“The End of a Monastery”: Princeton’s First Female Graduate Students

The Princeton University Graduate Announcement for 1961-1962 warned potential applicants, “Admissions are normally limited to male students.” Yet this “adverbial loophole,” as the Daily Princetonian termed it, left room for some admissions that were not “normal” for Princeton at the time. Within the loophole, dozens of women became degree candidates before the advent of undergraduate coeducation.

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian, October 1, 1962.

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Lawrence Rauch *49 and Operation Crossroads: Atomic Testing at Bikini Atoll

By Rosalba Varallo Recchia

This post is part of a series on education and war related to our current exhibition, “Learning to Fight, Fighting to Learn: Education in Times of War,” on display through June 2018. Please stop by to learn more.

Lawrence Rauch *49, a mathematics graduate student and a research assistant in physics, concentrated on radio telemetry while at Princeton.  He lived in the Graduate College near John Tukey, Rauch’s mentor during this time. Richard Feynman also lived nearby. Rauch was passionate about his studies, but World War II affected his academic experience. He won the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship in 1942, but due to his involvement in war research had to turn it down. Throughout the war, Rauch worked on defense related projects–which had the added benefit of keeping him out of the draft. He was chosen among five other members of the University to attend the first series of post-war nuclear testing being conducted in the Pacific Ocean by the Joint Army and Navy Task Force at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1946.

Lawrence Rausch *49’s ROTC portrait. Lawrence Rausch Papers (AC393), Box 2, Folder 10.

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Princeton in Space

Several Princetonians have braved the final frontier, beginning with NASA’s Apollo missions. Here we present a brief overview of their contributions to space exploration.


Charles “Pete” Conrad ’53

Charles Conrad studied aeronautical engineering at Princeton, earning his B.S. in 1953. A little less than a decade later, NASA chose him alongside eight other men to train for the Gemini and Apollo projects. After his return to Earth as the pilot for Gemini 5 in 1965 set a record for the longest time humans had spent in space (eight days), Princeton took the unprecedented step of raising its flag above Nassau Hall to celebrate.

As commander of the Apollo 12 mission in 1969, Conrad was the third human to walk on the moon, quipping, “That might have been a short step for Neil [Armstrong] but it was a damn long one for me.” He took five Princeton flags with him on the trip, later presenting one to the University.

Princeton University flag taken to the moon by Charles “Pete” Conrad ’53. Memorabilia Collection (AC053).

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Great Scott! Look at All These Birds!

By Arthur Kim ’18

Until relatively recently, there were thousands of stuffed birds in Guyot Hall, which was once the home of Princeton’s Museum of Natural History. Most of these birds were collected by William Earl Dodge Scott, the former curator of the Department of Ornithology at Princeton University. Scott traveled throughout the country, studying and collecting different species of birds inhabiting each area. From pigeons to the great white heron, Scott established an impressive collection that was both educational and aesthetic.

Robert Bruce Hosfall illustration of William Earle Dodge Scott, May 1902. This illustration appeared as the frontispiece for Scott’s autobiography, The Story of a Bird Lover. Faculty and Professional Staff Files (AC107).

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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.

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).

Halle Berry on “Women, Race, and Film” (2000)

Fifteen years ago, Halle Berry made history as the first African American woman ever to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. A year and a half before her Oscar win, Halle Berry was the keynote speaker for a two-day conference at Princeton, “Imitating Life: Women, Race, and Film, 1932-2000.” We’ve recently digitized the video of her address.

Halle Berry, “Women, Race, and Film,” McCosh Hall, Princeton University, September 2000. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 203.

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Integrating Princeton University: Robert Joseph Rivers ’53

As we have previously pointed out, Princeton’s first African American undergraduates were not purposefully admitted: they were instead brought as part of a Navy training program during World War II. In 1945, Trustee Laurence G. Payson wrote to fellow member of the Class of 1916 John McFerran Barr to explain the presence of black students in response to apparent objections. “When the personnel [for the Navy unit] arrived its members included, unbeknownst to us in advance, four negroes.” Meanwhile, a law requiring tax-exempt institutions not to discriminate on the basis of race had recently passed in New Jersey. “If Princeton were to stand against the negroes who were admitted under the Navy War-time ROTC the Trustees would be in a very difficult spot.” He explained that future African American applications for admission would be evaluated by administrators at Nassau Hall (i.e., the Office of the President) rather than by the Office of Admission, then headed by Dean Radcliffe Heermance. (Heermance had revoked one black student’s offer of admission in the 1930s when he showed up to register for classes and his race became apparent.) In spite of Princeton’s wariness of challenge to its traditions, one young local African American resident found the presence of black students at the prestigious university inspirational in its seeming promise of new possibilities.

James Everett Ward ’47 and Arthur Jewell Wilson ’47 outside Laughlin Hall, 1946. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP215, Image No. 5644.

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Grading at Princeton University

We sometimes get questions about what people see in alumni files. One of the more challenging things about reading academic records is dealing with unfamiliar grading rubrics. For example, we shared F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grade card with you a while ago. Though a dropped semester and repeated classes would indicate he did not do so well academically, the actual grades he received—mostly a series of 4s and 5s—are bewildering to modern eyes.

Grading at Princeton table

Click to enlarge this table.

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“Climates of the Past”

These days, most Americans think of PBS when they think of educational television, but in the 1950s, viewers expected commercial networks to offer this sort of programming. In 1952, New York’s WNBT (NBC) offered Princeton University a grant for faculty to develop a variety of shows in their areas of expertise suitable for a mass audience. Yale, Brown, Rutgers, Columbia, NYU, and Georgetown were all already involved in similar endeavors. By 1954, 84 colleges and universities were involved in creating educational television. Some even offered college credit to viewers.

Princeton was ready to go on the air in 1954. The series, Princeton ’54, was only shown in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region, but the program was successful enough that NBC decided to show its successor, Princeton ’55, throughout the eastern United States, in a covetable Sunday afternoon time slot. The series was meant to appeal to diverse interests, opening with “Communists, and Who They Are” with Prof. Gabriel A. Almond (Woodrow Wilson School) on January 2, 1955, and drawing upon faculty in English, music, the Creative Arts Program, and geology, among others for its 13-episdode season.

Erling_Dorf_FAC28_photo_by_Orren_Jack_Turner

Erling Dorf, ca. 1950s. Photo by Orren Jack Turner. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series (AC059), Box FAC28.

Today, we’re sharing the program that aired sixty years ago today, on February 6, 1955. Geology professor Erling Dorf presented “Climates of the Past,” asserting that the Earth was going through a period of warming within an epoch of cooling.

Princeton followed up with a third and final season, Princeton ’56, the following year.