History of the Anacapa Society

The origins of the Anacapa Society date back to a serendipitous meeting at a 1999 Newton Institute workshop in Cambridge, England. There, four physicists from undergraduate institutions discussed over lunch the possibility of forming an organization for theorists at liberal arts colleges. Independently, in 2001, Arjendu Pattanayak, then recently hired by Carleton College, thought it would be useful to assemble a meeting of theorists at similar institutions, and proceeded to obtain the support of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics and its Director, David Gross, to sponsor such a workshop. The First Workshop for Theoretical Physics at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions took place at the KITP in Santa Barbara, California, July 21-25, 2003. As a result of the success of the first workshop, and building on the recommendations coming out of that workshop, a follow-up meeting was held at the KITP, July 16-27, 2007, with the express goal of forming a national organization to benefit theoretical physicists at PUI. The Anacapa Society was founded at that meeting on July 20, 2007.

The name “Anacapa Society” is meant to reflect our origins and our mission. Anacapa Island, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara, is known for its distinctive natural bridge. This geographical setting serves as a metaphor for the vision of the Society, seeking to connect theoretical physicists at PUI with the larger physics and academic communities, while at the same time affirming their distinctive identity.

Since January 2008, the Anacapa Society has been hosted by Amherst College. Through this arrangement, Amherst College provides us with the institutional infrastructure and support an organization such as ours needs. We thank Amherst College for helping us to achieve our mission, and gratefully acknowledge their efforts on our behalf.