977)


  1. Paul Avrich, The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States, Princeton University Press (2014), p. 291
  2. "COMPANY NEWS; Burndy Takes Bid From Framatome". New York Times. 1988-12-06. Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  3. Business Wire (2009-07-22). "COMPANY NEWS; Hubbell Agrees to Acquire Burndy". Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  4. Bedini, Silvio A. (1 January 1989). "Bern Dibner (1897-1988)". Technology and Culture 30 (1): 189–193. 
  5. "The Atlantic Cable by Bern Dibner". Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  6. "History of the Dibner Library". 
  7. "Reopening the Dibner Library of Science and Technology - O Say Can You See?". 2010-05-18. Retrieved 2013-11-03. 
  8. "History of the Dibner Library | Smithsonian Libraries". 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2013-11-03. 
  9. "The Dibner History of Science Program". Huntington Library [website]. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Retrieved 2011-05-17. 
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