Alan Turing’s Princeton University File Available Online

With the American premiere of The Imitation Game this Friday, many will be interested in its subject, Alan Mathison Turing, who received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1938. With the “Turing Machine,” he laid the theoretical foundations that make it possible for the device you are using to read this blog post to exist.

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Turing’s Graduate School file is now available online, and mostly contains correspondence and paperwork related to his admission to and progress through Princeton’s Ph.D. program in mathematics in the 1930s. Turing studied under Alonzo Church, who made Princeton a leading center for research in mathematical logic, and developed “Church’s Theorem.” For those interested in Church and the history of the mathematics department in the 1930s, there is this oral history collection, which features online transcripts. Researchers interested in Turing may also want to view Church’s correspondence with him, available in the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room in Firestone Library.

N.B. Access to alumni records is governed by this policy.

December 5, 2014 update: We have received questions regarding the death date listed on the file. Although archival records may sometimes contain errors, we do not make changes to the original documents. However, we note that Turing’s actual date of death was June 7, 1954, not June 8, 1954 as listed in Turing’s Graduate School file.

This Week in Princeton History for November 17-23

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an alum takes the school flag to the moon, Ella Fitzgerald performs, and more.

November 17, 1983—Diplomats from the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Great Britain are in Alexander Hall to commemorate the bicentennial of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended America’s Revolutionary War. Princeton is chosen because the Continental Congress resided here in 1783.

November 19, 1969—Astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. ’53, third man to walk on the moon and Commander of the Apollo XII mission, brings a Princeton flag to the moon’s Ocean of Storms. Princeton President Robert F. Goheen observes that this is “a noble summit for the Orange and Black,” and Dean of the Faculty J. Douglas Brown orders Princeton’s rarely-flown flag to be raised atop Nassau Hall in honor of the occasion. The flag is typically flown only for Commencement exercises, or at half-staff upon the death of a faculty member.

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Princeton University’s flag, back from the moon and signed by Charles “Pete” Conrad ’53, Commander of NASA’s Apollo XII. Memorabilia Collection (AC053).

November 20, 1936—A teenager from  Harlem performs at Princeton for the first time as the featured vocalist at a dance in the old gymnasium. At the 1990 Commencement exercises nearly 54 years later, Princeton will award the woman—Ella Fitzgerald—an honorary Doctorate of Music.

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Ella Fitzgerald with University president Harold Shapiro at Princeton’s 1990 Commencement. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 170.

November 21, 1933—A self-described “most desirable, good-looking northern girl, unfortunately stranded in the South” writes to the Daily Princetonian asking for a “most desirable, good-looking northern Princetonian” with whom to correspond. “Hurry up before I weaken,” she says. “I am in demand here.”

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

History of Women at Princeton University

Written by Vanessa Snowden ’04

For much of its history, Princeton University had the reputation of being an “old-boys’ school.” Starting in the fall of 1969, Princeton became co-educational, and eight women transfer students graduated in June 1970, with slightly greater numbers graduating in the two subsequent years. Women who matriculated as freshmen in 1969 graduated in the Class of 1973, the first undergraduate class that included women for all four undergraduate years. However, the first steps towards co-education came as early as 1887, with the founding of Evelyn College. From its inception, this women’s institution was associated with Princeton University, and it was hoped that the link would be similar to the Radcliffe and Harvard University relationship. Unfortunately, Evelyn College closed in 1897, due to financial problems and a lack of support from Princeton.

For the next half-century, women instead made their presence known in unofficial positions. Wives and daughters of Princeton faculty and administrators succeeded in exerting significant influence on campus life as advocates for students as well as assistants in research. Isabella Guthrie McCosh, wife of James McCosh, the 11th president of Princeton, was deeply involved in protecting the health and welfare of Princeton students. As a result of her unflagging dedication, the campus infirmary was built and named in her honor.

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“Reminiscences of Mrs. McCosh,” June 1935. Auxiliary to the Isabella McCosh Infirmary Records (AC175), Box 2.

Women were also important forces in the academic world. Margaret Farrand Thorp, wife of English professor, Willard Thorp, often assisted with her husband’s research while simultaneously producing her own independent work. Fittingly, she wrote a book entitled Female Persuasion: Six Strong-Minded Women, which was published in 1949. Speaking of her lot as a female at Princeton, Thorp once quipped, “We who practice the pleasant profession of faculty wife are often amused by Princeton University’s apparent hostility to the feminine sex. Hostility is probably too strong a word. The situation is, rather, that for the University, the feminine sex does not exist.” (See William K. Selden, Women of Princeton, p. 33.)
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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Princeton Career and the Triangle Club

Written by Dan Linke

Today marks the 118th anniversary of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birth and 101 years since he entered Princeton University, the place he dubbed “the pleasantest country club in America.” That phrase, a great irritant to then University President John Grier Hibben, is found in his first novel, This Side of Paradise, which chronicles Amory Blaine’s time as an undergraduate and his fascination with eating clubs, sports, social life, and Fitzgerald’s true Princeton obsession, the Triangle Club.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s portrait from the Class of 1917 Nassau Herald.

Fitzgerald is the sole author of all the song lyrics for three consecutive Triangle Club shows (Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi!, 1914-1915; The Evil Eye, 1915-1916; and Safety First, 1916-1917), a prolific record unmatched in the Club’s nearly 125 year history.  When asked “what was your major?,” it is not uncommon for Club alumni to respond with “Triangle, with a minor in Chemistry” [or English, or any other subject that they ostensibly studied].  For Fitzgerald, the answer appears to be the same, as evidenced by his grade card and his failure to graduate.

Admitted on trial, as his card notes, Fitzgerald struggled with most of his classes and was placed in the fifth (the lowest) class throughout his three years.  This should encourage aspiring writers everywhere, however, given that one of the greatest 20th century American authors never received higher than a B+ (a 3, on a 1-7 scale) in his English classes, but went on to write works still read avidly almost 75 years after his death.

Images taken from Office of the Registrar Records, Box 103. Click to enlarge:

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N.B. Access to undergraduate alumni records is governed by this policy.

This Week in Princeton History for September 15-21

For last week’s installment in our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its students and alumni, click here.

For the week of September 15-21:

Woodrow Wilson makes a move into politics, a new Pablo Picasso sculpture is under construction, and more.

September 15, 1910—The New Jersey Democratic Convention nominates Princeton University President Woodrow Wilson as its candidate for governor.

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Woodrow Wilson with his family, Woodrow Wilson Collection, MC168, Box 41.

September 17, 1787—The U.S. Constitution, largely written by James Madison of the Princeton Class of 1771, is signed in Philadelphia’s Constitution Hall.

September 18, 1971—Pablo Picasso’s “Head of a Woman” is under construction at the art museum.

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Pablo Picasso’s “Head of a Woman” being installed (1971), Historical Photographs Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series, AC111, Box MP81, Item #3305.

September 20, 1964—University President Robert F. Goheen formally announces the abolishment of the “Chapel Rule,” which had made chapel attendance mandatory for freshmen, during the University’s opening exercises.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for September 1-7

For last week’s installment in our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its students and alumni, click here.

For the week of September 1-7:

The Princeton Bulletin marvels at the novelty of getting Labor Day off, a student competes in the Miss America pageant, and more.

September 1, 2010—The Carl A. Fields Papers are made available to researchers at Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Fields was the first African American to hold a high-ranking position at an Ivy League school.

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Carl A. Fields (1938-2009)

September 4, 1944—The Princeton Bulletin refers to the suspension of classes on this date for Labor Day as “one of those rare occurrences like Halley’s Comet, or the 17-year locusts or a total eclipse of the sun.”

September 5, 1843—The U.S.S. Princeton is launched in Philadelphia.

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Photo from Daily Princetonian.

September 6, 1999—Princeton junior Victoria Paige ’01 competes in the Miss America pageant, earning a spot in the top 10.

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Victoria A. Paige’s Nassau Herald photo (2001).

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

John F. Kennedy’s Princeton University undergraduate alumni file

Today marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.  The Mudd Manuscript Library celebrated the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s election in 2010 with an exhibition and more than 30 Public Policy collections contain material related to Kennedy.

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Within the University Archives, his undergraduate alumni file contains his application to the University, details his brief time on campus and reasons for his departure, and some later correspondence with and about him.

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The first page of JFK’s Princeton Application

The file contains his application essay that is very similar to his Harvard essay, which was released in 2011. This digitized file is part of the Mudd Library’s ongoing digitization efforts.

by: Dan Linke

Alumni give 1836 Copybook to University Archives

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A wonderful end of the year gift came to the Princeton University Archives through the generosity of eight alumni who serve on the Princetoniana Committee. The item, a copybook from Class of 1836 graduate Samuel Humes Porter, was for sale on eBay. Dave Cleaves ’78, the organizer of “pBay”–a group of alumni who collect Princetoniana–noted the item’s availability on Sunday, December 16, and by week’s end, led by Sev Onyshkevych ’83 and joined by Steven Brown ’77, Cleaves, Scott Clemons ’90, Donald Farren ’58, Cynthia Penney ’83, Jonathan Sapan ’04, and Frank Sloat ’55, the copybook was on its way to the Archives.

Though small in size (3″ x 5.25″), the book’s importance is due to its scarcity. The University Archives has very little documentation prior to 1855 due to the Nassau Hall fire that year, and next to nothing that documents individual students’ work. University Archivist Dan Linke reports that this is the first copybook from that era. The book includes lines of poems from Coleridge, Sidney, Spenser and Pope, as well as translations from Latin and Greek, all written in an exceptionally crisp hand. Porter’s penmanship was so fine that he worked several government clerkships before becoming a lawyer.

Due to extended deterioration of its binding, the book is currently being treated by the Preservation Lab and is unavailable for review, but it should be available in the Spring.