This Week in Princeton History for May 22-28

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, protesters are arrested at Nassau Hall, a professor urges Princetonians to buy Liberty Loan bonds, and more.

May 22, 1949—Nassau Hall’s flag flies at half mast as a tribute to James V. Forrestal, a member of the Class of 1915 and the nation’s first Secretary of Defense, who died after jumping out a window on the sixteenth floor of Bethesda Naval Hospital on this date.

James Forrestal, ca. 1940s. Official U.S. Navy Photo. James V. Forrestal Papers (MC051), Box 188.

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Do You Speak Princetonian?: The Language of Princeton

By Zachary Bampton ’20 with April C. Armstrong *14

Princetonians past and present have enjoyed the creation and use of language to refer to Princeton-specific places, acts, and things. Here at the Mudd Library, we have combed the archives to put forth some notable and, we think, fun words and phrases to capture what life was like, and how life was described, through the University’s history. These selected Princeton-isms range from the 1800s through today. While some have fallen out of fashion, others are still used on campus, though perhaps with a different meaning.

Poler’s Recess, 1915. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP17. “Poler’s Recess” is linked in spirit with the “Horn Spree” initiated by the Class of 1848 and the modern “Holder Howl” and “Whitman Wail.”

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This Week in Princeton History for May 15-21

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a former president dies in a car accident, graduates can look one another up online, and more.

May 15, 1963—Princeton mails preliminary acceptance letters to 17 students from eight different colleges for the new Critical Languages Program, which will bring female undergraduates to campus for intensive language study. The program still awaits official approval from the Board of Trustees. The Daily Princetonian will report that one of the “major problems” not yet resolved is where women might live and eat among the all-male undergraduate student body.

May 17, 1933—John Grier Hibben of the Class of 1882, who served as president of Princeton University 1912-1932, dies in a car accident when the Packard sedan given to him as a retirement present collides with a truck on Route 25 near Rahway, New Jersey.

John Grier Hibben’s Packard sedan following the May 17, 1933 crash. Elliot Service photo, Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 66, Folder 6.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 8-14

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) delights the campus with a surprise appearance, protests greet a segregationist governor’s visit, and more.

May 8, 1989—A freshman diagnosed with the measles is admitted to the McCosh Health Center, prompting approximately 500 students to get a booster vaccine to prevent an outbreak on campus.

May 9, 1901—Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) surprises students with an unadvertised appearance in Alexander Hall, where he gives a reading of his work and entertains the crowd with stories about his adventures in Nevada and his attempts to learn German.

This letter from Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), most likely to Stephen Van Rennseler Throwbridge, Class of 1902, dates from ca. 1901 and seems to accept an invitation to speak at Princeton “as long as one would only have to talk, & not have to talk long, nor make preparation.” Pyne-Henry Collection (AC125), Box 2, Folder 1.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 1-7

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a plot against campus squirrels is uncovered, food services workers strike, and more.

May 1, 1871—Vassar College professor of elocution Minnie C. Swayze gives a lecture entitled “Women’s Abilities” to Princeton students in Albert S. Cook’s Hall on Chambers Street. She argues that women are equal to men. Princeton’s College World reports: “Though not ultra, her position is firm in maintaining woman’s intellectual equality with men, and in demanding for her sex equal, social and political privileges. … We prophesy for her a brilliant career.”

May 4, 1957—A Daily Princetonian investigation reveals that the mysterious deaths of dozens of campus squirrels can be traced to a group of students who have been killing them to stuff and sell to other students at women’s colleges.

May 5, 2001—Shirley Tilghman is named the 19th president of Princeton University. She is the first woman to fill this role.

Shirley Tilghman at her installation as president of Princeton University, 2001. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 197.

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The Cat Telephone

By Arthur Kim ’18

What do a cat and a telephone have in common? They were the same thing in an experiment conducted in 1929 by Professor Ernest Glen Wever and his research assistant Charles William Bray here at Princeton University. Wever and Bray took an unconscious, but alive, cat and transformed it into a working telephone to test how sound is perceived by the auditory nerve.

Charles W. Bray ’25 and E. Glenn Weaver. Undergraduate Alumni Records (AC199).

To do so, they first sedated the cat and opened its skull to better access the auditory nerve. A telephone wire was attached to the nerve and the other end of the wire was connected to a telephone receiver. Bray would speak in the cat’s ears, while Wever would listen through the receiver 50 feet away in a soundproof room. The common notion during this time was that the frequency of the response of a sensory nerve is correlated to the intensity of the stimulus. In the case of the auditory nerve, as a sound becomes louder, the frequency or pitch of the sound received by the ear should be higher. When Bray made a sound with a certain frequency, Wever heard the sound from the receiver at the same frequency. As Bray increased the pitch of the sound, the frequency of the sound Wever heard also increased. This experiment proved that the frequency of the response in the auditory nerve is correlated to the frequency of the sound. To further validate their experiment, Wever and Bray performed more trials with varying conditions. When they placed the wire on other tissues and nerves away from the auditory nerve, the telephone receiver did not produce any sound. In one experiment, they restricted the blood circulation to the cat’s head, which also ceased the transmission of sound from the receiver. From their findings through these experiments, Wever and Bray were awarded the first Howard Crosby Warren Medal of Society by the Society of Experimental Psychologists in 1936.

Soon after, Bray became an Associate Professor at Princeton University and later became the Associate Research Director of the U.S. Air Force Human Resources Research. During World War II, he served as one of the leading scientists of the civilian psychological research for both the National Defense Research Council and the Navy. As for Wever, he became the head of the department of psychology at Princeton and worked with Dr. Julius Lempert of the Lempert Institute of Otology to research on otosclerosis, an abnormal bone growth in the ear that leads to hearing impairment due to the ear’s inability to amplify sound. During World War II, Wever was a consultant to the National Research Council on anti-submarine warfare. He found that men with musical abilities were the best sonar operators, regardless of what instrument they played.

Surprisingly, Wever and Bray were not particularly interested in the practical use of their discovery. Instead they cared more about the protocol and methodology to run these tests. The techniques they developed for the experiment were highly renowned by physicians who used them to study the human hearing. Their research laid a foundation for cochlear implants, devices that convert sound vibrations into electrical signals to the brain.

Sources:

Alumni and Faculty Offprint Collection (AC121)

Faculty and Professional Staff Files (AC107)

Graduate Alumni Records (AC105)

Undergraduate Academic Records 1921-2015 (AC198)

Undergraduate Alumni Records 1921-2015 (AC199)

 

For further reading:

Wever, Ernest Glen and Charles W. Bray. “Action Currents in the Auditory Nerve in Response to Acoustical Stimulation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 16 (1930): 344-350.

Arthur Kim is a junior in the chemical and biological engineering department at Princeton University.

This Week in Princeton History for April 24-30

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a senior signs an NFL contract, Daylight Saving Time causes confusion, and more.

April 26, 1771—The New Jersey General Assembly passes “An Act to erect the District of Prince-Town into a Town by the name of Princeton.” The College of New Jersey, already referred to as “Prince-Town College” as early as its move to the area in 1756, will become well established colloquially as Princeton College until it officially changes its own name in 1896.

April 27, 1994—Keith Elias ’94 signs on to play professional football with the New York Giants.

Keith Elias ’94, ca. 1993. Undergraduate Alumni Records (AC199).

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James A. Baker Papers Opening Soon

By Dan Linke

James A. Baker III ’52, the distinguished public servant and five-time presidential campaign manager who served as the 61st U.S. Secretary of State, will open his papers that are held at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton University on January 1, 2018. Donated in 2002, originally the papers were to remain closed during Baker’s lifetime or until his 100th birthday. Soon researchers will be able to examine his work in senior government positions under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, as well as his role in five consecutive presidential campaigns from 1976 to 1992 for Presidents Gerald Ford, Reagan, and Bush.

In 1976 Baker (pictured here) served as President Gerald Ford’s “delegate hunter” in the primary race, successfully fending off a challenge from Ronald Reagan, then went on to lead Ford’s national campaign in the fall. In the 1980 primary, he was the campaign manager for his close friend and tennis partner George H. W. Bush, then joined the Reagan-Bush campaign for the general election. He would then serve as the campaign manager for the subsequent three Republican presidential campaigns.  (From the James A. Baker III Papers, Box 265, Folder 1.)

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This Week in Princeton History for April 17-23

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, protesters demand changes to the curriculum, a Dean’s List is instituted, and more.

April 18, 1878—The Princetonian urges the College to allow the Librarian to install gas lights in the library so that it may be kept open after dark.

Chancellor Green Library, 1873. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP26, Image No. 609.

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Margaret Niemann Rost ’85 on Softball and the Senior Thesis

By Cailin Hong ’17

With the women’s softball season underway, Mudd reflects on the team’s not-so-humble origins with a retrospective on Margaret Niemann Rost ’85, former co-captain and one of the team’s first members after the fledgling sport was promoted to varsity status. Rost was a religion major from Ridgewood, New Jersey, who played on both the varsity women’s basketball and softball teams before choosing to focus on softball her senior year. Rost played second base and during her time at Princeton led the team to incredible success, scoring wins against some of the top teams in the NCAA at Temple and University of Massachusetts, despite being a relatively new team and limited in practice dates by Ivy League regulations. As a multi-sport athlete on Princeton’s need-based scholarship, Rost was an example of the University’s commitment to supporting the nation’s brightest minds while promoting “education through athletics”. When asked about the challenges of being a varsity athlete and completing the academic capstone of the Princeton undergraduate experience, the senior thesis, Rost shrugged, “my roommate and I, who’s co-captain of the team, finished it [a 124-page analysis of the writings of Jewish author Chaim Potok] six weeks early so we could fully commit to enjoying the season.”

This recently digitized video highlights Rost’s timeless reflections on the challenges of senior year, balancing “going Independent” with a campus job, and the uncertainty of post-graduation plans. It was filmed just after Rost led the team to their third consecutive Ivy League Championship.

Sources:

Broadcast Center Recordings (AC362)

Daily Princetonian

Niemann, Margaret Ruth. “Varieties of Identities in the Writing of Chaim Potok.” 1985. Senior Thesis Collection (AC102).