Tag Archives: Throwback Thursday

#ThrowbackThursday: The Amazing Dr. Boom

(PAW Archives)

This week, we remember the amazing, captivating experiments of Professor Hubert Alyea ’24 *28, also known as “Dr. Boom.” Alyea had a knack for making chemistry a subject that students wanted to learn about, not simply one they were forced to take as a requirement. Despite having classes at the dreaded 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. slots, Alyea’s courses regularly filled with science and non-science students alike. 

Alyea started each concept with a story. For example, he loved to tell students that “because Madame Lavoisier was a social climber, modern chemistry was born.” Accompanying his stories were personal touches that made students even more engaged. For 33 years, Alyea held weekly precepts at his home where students enjoyed cider, doughnuts, and free-flowing conversation about chemistry, philosophy, and the meaning of life. But perhaps what was most dazzling about Alyea were his demonstrations. Students remember him flying around the front of the classroom, conducting several experiments at once in order to show students all the applications of the concepts they were studying. During his famous last lecture of each semester, Dr. Boom managed to complete 50 experiments in 50 minutes. 

In addition to being a favorite of undergrads, Alyea caught the eye of Walt Disney. After seeing one of Alyea’s public demonstrations, Disney decided to make a film about a chemistry professor who invents a new, miracle substance. Alyea was brought to Hollywood to teach Fred MacMurray, star of The Absent-Minded Professor, the tricks of his trade. 

Alyea’s memory lives on at Alumni Day. On Feb. 22 at 10:30 a.m. in the Frick Chemistry Laboratory’s Taylor Auditorium, Kathryn M. Wagner, a lecture demonstrator in the chemistry department, will recreate some of Dr. Boom’s famous experiments. It’s sure to be an explosively fun event! 

VIDEO: Below, watch Alyea in a video from the University Archives, and see the 2011 “Magic of Chemistry” Alumni Day presentation.

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#ThrowbackThursday: A Lap with the Olympic Torch

(PAW Archives)

With the 2014 Winter Olympics underway in Sochi, Russia, we turn back the clock 34 years to Princeton’s own Olympic moment: On Feb. 3, 1980, 10 days before the opening ceremonies in Lake Placid, N.Y., the Olympic torch relay came to town, making a stop at the Princeton Indoor Relays in Jadwin Gym. Alison Carlson ’77, pictured, carried the torch for a ceremonial lap around the Robert Garrett Memorial Track, named for Robert Garrett, Class of 1897, a track and field star at the first modern Olympics, held in Athens in 1896.

Carlson was one of 52 women and men selected to guide the torch from Virginia to upstate New York. On hand to watch her were hundreds of sports fans and a handful of dignitaries, including Harrison Garrett ’33 (Robert’s son), New Jersey athletics commissioner and former boxing champ Joe Walcott, and John Woodruff, a gold medalist in track at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

Princeton has a long and distinguished history at the Olympics, but Tigers have had most of their success in the summer games. More than 90 alumni have competed in summer events, compared with seven in the winter. Andrea Kilbourne-Hill ’02 is Princeton’s most recent winter medalist. She won silver with the U.S. women’s ice hockey team at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

#ThrowbackThursday: Princeton’s ‘Monuments Men’

Seven decades after the Allied Armies of World War II commissioned the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) program to preserve art and architectural treasures from the wrath of war, the hundreds of so-called “Monuments Men” are set to achieve new fame with the upcoming release of a feature film starring Matt Damon, George Clooney, and others.

Alumni “Monuments Men” Lt. Col. Ernest DeWald *1914 *1916, far right, and Lt. Perry Cott ’29 *37, third from left, examine relics of the Holy Roman regalia upon their return to Vienna in 1946. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD)

Princetonians played a significant role in the MFAA’s efforts, and in a 2010 PAW feature story, W. Barksdale Maynard ’88 highlighted the wartime and postwar activities of several alumni, including Lt. Col. Ernest DeWald *1914 *1916, a World War I veteran who joined the MFAA efforts in Italy. Maynard described DeWald’s experiences, drawing on the professor’s pocket diary, now housed at Firestone Library:

“Air-raid sirens howled as he reconnoitered medieval towns for endangered art. DeWald often came upon Army engineering units bulldozing fallen buildings out of roadways, using the debris to patch holes in blown-up bridges — until he frantically waved them to stop, pointing out fragments of historic sculpture, fresco, and manuscripts mingled with the rubble. ‘It’s amazing what Italian experts can piece together from what appears to be just a pile of smashed rock,’ he told PAW in a wartime letter.”

After returning home, DeWald directed the Princeton University Art Museum until 1960, when he retired and was succeeded by fellow MFAA veteran Patrick “Joe” Kelleher *47.

Other alumni Monuments Men included Lt. Cdr. Perry Cott ’29 *37, Lt. Robert Koch *54, Capt. Everett “Bill” Lesley *37, Lt. Charles Parkhurst *41, and Lt. Craig Hugh Smyth ’38 *56.

READ MORE: When art historians went to war (PAW, June 2, 2010)

#ThrowbackThursday: Beat Yale (in Chemistry)

“Pretend you’re not in Frick, but that you’re walking down a beach in Southern California, watching the waves. Hold that image for three seconds. Now go to it. Go Princeton!”

Photo: Mike Beahan/PAW Archives

Those were the final instructions of Miles Pickering before the start of the Princeton-Yale Titration Contest in December 1978. Contestants were given a sample of a chemical compound, mixed with an inert substance, and asked to determine the concentration of the mixture. The team with the most students scoring in Pickering’s “golden circle” — within one percentage point of the actual concentration — would be the winner.

Pickering, a Yale alumnus, Princeton lab instructor, and in PAW’s words, “the Abner Doubleday of intercollegiate titration,” initiated the contest in 1977. Yale won, and a summary of the project later earned a place in the Journal of Chemistry Education.

In 1978, Yale again proved more proficient in a closely contested rematch: 51 percent of its team finished in the golden circle, compared to 49 percent for the titrating Tigers.

#ThrowbackThursday: Back to the Books

Firestone Library, circa 1965.

With the first-semester reading period in progress, this photo from the Sept. 21, 1965, issue of PAW seemed like an appropriate Throwback Thursday selection. Taken by Ulli Steltzer at Firestone Library, the image accompanied a long feature story titled “New Challenges to University Libraries,” written by William S. Dix, then the University librarian.

Dix’s primary concern was space, since libraries must “increase as the volume of world publishing increases.” Nearly five decades later, Firestone’s ongoing renovation is not geared toward expansion — off-site storage has relieved some of that pressure — but it has other space-related goals, such as refreshing study areas and carrels and adding compact shelving.

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#ThrowbackThursday: 10 Years, 10 Themes


The Jan. 8 issue of PAW, arriving in mailboxes next week, will be our annual theme issue, continuing a tradition that started in 2003-04 with a special edition devoted to Campus Life. Since then, we’ve spotlighted Ethics (2004-05), Princeton and the Arts (2005-06), Global Princeton (2006-07), Princeton’s Most Influential Alumni (2007-08), Looking Ahead (the Future Issue) (2008-09), Race (2009-10), Humor (2010-11), Books (2011-12), and Music (2012-13). The covers of all 10 are pictured above.

What will be the theme of this year’s issue? Find out Friday on Facebook and Twitter.

#ThrowbackThursday: Holiday Spirit, Student-Style

PAW’s Dec. 21, 1988, cover. Click to enlarge.

PAW’s Dec. 21, 1988, cover featured a bit of holiday spirit, student-style, captured by photographer Larry French. A few other items in the news on campus 25 years ago this week:

  • Abraham Udovich, then chairman of Near Eastern studies, traveled to Sweden with representatives of the International Center for Peace in the Middle East to meet with PLO leader Yasir Arafat.
  • The old Harrison Street bridge over Lake Carnegie collapsed into the water, weighed down by construction equipment that was being used to dismantle it. PAW reported that workers had been planning “a less dramatic demolition process.”
  • Student columnist Glenn Berkeley ’89 tagged along with Michael Stolper ’89 on a late-night pizza delivery run, learning tricks of the trade, like keeping your high-beams on while driving on campus. (“That way, you don’t end up with a person on the front of your car,” Stolper said.)
  • Men’s basketball coach Pete Carril, in an interview with PAW contributor Doug Lederman ’84, explained a lack of physical toughness in the Ivy League, noting that basketball is a “no-garage kind of game,” but Princeton (and the other Ivies) attract players from “three-car-garage” backgrounds. His Tigers would go on to win the league championship and fall to Georgetown, 50-49, in the NCAA Tournament.

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#ThrowbackThursday: Spontaneous Portraits

Photos by Greg Conderacci ’71. Click to enlarge.

These days, most Princeton students riding elevators spend their time sending a quick text, checking their email, or taking a snapchat. Perhaps the last thing one would expect is to be asked to have her picture taken.

That’s exactly what Greg Conderacci ’71 did at Firestone Library on a spring day in his senior year. Conderacci, then a student writer for PAW, said at the time that “people reveal themselves in interesting ways when they have their picture taken.” Only one person declined his request. The six images published by PAW are featured above.

More recently, the idea of taking spontaneous portraits has gone viral thanks to the website and Facebook page Humans of New York. Affectionately referred to as HONY, the site is the work of a photographer who approaches strangers in New York City and asks to take pictures and ask them a few questions about their experiences. Alternatively inspiring, surprising, grim, and honest, the photographer’s posts push HONY’s more than 1.7 million viewers to look for the humanity in each stranger. Princeton has its own spinoff, Humans of Princeton, which has drawn more than 2,100 Facebook likes since the start of the academic year.

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#ThrowbackThursday: An Activities Showcase


Most students recall the bustling Activities Fair on the Friday of the first week of classes freshman year, where campus groups try to draw first-year additions to their ranks. But the first activities fair, on Alumni Day in 1948, was held for a different purpose: to showcase the myriad undergraduate extracurricular options to visiting alumni. Thousands strolled through the aisles of Dillon Gym, hearing from undergrads about the accomplishments of each organization.  At left, Malcolm Forbes ’41, founder of The Nassau Sovereign, browsed the magazine with editor Robert Heimann ’48.

After the fair, alumni remarked about how thrilled they were to see the vibrancy of post-war undergraduate life. A Daily Princetonian editorial recommended “an encore in September … to give incoming freshmen some idea of the varied outlets at Princeton for their talents and interests.”

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#ThrowbackThursday: To Build a Bonfire

Coach Charlie Caldwell ’25, left, and captain Frank McPhee ’53 prepare to light the 1952 bonfire with a flaming broom. (Photo: PAW Archives)

Princeton’s tradition of celebrating big football victories with a bonfire dates back to the late 1800s, and the current practice of reserving the bonfire for the years when Princeton beats both Harvard and Yale also has a long history. But one part has changed over the years: Stacking the wood used to be a job for the freshmen; now, all four classes participate. This year’s bonfire on Cannon Green is scheduled to begin Sunday, Nov. 24, at 7 p.m.

What goes into the fire? Effigies of Bulldogs and John Harvard (though probably not this year), wooden pallets, painted plywood signs, and whatever else will burn.

John McPhee ’53, the Ferris Professor of Journalism and longtime New Yorker writer, penned an excellent description in a PAW student column about the 1952 bonfire, celebrating Princeton’s sixth consecutive Big Three championship:

“The A.A. [athletics association] contributed a .1-mile outdoor running track (more than 12,000 board feet). The New Jersey State Highway Department donated a supply of pruned limbs (vegetable). And — the inevitable pièce de résistance — a privy (dual) was graciously volunteered by the sixth townsman to be so immortalized in as many years. Inside the antiquated commode was a piece of conventional crockery symbolizing the Yale Bowl.”

Below, watch video of Princeton bonfires from 1926, 1948, 2006, and 2012.

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#ThrowbackThursday: The Streak Is Broken

(PAW Archives: Dec. 1, 1981)

In the annals of Princeton football, the 1981 Tigers may not be the most accomplished team (they finished 5-4-1, good for third place in the Ivy League), but they left a lasting mark with one memorable victory on Nov. 14.

Princeton had endured a 14-year losing streak against Yale, and for the most part, the games hadn’t been particularly close. The 1981 Bulldogs, led by running back Rich Diana, were a perfect 8-0, including a nationally televised win over Navy. They seemed primed to steamroll the Tigers at Palmer Stadium — and an early 21-0 lead supported that idea. But Princeton’s prolific passing attack, led by Bob Holly ’82, helped the home team mount a remarkable comeback.

PAW’s Mark F. Bernstein ’83 recapped the action in a story published 25 years after the game:

When Yale jumped to a 21–0 second-quarter lead on a chilly, gray afternoon, Princeton was forced to throw on almost every down. But the Tigers began to chip away at Yale’s lead, trailing only 21–15 at halftime and taking a slim lead early in the second half. Down 31–29 with just over a minute and a half to play, Holly led Princeton on a 76-yard drive, passing 18 times in 20 plays, including a fourth-and-10 completion to tight end Scott Oostdyk ’82, his old high school teammate. An end-zone pass to Derek Graham ’85, who set a Princeton single-game record with 278 receiving yards, was incomplete, but Yale was called for interference, giving Princeton a first down at the one-yard line with nine seconds left.

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#ThrowbackThursday: Triangle’s ‘Fiesta’ Kickline


Members of the Princeton Triangle Club posed for this kickline photo in 1933, before the December debut of “Fiesta” at McCarter Theater. Set in 1890s Texas, the romance was headlined by William Harrison ’35 as the heroine, Virginia, and George Swift ’34 as her rancher suitor, Richard. Novelist Louis Bromfield, reviewing the show for The Daily Princetonian, said it reached its pinnacle “when, toward the end of the evening, it goes haywire and becomes delightful nonsense.”

Bromfield’s take seems apt for most Triangle productions. This year’s cast will aim for more delightful nonsense with “Zero Gravitas,” a space-themed musical romp coming to McCarter Nov. 15, 16, and 17.

The photograph of “Fiesta” is courtesy of Donald Marsden ’64’s book The Long Kickline: A History of the Princeton Triangle Club. View more Triangle photos in PAW’s slide show of past kicklines.

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#ThrowbackThursday: A Princeton President in China

As President Eisgruber ’83 travels through Asia during fall break this week, we reminisce about a previous president’s journey to China in December 1974. President William Bowen *58, part of a delegation of 13 American university presidents and educators, spent most of his three-week visit touring educational institutions, including six major universities, several middle and elementary schools, and the Institute of Physics. 

(PAW Archives: Jan. 28, 1975)

During his trip, PAW reported, Bowen was struck by the small percentage of Chinese students who attended university (then only about 400,000 in a nation of more than 900 million). Students were required to spend at least two years working in a factory or on a commune before university, a Cultural Revolution policy aimed at preventing the creation of a new elite. Bowen worried about how the Albert Einsteins of the world — “someone who is very bright but who may be a miserable worker” — would fare in such a system. When he raised the question, he was told that “no such people exist.”

Bowen did take some positive lessons from the Chinese education system, noting that universities encouraged students to be more familiar with the world and the society around them — an area in which American institutions “haven’t always done as well as we might."

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#ThrowbackThursday: The Zamboni, a ‘Strange New Animal’ at Baker Rink

With a new hockey season set to begin tomorrow night — the Princeton men open vs. Dartmouth at the Prudential Center in Newark, while the women play Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H. — we turn our attention to that unsung hero of the rink: the Zamboni.

(PAW Archives: March 6, 1959)

Today’s fans are well acquainted with the ice-resurfacing machine, which cleans and smooths the playing surface between periods. But in 1959, it was a “strange new animal,” in PAW’s words, capable of scraping the ice in a mere 10 minutes (compared to the 45 minutes required to do it by hand). The editors predicted that the Zamboni would help to spread the game to more high schools in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, and ultimately help Princeton compete with its northern Ivy League rivals.

The prediction was partly on target: More schools do play hockey than in 1959, and the Tiger teams have held their own against the likes of Cornell, Harvard, and Yale. But Princeton’s recruiting reaches far beyond the tri-state area.

Photo from the PAW Archives

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#ThrowbackThursday: Touring the Campus With Orange Key


With application deadlines looming, the fall tends to be a popular time for prospective students to visit Princeton — and Orange Key guides are on the job, guiding them around the campus for tours that share information about the University’s past and present.

This 2002 image shows Carolyn Pichert ’05 leading a tour outside Nassau Hall.

Read more about Orange Key in a feature story from PAW’s Nov. 18, 2009, issue.

Photo by Frank Wojciechowski

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#ThrowbackThursday: Cosmology with Brass Bells and Balloons

Princeton has long been a leader in astrophysical sciences — even when the state-of-the-art equipment looked like “the luggage of a touring brass ensemble.” That was J.I. Merritt ’66’s description of Professor David T. Wilkinson’s “balloon package,” pictured below with an unidentified researcher and featured in an Oct. 20, 1980, PAW story, “Cosmology at Princeton.”


Wilkinson and his team would periodically travel to Palestine, Texas, to deploy the instrument on scientific balloons. Flying at a height of 80,000 feet, the package would measure background radiation in space; the six large brass bells served as antennae for a set of Dicke radiometers (created by Princeton physicist Robert Dicke ’39).

Today, cosmic microwave background radiation is studied via spacecraft, including the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which was renamed in Wilkinson’s honor after his death in 2002. Princeton professors Lyman Page Jr. and David Spergel ’80 and colleague Charles Bennett shared the 2010 Shaw Prize in Astronomy for their leadership of the WMAP project.

Photo from the PAW Archives

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#ThrowbackThursday: Princeton in the Movies

The list of fictional Princetonians adds another famous face this week with the release of Runner, Runner, a movie that stars Justin Timberlake as graduate student Richie Furst. After the dean (Bob Gunton, who played the warden in The Shawshank Redemption) reprimands Furst for his gambling habit, he makes a final wager to raise money for his tuition, loses it all, and flies to Costa Rica to confront the man he suspects of cheating him out of the money (played by Ben Affleck).


In honor of Furst and the many faux-alumni who came before him — Bruce Wayne, Osbourne Cox, Mary Matthews, and Joe Cable, to name a few — we present PAW’s Feb. 28, 1977, cover. The khaki-clad, long-haired Princeton primate paleontologist Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) stands before his vanquished foe in a still from the 1976 production of King Kong. “No matter that Princeton doesn’t have a department of primate paleontology,” Alexander Wolff ’79 wrote in the cover story. “… Princetonians can take Prescott’s characterization in stride; at Hollywood’s hands they have suffered much worse.”

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#ThrowbackThursday: Cane Spree 2005

Cane Spree, one of Princeton’s oldest and most treasured traditions, has roots that date back to the 1860s, when sophomores would routinely snatch canes from the hands of freshmen.


In this photo from a more recent incarnation, Elizabeth Lemoine ’09, left, and Roxanne Schneider ’08 fight for possession of the cane on Poe Field. The freshmen would carry the day.

This year, the classes of 2016 and 2017 will face off in a series of events (including cane wrestling) at Princeton Stadium Oct. 2.

Photo by Frank Wojciechowski.

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