The American Institute of Physics began in October 1931, a time of great difficulty for our science. This was the decade of the Great Depression, and a widespread “stop‐science” movement blamed us for society's problems. It was also a time of divisiveness within physics: In 1899 one group, the American Physical Society, could encompass all physicists, but separatism had given rise to five societies. The leaders of that time, men such as Paul D. Foote, George B. Pegram, F. K. Richtmyer and Karl T. Compton, conceived of the rather close federation that is AIP to bring physicists together again, to improve the relations between physics and the rest of society and, not incidentally, to serve as the publisher of the increasingly important US physics literature.

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