History of Physics at Kenyon
Dr. Thomas Greenslade
Professor Emeritus of Physics
Physics was taught at Kenyon College long before the formation of a department of physics in the early years of the twentieth century. The complicated apparatus of our present-day curriculum - introductory and advanced-level courses, electives, major and minor programs, laboratory courses, seminars and advising systems - was not available to undergraduate students in American colleges for most of the nineteenth century. In its place was a set curriculum, fixed in the early part of the century as a basic set of courses, almost all taught on the introductory level by a single faculty member.
Not until the last quarter of the century was there a break in this pattern, and that mostly in a relatively small number of eastern colleges. By the last years the new style of electives reached the Midwest, and with it an expansion of courses in the sciences. Laboratory work was offered to Kenyon students for the first time in the closing years of the nineteenth century, and by 1902 the college offered enough physics courses to make up a major program. Soon there was a formal department of physics that experienced more or less steady growth during the twentieth century.
Kenyon was founded in 1824 with funds raised on the East Coast and in England by the first Episcopal bishop of Ohio, Philander Chase, a Dartmouth graduate of the class of 1795. By 1828 it had moved from the Chase farm north of Columbus to a hilltop above the Kokosing River about five miles east of Mount Vernon. Legend has it that the Bishop climbed up out of the river valley, surveyed an area that had been partly cleared by an earlier windstorm, and said "This will do."
The first class graduated in 1829, and among the six men in the class was George Denison, who entered Dartmouth College at the age of 16 in 1825. Two years later, along with three other Episcopal students, he transferred to Kenyon. In 1827 he was one of the seventeen founders of the Philomethesian Society, one of the two literary societies that supplied the social and literary life of the campus for many years. Two years after graduating from Kenyon he received his divinity degree from what later became Bexley Hall, the theological seminary associated with Kenyon, and was ordained shortly afterward.
Meanwhile he had been appointed a tutor, and in 1831, at the age of twenty two, was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Kenyon. As was usual for most of the nineteenth century he taught a year-long course for juniors. At the same time, he taught a semester of algebra to the freshmen, a semester of trigonometry to the sophomores, and a semester of conic sections, spherical trigonometry and geometry to the juniors. During the 1832-33 year, in addition to his teaching, he delivered seventy eight sermons, addressed five temperance meetings, and got eighty pledges of total abstinence from strong drink. From 1841 to 1848 he was the rector of Trinity Church in Newark, Ohio, but he was again appointed to the mathematics and natural philosophy position at Kenyon. By this time he had gained further experience in science, and in June 1851 published "a solution of the problem involved in the Foucault Experiment [which] has never been impugned." During his years at Newark his position at the college was taken by Prof. E. C. Ross, LL.D.
The complete set of lecture notes for Denison's first year of teaching has survived in the Kenyon archives. Quite sensibly, he borrowed the plan of the most successful American textbook of the time, written by Denison Olmsted of Yale, although the text used by the students was the less satisfactory one by Enfield. The course had no experiments, although there might have been a few small lecture demonstrations. The course is primarily mechanics and the properties of fluids, with a half dozen lectures at the end on electricity (static electricity, the battery and voltaic effects). There are no algebraic equations; most of the quantitative reasoning in courses of the time was done by proportional reasoning. The earlier lectures are written out in full, and probably read, but toward the end there are only sketchy outlines. With only four students in the junior class taking the course there was plenty of opportunity for student recitation to demonstrate their understanding of the ideas presented to them.
The oldest piece of physics apparatus at Kenyon is a telescope given to the college just as it was moving to Gambier. It is a terrestrial telescope (the image is upright) of fairly low power (about 25 diameters) made by the London firm of Dollond. Engraved on the tube is "This Telescope is Presented to the Right Revd Philander Chase, Bishop of Ohio, as a small token of respect and Veneration by the Daughter and other Descendants of the Late Reverend William Jones of Nayland County of Suffolk England, for the use of the Students of Kenyon College in the Diocese of Ohio, April 1827." In a letter to the author in 1976, the then Lord Kenyon noted that the Second Lord Kenyon, after whom the College is named, was one of Jones' pupils at a school that he conducted in his parsonage in Nayland.
At this point it is useful to see how the sciences, and, in particular, physics, fitted into the standard nineteenth century college curriculum. By the middle of the seventeenth century, entering Harvard students were assumed to have a working knowledge of Latin and Greek, and then studied logic, Hebrew, rhetoric, natural philosophy, moral philosophy and mental philosophy, mathematics and additional Latin and Greek. The morning classes were recitations (think of these as rehearsals), and the afternoon classes were debates (think of these as performances). Students at Yale in the middle of the eighteenth century used a curriculum very much the same: the first two years were spent gaining skills in language and logic, and the third and fourth years used these skills to study advanced subjects, including natural philosophy.
Despite the social changes brought on by the American Revolution, the colonial curriculum persisted into the nineteenth century. Student unrest in the first quarter of the century made it clear that the curriculum was seriously out of date with the times. Entering students were prepared with more advanced mathematics and more science, making the college course repetitive. Falling collegiate enrollments led to an 1818 meeting at New Haven of representatives of Bowdoin, Harvard, Middlebury, Union, Vermont and Yale to discuss requirements for admission, including the high school courses and the books used for teaching them, and also the books to be used in the college courses. Later meetings, involving more schools, considered the college curriculum. Within a few years colleges were publishing catalogues giving course by course descriptions of their curricula, and, in many cases, listing the books used in the courses.
The curriculum that emerged had the same general shape in most colleges without a scientific or technological bent. Here is the curriculum for Kenyon in the academic year 1849-50 with the mathematics and science courses in italics:
First Term, 1st part
Davies' Bourdon's Algebra
First Term, 2nd part
Algebra completed, and Geometry begun
Herodotus and Thucydides
Davies' Legendre's Plane Geometry
First Term, 1st part
Solid Geometry and Plane Trigonometry
First Term, 2nd part
Horace's Satires and Epistles
Lysias, Isocrates, Demosthenes
Spherical Trigonometry and Descriptive Geometry
Cicero de Senectute, de Amicitia, Paradoxia, Somnium Scipionis,
Davies' Surveying and Analytical Geometry
First Term, 1st part
Tacitus' Germania and Agricola, Plato
Olmsted's Natural Philosophy - Mechanics
Guizot's History of Civilization
First Term, 2nd Part
Olmsted's Natural Philosophy - Acoustics, Magnetism, Electricity and Optics
Sophocles, Euripides, Pindar
Cicero du Oratore, Omstead's Astronomy
Exercises in Criticism, Composition and Original Declamation
First Term, 1st Part
Upham's Philosophy of the Mind
Natural Theology, Anatomy and Physiology
Inorganic Chemistry and its application to the Arts and Physical Science
First Term, 2nd Part
Organic Chemistry and the Chemistry of Animal and Vegetable Physiology
Wayland's Moral Sciences and Political Economy
Dana's Manual of Mineralogy
Lyell's Elements of Geology
Composition and Original Declamation throughout the year
To this list must be added required chapel attendance twice on Sunday at Rosse Hall, and daily morning and evening prayer. The public Biblical Lecture on Sunday evenings was, however, optional.
Each student was graded daily on his recitations, with 0 representing a total failure and 3 a perfect recitation.
The Hamilton Smith Era
The undergraduate preparation of many physics faculty members in the first two thirds of the nineteenth century was thus the single set of courses in the junior year, backed up by a set of collegiate mathematics courses which can easily be matched today by any high school. In most cases this was often unaugmented by any other study of physics. George Denison's example was typical of the sort of scrambling effort necessary to get a new college up and running. His preparation and his ecclesiastical career were quite typical of faculty members in the smaller and more western and southern sectarian colleges in the first half of the nineteenth century. Few men planned to go into higher education, and came to it via avenues such as law, medicine and the church. College teaching was distinctly not a lucrative profession. In 1871 a full professor at Kenyon had a cash salary of $1400 and a house provided by the college; the inclusion of housing for faculty members in the total compensation persisted until 1965. An additional benefit was the provision of pasturage for one cow.
By comparison, one of Denison's successors at Kenyon, Hamilton Lanphere Smith (1818-1903), built on his small number of undergraduate science courses to become a practicing scientist. When he graduated from Yale in 1839 his initial scientific interest was astronomy; he stayed on at Yale, helped construct the largest telescope then existing in America, and shared the directorship of the Yale Observatory. He published extensive observations of various nebulae, and was the discoverer of the Comet of 1844. After leaving Yale he became a flour merchant in Cleveland, kept up his scientific studies, published high school texts on natural philosophy and astronomy, and was the editor of Annals of Science for three yearly issues. In 1854 he was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Kenyon, a post which he held until a religious controversy in 1868 sent him from low church Kenyon to high church Hobart College in Geneva, New York. In his Kenyon days he is best known for the development of the tintype photographic process, patented in 1856 under the name of Peter Neff, a Kenyon graduate of the class of 1849. (Neff, a wildly idiosyncratic character and a Bexley Hall graduate, is perhaps best known for developing the oil and gas fields of eastern Knox County.)
Smyth's 1924 history of Kenyon notes that in 1865 Mrs. R.B. Bowler of Cincinnati had given "to certain trustees land valued by her at $25,000, to endow the Bowler professorship of natural philosophy, in memory of her husband, who in his lifetime had generously contributed money to purchase physical apparatus for the college. These trustees sold the land for more than $51,000. Of this amount, about $31,000 was set apart to pay the salary of the Bowler professor, and the remainder was a fund for the purchase of apparatus and books for his department."
The first Bowler Professor of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry was Hamilton Smith, but after he left Kenyon in 1868 the professorship went to Theodore Sterling (1821-1912), a graduate of Hobart College with a medical degree from Western Reserve University. He became a science teacher, and served as the principal of the Cleveland Central High School from 1859 to 1867. He was appointed the professor of mathematics at Kenyon and became the Bowler professor two years later. He continued to teach these subjects while he served as the eleventh president of Kenyon from 1891 to 1896, and then returned to the classroom once more.
Sterling's replacement as the professor of Physics and Chemistry (note the shift from natural philosophy to physics) was Leslie Howard Ingham (b. in Cleveland in 1867). He received his A.B. from Dartmouth in 1889 and his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1904. After his graduation from Dartmouth he spent two years with the Brush Electric Company in Cleveland, and started his Kenyon career as a professor of Greek. The next year he added chemistry. From 1894 to 1907 he was the Bowler Professor of Chemistry and Physics, and then became the head of the science department of the Baltimore City College. His research was in various fields of chemistry.
While Ingham was working on his doctoral dissertation during the 1901-02 academic year, William Clarence Ebaugh (b. 1877 in Philadelphia) took his place. Ebaugh received his B.S. in 1898 and his Ph.D. in 1901, both from the University of Pennsylvania. After leaving Kenyon he was at the University of Utah, and after 1917 he was a professor of chemistry at Denison University.
Claude Russell Fountain, a native of Ashland, Oregon who was born in 1879, served as an assistant professor of physics at Kenyon during the years 1909-1913. Fountain, whose research was on electromagnetic waves, telegraphy and telephony, and architectural acoustics, was a 1901 graduate of the University of Oregon and got his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1908. As a graduate student he was a faculty member at the University of Idaho and Williams College, and after leaving Kenyon taught at the University of Georgia, Mercer College and Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville. He was followed, for one year, by John Whitmore, who had a B.A. and a Ph.D. from Yale, and for the next forty one years the professor of physics was Elbe Johnson.
The Bowler professorship never came back to physics after Ingham. The Rev. George Francis Weida was appointed the Bowler Professor of Chemistry and Physics in 1907, but always taught chemistry. His B.S. was from the University of Kansas and his doctorate was from Johns Hopkins. In 1923-24 he was on leave, and the next academic year Walter Hatheral Coolidge (Ph.B. Kenyon and Ph.D. Johns Hopkins) was appointed the Bowler professor. Starting in the 1928-29 academic year, he was now the Bowler Professor of Chemistry. Frank Mark Weida, Prof. Weida's son, graduated from Kenyon in 1913, got a doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1923, and pursued a career in academia as an expert in actuarial science.
New Trends in Physics Education
The old fixed curriculum started to come apart at Kenyon with the introduction of electives in 1886-87. Juniors could elect one in each of their three terms, chosen from literature and mathematics.
Kenyon changed its curriculum in 1891-92 to accommodate three different academic tracks: Classical, Philosophical and Scientific, with graduates being awarded A.B., Ph.B. and B.S. degrees. All students took mathematics for the first two years. The scientific students took physics in all three terms of the sophomore year, followed by practical physics and more mathematics in the junior year. The senior year included chemistry, astronomy, and geology. German and French were required for the scientific students to allow them to read the large scientific literature in these languages.
The new element here is the course in practical physics. The catalogue notes that "the course consists of personal experimentation in the Physical Laboratory, accompanied by lectures and recitations on methods of manipulation, the theory of instruments, and the discussion of results, corrections and computation of errors. The first term ... is occupied with preliminary practice in the simple measurements of length, mass and time, followed by the mechanics of solids, liquids and gases, and thermometry and expansion. The second term is a continuation of the first, taking up acoustics, optics, determination of wavelength, interference, etc. The third term is devoted to electricity and magnetism, together with the calibration of instruments."
By this time a number of laboratory manuals were available, and those by Glazebrook and Show, Pickering, Stewart & Gee were used, along with texts by Ganot, J.J. Thompson, Carhart, Tait and Lewis Wright (on optics).
With this much emphasis on physics, it is not surprising that two faculty members (Sterling and Ingham) were needed to teach physics, while only Ingham was needed to teach chemistry to scientific seniors.
The 1901-02 catalogue has an excellent summary of the apparatus for physics instruction at Kenyon at the start of the twentieth century. The sciences were located on the basement and first floors of the north end of Ascension Hall. Under the heading of "The Department of Physics and Chemistry" we find that: "This department occupies ten rooms in Ascension Hall and is abundantly equipped with apparatus, much of which is new and costly, and opportunity is offered students to do accurate quantitative work in physics and chemistry. In addition to apparatus for student use, the department possesses standards of length, mass, resistance, etc, standard thermometers and chronometers for calibrating and standardizing cheaper instruments. In electricity the apparatus includes galvanometers of many kinds, resistance coils, voltometers, ammeters, batteries of different sorts, a small dynamo, apparatus for magnetic measurements, apparatus for static electricity, including a quadrant electrometer, induction coils, all the appliances for illustrating the modern application of electricity, etc. Recently a 6 kilo-watt dynamo and a 12 horse-power engine were placed in a new engine room in the basement of Ascension Hall, and the lecture room and laboratories were provided with electric lights. Provision is made for the use of this current for experimental purposes in the lecture room and the pier-room in the physical laboratory, suitable combinations being effected by a multiple switch board. A two horse-power motor and several storage batteries, high-tension voltmeters, etc. were purchased at this time. Other recent purchases include a number of Crooke's tubes, fluoroscopes, air pump, etc. for experimenting in radiography [x rays], and new apparatus for micrometric measure in elasticity and torsion, also cylinders of oxygen, hydrogen, liquid carbon-dioxide, nitrous-oxide, etc.
"The optical apparatus includes spectroscopes, a spectrometer, one of Rowland's concave gratings, prisms of the best quality, a polariscope, models to illustrate polarized light, a telescope, microscopes, a stereopticon, apparatus for solar projection, etc. The department owns a complete photographic outfit and produces its own lantern slides and photomicrographic plates.
"The acoustic apparatus includes a large number of pieces of Koenig's make, diapasons [tuning forks], organ pipes, a siren, a sonometer, etc., besides a number of costly pieces to illustrate wave motion.
"The Physical Laboratory is a well lighted room supplied with furnace heat, and all the conveniences for individual work. In the center of the room has been placed a substantial pier, insulated from the floor and walls of the building and resting on foundations of masonry. The top of this pier is of polished sandstone, and is used in adjusting and testing delicate measuring instruments and for experiments in magnetometry. The department is supplied with micrometers, microscopes, balances, galvanometers, rheostats, and all the apparatus required for the performance of those experiments which are adapted to train the eye and hand in refined use."
The year 1902-03 saw the first curricular change in ten years, with three semesters of introductory physics elective for sophomores, two semesters of practical physics for seniors, and a new elective course for juniors, "The Ether and its Phenomena." This was "A course of lectures and recitations dealing with the more advanced portions of physical science." Two years later this disappeared in favor of a course in Dynamic Electricity, certainly reflecting the installation of the new steam-engine and dynamo in the basement of Ascension Hall. "This course comprehends determination of power, loss, magnetization loss and characteristic curves; hysteresis, Foucault [eddy] currents, efficiency, armature reaction, candlepower of arc and incandescent systems", all topics that would be considered heavy power engineering in later years.
A schedule of courses typical of a modern physics program appears for the first time in the 1906-07 academic year. There is a separate year of physics designed for non-science majors that met for three double periods each week. Physics students also took this course, but then passed on to a two semester, more advanced introductory physics course. The upper division courses started with a year of analytical mechanics that, in earlier years had been taught in the mathematics department. In alternate years there were courses in Dynamic Electricity and Modern Views of Electricity - the latter with "lectures, laboratory work and reading and open to those who satisfy the instructor of their fitness to profit by the course." Courses in sound and light were taught in alternate years. These met three times each week for two hours, and were experimentally based. There were thus four physics courses each semester, all taught by one faculty member, Frank Lauren Hitchcock, a Harvard graduate who was at Kenyon for only one year.
Thermodynamics appears in the catalogue about 1913, although the study of "the general theory of heat and its practical applications in the steam engine, the gas engine, etc" suggests that the course did not get beyond the first law of thermodynamics.
By Elbe Johnson's second year, 1915-16, the physics curriculum included the basic course, electrical measurements, experimental and theoretical thermodynamics, experimental and theoretical optics, a pre-engineering course in dynamo-electric machinery, descriptive and applied astronomy - eighteen courses in all. How could one man teach all of this? The enrollments were low (145 students, with only 15 in the senior class) and some of the upper division courses alternated years, a practice followed to the present day.
The first hint of "modern" physics was a course in electron theory that included radioactivity, electrolytic conduction, and conduction of electricity through gases.
The surveying course that was part of the curriculum in the middle of the nineteenth century continued on into the first quarter of the next century, except that it was taught in the mathematics department by Prof. Reginald Bryant Allen, an expert surveyor who was usually called "Gummy" Allen by his students (after a cartoon character who wore gumshoes or sneakers).
The Elbe Johnson Era
Elbe Herbert Johnson, whose first name was pronounced "El bee", taught physics at Kenyon College for forty-one years. He was born in Traverse City, Michigan in 1887 and graduated from Olivet College in Michigan in 1911. After three years of graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, he joined the Kenyon faculty as an Assistant Professor of Physics and Chemistry in 1914. The following year he became an Associate Professor of Physics, and was promoted to Professor in 1918. Meanwhile he was doing graduate work at the University of Chicago in the field of spectroscopy, and received his doctorate in physics in 1926. He published a laboratory manual, and was well-known for his course in the history of physics. For many years he was the sole faculty member teaching physics at Kenyon. Professor Johnson retired in 1954, moved to Danville, Ohio, where he added to his large collection of clocks, and died in 1967.
In the fall of 1926 Kenyon opened a new science building, Samuel Mather Science Hall. It was equipped with the latest apparatus for undergraduate study of physics. It seems clear that the architect for the building, Abraham Garfield (the son of the United States president James Garfield), relied heavily on Johnson's advice in the design of the building.
Samuel Mather Science Hall had splendid facilities for its time. Physics occupied most of the lower two floors, and chemistry and biology had the two upper floors. A compressed air line ran through the building, and distilled water was distributed through a series of tin pipes. The physics lecture hall on the south end of the first floor was carefully designed so that the risers for the eighty chairs went up in the form of a parabola. Blackboards covered three of the four walls so students could write problem solutions on them and present them to their classmates. In the front were multiple sliding blackboards on which a good deal of material to be written before erasing was necessary. Outside a southward-facing window was a stone ledge on which the new Gaertner heliostat could be placed to send a ray of sunlight into the new Gaertner wavelength spectrometer ($520 in the 1928 Central Scientific Company catalogue). The students would take turns looking at the Fraunhofer lines in the solar spectrum. A smaller-capacity lecture hall was at the north end of the main floor.
Just outside the lecture hall was a four-storey Foucault pendulum shaft. Students could look in the glass windows to the shaft on the first floor and see the pendulum swinging. Eventually, this ran only from a glass-house on the roof to the first floor and was electromagnetically driven from the top. The pendulum bob had a point on the bottom and a record of its elliptical motion for a single swing could be made using a spark timer and white-wax covered red recording paper.
Across the front of the building on the first floor were the professor's office and his lab, the front entrance, the science library and the office for the second member of the department. Directly behind the lecture hall was a labyrinth of rooms to hold lecture and experimental apparatus, with a Dutch door leading to the large elementary physics laboratory across the western side of the building. The apparatus that students needed was doled out through this door that had a wide ledge at the top of its lower half. This side of the building was filled with windows; the afternoon sun poured in, which was fine in the winter and uncomfortable in the early fall and late spring.
The west side of the basement contained a small classroom and the electrical measurements lab. Next to the classroom was the room where the utilities were located, including a large, sheet-iron tank with riveted joints used to hold compressed air. Across the hall to the back door was a warren of small experimental rooms, plus a darkroom with a labyrinth entrance. The large laboratory room on the south end once contained a radial aircraft engine on a rolling stand; this was part of the School of Aeronautics that existed in the later 1930s. This room was probably used in earlier years as the geology laboratory. At the other end was the battery room containing the wet-cell batteries used for the central direct-current power supply.
Generations of students wondered about the curious lip that ran around the floors on all of the rooms. The architect specified battleship linoleum flooring, but for financial reasons this was eliminated at the last minute. In the same wise, the stair wells were "finished" in paving brick, rather than being plastered. Samuel Mather was a ferro-concrete building, with all of the pillars and beams formed of concrete, hand-tamped around iron rebar. Surface voids were filled with concrete plaster, and interior voids remained undetected.
The physics department did not move empty-handed from the north side of the basement of Ascension Hall to Samuel Mather in 1926. All of the original apparatus was moved, and there was a significant addition to the apparatus for electrical measurements. Approximately $2000 was spent on new apparatus from Leeds & Northrup of Philadelphia, a firm that produced the best electrical instruments to be had at the time. Eighty years later this apparatus is still in existence, although in a museum display on the first floor of the new Hayes Hall, and not in the laboratory. The centerpiece of the apparatus was a Type K potentiometer that cost $275. Accompanying this instrument were wall galvanometers, resistance and capacitance boxes and the other paraphernalia for making precision measurements.
The introductory laboratory was equipped with a new wall clock with a two second period. The bottom of the pendulum had a fine wire that passed, once per second, through a bubble of mercury, completing a circuit and causing the series of telegraph sounders wired to it all over the department to tick once per second. This was used for various timing experiments.
As soon as Prof. Johnson arrived at Kenyon, he developed a history of physics course that he taught until his retirement. Starting in the 1915-16 catalogue, the History of Physics course catalogue description was "A course of lectures on the leading physicists of all ages and their work. Supplemented with reports on collateral reading. Open to those who have had [first year physics]". By 1921 the course had split into two semesters, with "The Rise of Physical Science" dealing with "natural philosophers and physicists down to the Seventeenth Century", and "History of Modern Physics" continuing to 'the present time." The Depression took its toll, and by 1935-36 the course shrank from two semesters to one. In this course he used an opaque projector to show the very detailed pen and ink drawings that he made of apparatus.
By the late twenties Kenyon had an enrollment of about 250 men. The old dining hall (just south of the present post office) had proved to be inadequate, and Peirce Hall was opened in 1929 so that all of the students could eat lunch and dinner together in the Great Hall.
With the increase in the number of students, Elbe Johnson was given some assistance. For 1922-23 Richard Collins Lord (B.A., Ph.D. Washington and Lee) was appointed an assistant professor of physics and chemistry. To help out, three senior students were appointed as assistants. Two years later Lord was giving a couple of courses in geology. By 1926 he was listed only as an assistant professor of chemistry, taught geology and served as the registrar. To take up the slack, John Coulson, with a B.A. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Berlin, served as an assistant professor of physics from 1926 to 1929. At this time, there were twenty two full time faculty members at Kenyon.
From 1928 to 1934 the department was stable. Casper Cottrell, with an A.B. from George Washington and a Ph.D. from Cornell, was the assistant professor of physics. But in 1934 time ran out for the college. The faculty members were given reduced salaries to tide the college over for the unknown length of the economic depression, and Cottrell went to Cornell, where he spent his career in the field of engineering. Elbe Johnson was now the sole faculty member in physics. But not for long - in 1936 James Sircom Allen (A.B. Cincinnati) joined the department as an assistant professor, and two years later he was replaced by Wilson Marcy Powell (1903-1974).
Powell received his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard (where he had also been an undergraduate) in 1933, taught at Connecticut College from 1935 to 1937, and was a member of the physics faculty at Kenyon from 1937 to 1941. With external funding he did research on cosmic rays for his eight years of small college teaching, and in his last years at Kenyon took his cloud chamber to Mt. Evans in Colorado (14,125 ft) to take data. In 1941 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and went on leave from Kenyon to Berkeley. The next year he was transferred to the Manhattan Project and became the head of the Magnet Group that worked on the electromagnetic separation of uranium isotopes at Berkeley and Oak Ridge. After the war he helped with the design of the 184-inch Berkeley synchrotron and later did work in the design of bubble chambers.
Those who complain about heavy teaching loads might consider the teaching load of Johnson and Powell for the fall 1939 semester. Elbe Johnson taught two sections of the basic physics course, each with three hours of lectures and two of lab. He also taught the Theory of Heat course (three lecture hours), the Rise of Physical Science (three hours: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at eight in the morning), the Theoretical Mechanics course in the hour following the history of physics course, and Mathematical Physics (TBA).
Wilson Powell taught Experimental Mechanics and Properties of Matter (one class hour and four laboratory hours), Electrical and Electromagnetic Measurements (same schedule), Vacuum Tubes and Their Circuits (same schedule), Spectroscopy (same schedule) and Advanced Physical Measurements (six hours of lab). At this time the undergraduate population of Kenyon consisted of fifty one seniors, sixty nine juniors, ninety seven sophomore and ninety four freshmen. Since there were probably only one, two or three physics majors in a given class, the upper division courses were practically one-on-one tutorials.
The start of the Second World War in December 1941 brought huge changes both to Kenyon and the physics department. The 1942 catalogue noted that "During the war, the college will remain in regular session for four terms a year" in an attempt to push students through as rapidly as possible. Wilson Powell went on leave starting in the fall of 1941 and retained this status until the start of the 1946-47 year. Royal Calvin Bryant, a Rhodes Scholar from Western Reserve, filled in for him in 1942-43, and in the next year there was a flock of visiting faculty members in physics teaching the students in the new pre-meteorology program that the college hosted during the second half of the war. Chief among them was Sergio De Benedetti (Ph.D. Florence), who served as a visiting associate professor. In addition, there was Lorenzo Emo (Ph.D. Florence), Emery Allen Cook (B.S. Michigan) - both visiting assistant professors - Robert Frank Browning (K '41) as visiting instructor and Thomas Stevenson Smith (a senior physics major) as a visiting assistant in physics. This large cadre of physics faculty members was a consequence of the large number of men enrolled in the pre-met program. The spring semester of 1943 saw 216 of them at the college, plus 247 civilians. That last number dropped to 60 during the course of 1943, and the college had only 51 civilians by the spring of 1945.
The pre-meteorological students had a rather different introductory course that included advanced topics such as the concept of energy, the magnetic circuit, atomic structure and the newer phases of electronics. Consequently, students were given extra credit to cover one semester of the Advanced General Physics Course.
The opening of college in the fall of 1946 saw a huge number of physics courses on the books - there were thirty two courses, including one on photography. But, the only faculty member was Elbe Johnson, who was fifty nine years old. The veterans started to come back, and at the end of the 1946-47 year there were 550 men at Kenyon and the number was growing. In the fall of 1948 he was joined by two A.B.s from Oberlin, Richard Eli Clewell and Allen Glenn Tucker, who were both instructors in physics. By this time the college had started to rate courses by units, with sixteen units required for graduation. Thus, a one semester course was listed as a half unit. The three faculty members taught a total of thirteen and a half units, and that sounds reasonable until one counts the laboratory work associated with the introductory course and the courses in photography, experimental mechanics, electrical measurements (two terms), vacuum tubes (two terms), photometry, spectroscopy, and recent physical research.
The Franklin Miller Years and After
Gordon Keith Chalmers, the president of Kenyon from 1937 to his early death in 1956, is generally regarded as the founder of the present, nationally-known Kenyon College. In much the same way, Franklin Miller is the founder of the modern Kenyon physics department.
Franklin Miller came from Rutgers University at the start of the fall 1948 semester and joined Elbe Johnson in the Kenyon physics department. They taught together until 1955, when Johnson retired. He was born in September 1912 in St. Louis, along with his younger, non-identical twin Henry. His father was a judge; his mother, Maude Barnes Miller, wrote poetry. Franklin was a member of the first class at John Burroughs School that spent its entire career at the school. From there he went to Swarthmore, where he majored in mathematics, took physics courses, and played soccer and ran track. In the spring of 1932 he ran a 4:32 mile at a meet at Amherst, Massachusetts, a remarkably fast time for the era. He went to graduate school in physics at the University of Chicago, where he met his wife, Libuse, the daughter of the Bohemian sculptor Adelbert Lucas. The Millers moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey in the late thirties, and Franklin taught physics at Rutgers until 1948, when he realized that Rutgers was going to emphasize research rather than teaching, and came to Kenyon. While at Rutgers he wrote an experimental thesis - and then a theoretical thesis.
At Kenyon, Miller taught half of the physics courses, did research on thermal expansion, was the editor of the newsletter of the Society for Social Responsibility in Science, was the soccer coach (four winning seasons, and when his all-American goalie graduated, he retired), produced audio programs based on Kenyon assemblies, and worked at the Mount Vernon radio station. There he was Franklin Miller for the classical music program, Old Doc Miller for country and western music, Doctor Franklin Miller for "This Week in Science" and Professor Franklin Miller for "Kenyon College on the Air." For sports he was just Frank Miller. He retired from Kenyon in 1981 and turned to family history and revisions of his introductory physics text.
Franklin was half of the duo teaching Basic Course V, part of a curriculum that was put in place in 1963, and the other half was Bayes Norton of chemistry. In the late thirties Bayes was the first person hired by Gordon Chalmers, and was given the charge of teaching an integrated physical science course. This finally came about in 1963 with the advent of a new curriculum which required students to take year-long Basic Courses in English, history, religion and philosophy, the arts and the sciences. The professors teaching the religion and philosophy course agreed to disagree, and taught two separate, unrelated semesters. The music, drama and art history combination showed definite seams, and the biologists and psychologists had troubles making Basic Course VI work. But Franklin and Bayes put together a relatively seamless course that was a true success. Unfortunately, Bayes came in for an eight o'clock physical chemistry class early in the 1967-68 academic year, and was discovered, dead, in the chemistry stockroom by Owen York, the organic chemist. The course finally came to Tom Greenslade about 1970, and ultimately turned into his semester- and year-long Natural Philosophy courses for non-science majors.
Franklin Miller received a National Science Foundation grant for $50,000 in 1961 to make single concept films: short, silent films that showed phenomena that were too large, small, dangerous, etc. for the classroom. Ultimately, he made nineteen movies that ran for a total of forty nine minutes. The best known of these films was the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940; Miller rescued the original film, printed on nitrate film stock and shrunken with age. This work was done at the film department of the Ohio State University in 1962-63. Fortunately, the Technicolor Corporation had just produced an 8 mm projector that used film in cartridges, and this proved to be just right for the Miller films. At the 1964 APS/AAPT meeting in New York City the showing of the films at the Ealing Corporation booth brought out such crowds that the fire marshals had to intervene. For this work, Franklin Miller received the 1970 Millikan Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers; his response, "A Long Look at a Short Film", is classic.
In the later nineteen fifties the book publisher, Harcourt Brace, approached Miller with the suggestion that he write an introductory, algebra-based physics textbook. The first edition of College Physics came out in 1959, and the sixth edition went out of print about thirty five years later. This was a deceptively simple text, famous for the clarity of the writing and the almost complete freedom from misprints. The last edition had a co-author, Dietrich Schroeer of UNC-Chapel Hill, and Tom Greenslade appeared in a chapter header photograph riding a carbon dioxide-propelled jet cart across a large lecture hall at Harvard. The total sales were in the 500,000 range, and there was a high school version that came out in the early sixties.
James Harvey Harrold (1925-1969) spent the last six years of his life as a member of the physics department faculty. He was a short, spare Canadian, born in 1925, who received all of his degrees (in physics) from the University of Toronto, and started his teaching career at the University of Manitoba. His field of expertise was optics, and he wrote a manuscript for an intermediate optics book that was never published. In 1963 he was appointed an associate professor at Kenyon, but was unable to join the faculty until part-way through the first semester because of immigration difficulties. Jim was most forthcoming and helpful to young Tom Greenslade, who learned a great deal about teaching and about optics from him. When he came to Kenyon he was just short of forty, and had a rather cautious approach to life. This was perhaps due to the fact that he was a severe diabetic, with an onset of the disease at about the age of twenty. About 1968 he began to suffer from vision difficulties as over-stressed blood vessels in his eyes began to go. During spring break of 1969 he died of congestive heart failure, and his remaining colleagues, Greenslade and Miller, taught all of the courses until the end of the year.
The department had moved from two to three faculty members in the fall of 1963 with the addition of Jim Harrold and Duane Hockensmith, a theoretician who did research on the bond angle of the water molecule. He stayed only one year, but his successor, Thomas B. Greenslade, Jr. taught at Kenyon for forty one years, 1964-2005.
Tom Greenslade was the son of Thomas B. Greenslade of the class of 1931 and the great-nephew of James Greenslade, one of eight graduates in the class of 1876. He was a native of Staten Island, majored in physics at Amherst College, and married Sonia Burggraf shortly after his graduation in 1959. The next five years were spent in graduate school in physics at Rutgers, where he did research on the thermal conductivity of indium and indium alloy thin films at liquid helium temperatures. In the fall semester of 1964, while teaching two courses and two afternoons of introductory lab, he wrote his doctoral thesis. At Kenyon he taught all of the courses save the second semester of quantum mechanics, started the senior advanced laboratory course and the sophomore-level Oscillations and Waves course, and taught Natural Philosophy to non-science majors many times. He was essentially self-taught in solid state electronics, and constructed three different courses over the years.
Greenslade was probably best known for his study of the American physics course in the 1850 to 1950 time-span, concentrating on the texts and the apparatus. He constructed a large web-site on Historical Physics Teaching Apparatus that was widely used for reference, and built a museum wing onto his house on Ward Street in Gambier to hold his collection of early physics teaching apparatus. He wrote and lectured widely on this subject, and was the long-time chair of the Committee on the History and Philosophy of Physics of the American Association of Physics Teachers.
There was a plan to increase the number of physics faculty members from three to four at the start of the 1969-70 academic year, and the department had already hired James G. Williamson, an experimentalist who earned all of this degrees from the Ohio State University. With the loss of Jim Harrold, the department dipped into its applicant pool and offered a position to John A. Johnson, a theoretician who had an undergraduate degree from Grinnell College and a Ph.D. from Carnegie-Mellon University. Johnson left the college in 1976 and Williamson, who had joined the administration, left a year or two later to become the registrar of Rice University.
Peter J. Collings joined the physics department in the fall of 1976, and brought a great deal of energy with him. He graduated from Amherst College in 1968 with a major in physics, and also played football. His graduate years at Yale were interrupted by two years in the United States Navy, and he came to Kenyon with experience in liquid crystal physics. The honors program in physics at Kenyon essentially started with his ongoing research with students, for which he was honored in 1990 by the American Physical Society. As a skillful and enthusiastic teacher, he brought students into the physics department as physics majors who might otherwise have gone into mathematics, chemistry and biology. He published a book on liquid crystal physics that went into a second edition. Peter Collings served the community as a volunteer fireman and paramedic for most of his years in Gambier. In 1990 he became the chair of the physics department of Swarthmore College, and continued on with his research. At Swarthmore he was involved in the national physics community in many ways, including serving on evaluation committees for other physics departments and the committee that started the revision of the B-level Advanced Placement examination in physics.
Duncan McBride came to Kenyon from Swarthmore in the fall of 1979 and taught at the College for several years until he went to the National Science Foundation. There he became well-known and well-appreciated for his work with instrumentation grants to colleges.
His successor was John D. Idoine, a native of the Canton, Ohio area who gradated summa cum laude from Lawrence College in Wisconsin in 1971. He did his graduate work in medical imaging physics at Harvard University, and always said that if he could have place-kicked a football five yards farther, he would have had a career in professional football. Fortunately, he came to Kenyon in 1981, and joined Peter Collings in adding rigor to the physics curriculum. He became the Kenyon expert on nuclear physics, and upgraded the instrumentation for nuclear physics in the advanced laboratory. In particular, he secured the donation of a Ge-Li detector to the department that was used for many years until it met its death by warming to room temperature; it was then replaced with an intrinsic Ge detector. At Harvard he had worked with PDP-11 computers, and brought one of them, with its eight inch floppy disks with him. He became well known on the national scene as a leader in writing software for nuclear imaging, and worked with experimental groups at Harvard and M.I.T. on projects in imaging. In the last half dozen years of his Kenyon career he developed hardware and software for medical imaging using an aperture plate that showed considerable commercial promise. He retired in 2009, leaving a large gap in the life of the department.
The physics department had no active, full-time theoretician until 1988, when Benjamin Wade Schumacher joined the faculty. He was an honors graduate of Hendrix College in Arkansas (B.A. 1982), and then moved to the University of Texas, where he was John Archibald Wheeler's last graduate student. He worked in a number of new fields of physics: quantum information theory and the surprising relationships between quantum mechanics, information theory, computation, thermodynamics, and black hole physics. Along with John Idoine, he sponsored an honors student almost every year, and has been active in working with Summer Science Scholars in physics. His wife, Carol, appointed at the same time with parallel degrees in mathematics from Hendrix and Texas, became a well-known member of the Kenyon mathematics department.
In more recent years Catherine Asaro taught physics at Kenyon in the 1990s. After leaving the college she had an outstanding career as a science fiction writer. In 1990-92, the physics department conducted an extensive search for two new faculty members, and drew a total of 850 applications. Timothy S. Sullivan joined the department in 1991 after post-doctoral experience at Los Alamos. He came from Seattle, was an undergraduate physics major at the University of Chicago (1976), and received his doctorate from the University of Washington in 1986. His fields of research include non-linear dynamics, turbulent fluid dynamics, colloid physics and computational pattern formation, and he spent the 2008-09 academic year as a Fulbright Fellow at a university in Sri Lanka. Paula Turner, a native of Illinois with degrees from the University of Illinois and the University of Rochester, did her thesis work on infrared astronomy. She served during the 2006 through 2010 academic years as an Associate Provost, while still teaching one class each year. More information about her career will be found at the end of this history under the rubric of Astronomy.
Frank Peiris, a native of Sri Lanka with degrees from Goshen College in Indiana (1993) and Notre Dame University (1999), came to Kenyon in 2001 and started a vigorous research program using ellipsometry. His instrumentation was provided by John Woollam, a 1961 physics graduate of Kenyon with a doctorate from Michigan State University, a professor of physics and engineering at the University of Nebraska and the founder of a well-known company that makes ellipsometers. A Howard Hughes Medical Institutes grant in 2004 provided funds for the addition of a biological physicist who was the sixth member of the physics department. Jan Kmetko was appointed to the position in 2005; he was born in Slovakia, graduated from Berea College in Kentucky in 1996, and received his doctorate from Northwestern University six years later.
Some short-term sabbatical replacements had considerable influence on the department. In 1988, Brian Jones, with three years of graduate work behind him at Cornell University, came to Kenyon to investigate teaching. He started the regular Friday physics student/faculty lunches that have become one of the great departmental traditions. The faculty and five to fifteen students gather in one of the private dining rooms in the College commons to eat, tell stories and work out departmental policy. Jones spent two years at Kenyon, two years teaching at an International Baccalaureate school in Swaziland, and then moved to Colorado State University. Christopher LaSota, a graduate of Millersburg University with a doctorate from William and Mary, served for four years before going to Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington in 2008.
For most of the history of the College, the physics faculty members did all of the technical work around the department themselves. During the fifties and sixties Kenneth Jewell served as the departmental and college machinist, but provided little help with the labs. Typically there were no labs on Friday afternoon, and at that time physics majors and faculty members joined in setting up the experiments for the next week. Starting about 1980 the department hired a recent graduate to act as a laboratory manager. With one exception, they stayed only one year, and the faculty had to start anew with training each year - although the graduates did have experience with the experiments. In the nineties we had an employee for a half dozen years who had some electronics experience. Then, in 2001 Terry Klopcic, who had retired from government service, became the laboratory manager for physics and chemistry. He was a 1964 graduate of Knox College with a doctorate in physics from Notre Dame, and elevated the position to a much higher level.
Computers, Experiments and Courses
The physics department was given the care of a 5-Curie plutonium-beryllium neutron source in 1962. This spent most of its life in its paraffin-filled shipping container (a steel 55 gallon drum); the paraffin slows the neutrons down to thermal velocities so that neutron activation experiments can be performed. All students taking elementary physics since 1962 have done an experiment with the activation of silver. Originally the silver was in the form of silver half dollars; when these went out of circulation, 99.9% pure silver foil was used. An advanced laboratory experiment on the activation of indium (with its 50+ minute half life) has often been done in the advanced laboratory. In 2003 the physics department acquired a 2-Curie neutron source from Denison University.
About 1970 the department received an NSF instrumentation grant that brought in three large Ealing air tables for the study of two dimensional motion, along with three Polaroid cameras with external rotary shutters to record data. In addition there was a reel to reel video recorder, a black and white video camera and a large television monitor. The idea was to tape demonstrations and then play them back, but in reality the recorder was bypassed and the camera and monitor combination used alone to enlarge small demonstrations.
Despite the NSF apparatus, the physics department had relatively little modern equipment. The best piece of apparatus was a General Electric x ray spectrometer obtained through the efforts of the father of Gary Reich, a physics major in the class of 1968 (later a physics faculty member at Union College.) This had been used in a steel-making operation for testing the alloying additives for specialty steels, and was donated as a tax write-off. Kenyon was in competition with Vanderbilt for it, and, to our great surprise, it arrived late in the summer of 1967 in a moving van. The three heavy units were moved down the steeply-sloping gangplank of the truck and into the x ray room in the basement of Sam Mather without any professional help. It replaced a home-built machine that had been put together in the late forties. The old machine used an optical spectrometer as a goniometer, and was very badly shielded. The standard way to check for leakage was to turn out the lights and search with a sheet of material which fluoresced when struck by x rays! Naturally, the cage holding the power supply had a notice "Do Not Feed the Volts" hanging on it.
About 1990 a grant of $60,000 from the Keck Foundation allowed the department to rebuild the 1967 x ray machine from top to bottom. John Idoine spent the better part of a year researching how to get the most machine for the money, and the end result was a machine that could work both in the diffraction and the fluorescent modes. This machine was rebuilt again when it was moved to Hayes Hall in 2000, and a second, almost identical machine was added so that we could run in both modes simultaneously.
To eke out our apparatus, Tom Greenslade would periodically make trips down to the surplus property depot of the Ohio Department of Education. In the early 1970s he picked up a number of big, vacuum-tube Hewlett-Packard function generators, a couple of big Hewlett-Packard tube-type counter/timers, and at least two big Tektronix oscilloscopes. These put out quite a bit of heat, and one was once used as a heater in a very cold room. The best purchase was a Michelson interferometer for $35, and this remained in operation well into the twenty first century. In the later seventies we stopped making trips to the depot; the apparatus was just too obsolete, and our college funding for apparatus had picked up.
On the other hand, the demonstration apparatus in the "Toy Room" by the lecture hall largely survived the test of time. The three wave machines made in the 1860 to 1880 era by Ritchie of Boston are used every year, and have been featured in articles in the Kenyon Alumni Bulletin, The Physics Teacher and Rittenhouse. They demonstrate the phenomena better than anything available today, and are large enough for classes of sixty to see. The Dolland telescope given to Philander Chase in 1827 "for the use of the students of Kenyon College" is not directly useful, but makes a good prop when we talk about terrestrial telescopes in the introductory courses. Roget's spiral, made by Daniel Davis of Boston or his successors, is used to demonstrate the attraction between parallel, current-carrying wires. Bohnenberger's gyroscope by Ritchie obediently precesses to the right or to the left, depending on how it is balanced. The set of tuning forks on resonator bases by Rudolph Koenig from the late nineteenth century are classics and are used in Natural Philosophy and the algebra-based introductory course.
Kenyon came into the computer age at Christmastime 1968 when an IBM 1130 computer was installed in a large room in the northeast corner of the basement of Rosse Hall. Franklin Miller of physics and Robert Fesq and Daniel Finkbeiner of the mathematics department were behind the effort. This machine used FORTRAN in a batch processing mode, and soon all introductory physics students were being taught the rudiments of the language. Tom Greenslade used it to print out the electric potential around two point charges so that the non-science majors could draw equipotential lines, and Franklin Miller used a program that configured the machine as an analogue computer to teach students how to solve differential equations. Greenslade used the computer with primitive linear programming to adjust the library book allocation funds for the various academic departments that had gotten badly out of alignment.
Most important, Miller adapted a sample least-squares curve fitting program that came with the computer, and this soon began to be used in the analysis of data in physics laboratory experiments. When the department acquired an Apple II+ personal computer in the early 1980s, this program was translated by him into a BASIC program that was stored on a cassette tape. Before each introductory laboratory session it was read into the machine. Soon the department replaced the tape drive with a drive for five inch floppy disks, and the program was easier to use. This program continued to be used and was made much more powerful by a student in the 1990s.
The single computer in the basement of Rosse worked well for the relatively small numbers of physics students, but large numbers of biology and economics students overwhelmed the machine. Soon the College shifted to a central VAX machine with many terminals; in time this was retired and the physics department started to use stand-alone computers in the laboratory rooms for data acquisition and analysis.
In 1978 Peter Collings wrote a proposal that brought us an early microcomputer at a cost of about $2500. This machine represented the department's first foray into using the computer as a laboratory instrument. He developed an advanced laboratory experiment in which a double-slit pattern was scanned by a moving photodiode, and the resulting data inputted into a locally-written machine language program that did a Fourier transform of it, thus calculating the aperture function - the transparency of the slits as a function of spatial dimensions. This was slow; the students went out to dinner while the computer calculated each spatial point.
Inspired by this work and by a few articles that were beginning to appear in the physics teaching literature, Tom Greenslade spent a sabbatical year at Kansas State University developing an introductory laboratory program in which the computer was used as a laboratory instrument. A grant from the college allowed the department to purchase eight original IBM PCs, and in the fall of 1986 the students started to use the new paradigm. The scheme used analogue to digital conversion of signals produced by photogates (made by Greenslade at the KSU shop). The students had to write short BASIC programs to control the taking and flow of data. In principle the system was perfected - in actual practice, Greenslade had a great deal of assistance from Collings in the first year to make the experiments run properly. They reported to the physics community on this work in a 1989 article in The Physics Teacher that was likely the first overall discussion of the philosophy and implementation of a complete laboratory computer program.
Other members of the department had expertise in recording and analyzing digital video. An interim step was the use of video cameras to record data for free fall, parabolic motion, etc., that were then analyzed, frame by frame with tape recorders and video screens; dots placed on plastic sheets taped over the screens recorded the data that were then blown up with an overhead projector.
Meanwhile, work was being done by all members of the department and a student on developing a true, computer-based digital imaging program. A National Science Foundation grant financed this effort, which was put into use in the introductory labs in the fall of 1995. The data could now be acquired with a video camera, stored in the computer's memory, plotted on the screen and analyzed by the program written by Robin Blume-Kohote of the class of 1998. This program was the latest version of the original demonstration program that came with the 1130 computer in 1968. The article reporting on this work, "Adding Eyes to Your Computer" was published in The Physics Teacher in 1997, and had eight authors, including Blume-Kohote and a visiting faculty member, Carson Roberts.
In the mid 1960s, the introductory laboratory sessions served up to twenty four students at a time, with four experiments going simultaneously, three setups for each experiment and the students working in pairs. There were no student laboratory assistants, and the instructor was run ragged. Soon the number of experiments was reduced to three at a time and the lab populations reduced to eighteen and later twelve to sixteen students. The natural consequence was extra laboratory sessions to teach each week, and the department offered labs every afternoon but Friday - when the new labs were set up. In the early 1990s, the current chair, Tom Greenslade, started to increase the number of setups of each introductory experiment to eight. This was an expensive proposition, but monies coming into the department were funneled into this project.
Some years earlier the electronics lab was upgraded. Here the students worked independently, and there were twelve experimental stations. Eventually each station was equipped with a 60 MHz, dual beam Tektronix oscilloscope with digital output. The electronics students could then save and print out the waveforms on their scope faces. The rest of the apparatus was upgraded, and the department finally got rid of the Heathkit electronic apparatus that had been built by faculty members and students over the years.
The advanced laboratory, started in the mid 1970s, acquired a good deal of new apparatus in later years. John Idoine concentrated on instrumentation for nuclear physics, aided by clever deals for a pair of multi-channel analyzers. When the Denision University physics department decided to pass on its neutron source to Kenyon, we added to our collection of NIM-bin electronics, and also received nearly 100 lead bricks. Our collection had been dwindling; perhaps they were being taken to be melted down to make fishing weights! Later advanced laboratory equipment included a scanning tunneling microscope and an atomic force microscope.
The upper-division curriculum stayed relatively stable after 1970, but there were several revisions in the introductory curriculum, each one designed to solve perceived problems, and inevitably causing new problems. In the 1960s the department had a very standard set of introductory courses: (a) Basic Course V for the non-science majors, (b) an algebra/trigonometry-level courses using the Miller book for the premedical students and (c) a four-course calculus-level sequence for physics majors. The four semesters of the latter were mechanics, electricity and magnetism, "everything else in classical physics", and modern physics. This worked well academically, but it produced few physics majors.
In 1974 the decision was made to eliminate the calculus-level introductory course and funnel all students through the Miller course. Few students were taking the calculus-level course and the faculty time thus saved was then spent on the revived astronomy course - and slightly later, an additional course in geology. An unanticipated side effect was that each year one or two premeds "saw the light" and turned into physics majors. The Modern Physics course, using the text of the same name by Weidner and Sells, became the third semester of the introductory physics course. To bring the physics majors up to speed, there was a fourth semester course in mechanics, using the Newtonian Mechanics and Vibrations and Waves texts written by Anthony French of M.I.T for the M.I.T. first year curriculum.
By the 1983-84 academic year the physics major program had revived (starting in 1975 there were at least six majors in every class), and the calculus-level introductory course was brought back. The sophomore mechanics course continued, although it was somewhat redundant after the first year calculus-level mechanics course. The problem was solved a year later by the introduction of an Oscillations and Waves course, taught for many years by Tom Greenslade, that used the Vibrations and Waves text by French. This was designed to provide a smoother transition to quantum mechanics, and allow the upper-division mechanics course to reach additional topics.
After a time, it became obvious that introductory electricity and magnetism course taught in the second semester of the first year was scaring students away. Although they were concurrently enrolled in calculus, certain topics, such as Gauss's law, were turning physics majors into economics majors. The fix was the moving of electricity and magnetism into the third semester and teaching modern physics in the second semester. This had serious consequences in the laboratory program. All first year physics students had shared a physics laboratory experience. It was argued that the phenomena of physics are the same, whether described by algebra or calculus. Further, there was a good deal of feedback between the upperclass science students and the first year physics majors. Now the department had to readjust the non-calculus course so that it included more modern physics.
A trickier problem was the necessity to have eight sets of modern physics apparatus: e/m of the electron, photoelectric effect, silver decay, gamma ray spectroscopy, etc. The new course had two x ray experiments on the lattice spacing of aluminum and Moseley's law, and the two x ray machines were scheduled creatively. For the other experiments, a great deal of new apparatus had to be purchased at an average cost of about $1500 per setup.
The Three-Two Engineering Program, sometimes called the Binary Program, has been a relatively little-used step-child of the physics major program. In this program the student takes three years of the physics major at Kenyon, and then transfers to an engineering school for two more years. At the end of five years the student receives an A.B. from Kenyon and the appropriate Bachelor's degree from the engineering school. One student has gone to Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute (in aeronautical engineering) and a half dozen others to Washington University in St. Louis. Each year several students show interest in the program, but when the time comes to transfer out of Kenyon, almost all of them elect to stay at Kenyon. There have been numerous engineers among the graduates, but they have either done a four-two program, or have parlayed their expertise in physics into engineering work.
Samuel Mather Science Hall was remodeled during the spring and summer of 1969 as part of the improvement in science facilities that included the building of a new biology building. The main improvement was the upgrading of the electrical and water systems of the building. The new air-conditioning system worked fitfully and it was found that the thermostats on the first floor were installed on the wrong side of the hallway! The fall semester of 1969 started with a lecture hall without lights, electricity, lecture bench and blackboard. The physics apparatus was moved to the new chemistry building over the summer, and it took years to find all of it once more.
The chemistry department had moved to the new Phillip Mather Chemistry Building in 1963. The two Mathers were connected by a bridge on the basement, first and second floors, and a large flight of stone steps led up to the first floor of the bridge. Not enough money was spent on the chemistry building, and it was a great relief when it was torn down in the year 2000. The north façade of Samuel Mather, now occupied exclusively by Psychology, was repaired to remove all traces of the bridge.
Planning for the new Rutherford B. Hayes Hall (physics and mathematics) began in the mid 1990s. Greenslade was involved in the early planning, and later passed the responsibility on to Paula Turner, who devoted countless hours to the detailed planning of the physics spaces on the lower three floors. The site work for Hayes and the new chemistry building, Tomsich Hall, started in the spring of 1998, and teaching in Samuel Mather soon became difficult with the noise and vibration from the construction site. The apparatus of physics was moved to the new building during the summer of 2000, and the new building proved to be remarkably workable. The designers did not know the difference between physics and chemistry, and the labs were outfitted with unwanted safety shower stations - the optics lab naturally had an eyewash station. The new building had six offices and five faculty research laboratories, an office/shop for the laboratory manager, a library study room (later named for Thomas B. Greenslade, Jr.), a second study room, a sixty four seat lecture theater (named for Franklin Miller, Jr.) with an adjacent large demonstration storage and preparation room, an introductory lab for twenty four students, a smaller classroom and a second year laboratory room, a lab for the non-science majors courses, a suite of rooms for advanced laboratory work (optics, nuclear physics and x rays, and electronics) and a large and well-equipped shop. There was not quite enough storage space, and a large space on the second floor was given over to a general seminar and meeting room.
In the early 1990s Donald Hamister, a physics major in the class of 1944 who was the CEO of the Joslyn Corporation, started to contribute to what is now known as the Hamister Fund. This has supported faculty research, travel to meetings, publication costs, the annual physics prize (named in honor of Elbe Johnson), the physics picnic and the weekly seminar program. The public face of the fund is the annual Hamister Distinguished Lectureship series, in which the department brings well-known physicists to campus to give a public lecture and then a physics department seminar. The 2007 honoree was Dr. Anthony Leggett, the 2003 Nobel Prize Winner, speaking on "Does the Everyday World really Obey Quantum Mechanics?"
Astronomy at Kenyon
Not all of the early Kenyon students came from trans-Appalachian America. One of four graduates in the class of 1830 was Henry Caswell of Salisbury, England. Caswell, with his fellow student Cusak (a non-graduate), built a small house to the north and east of the foundations of Rosse Chapel, still under construction. Hamilton Smith put a movable roof on the house in the 1850s and used it as an observatory.
In the early years of the College Old Kenyon served as the dormitory and the classroom building. By the mid 1830s Rosse Chapel was available for religious services and instruction. Later, until Samuel Mather Science Hall was opened in 1926, all of the classes were held in Ascension Hall, started in 1857 and under roof two years later. The central tower of Ascension was finished off as an observatory. Winding stairs still lead to the lower room of the observatory and then the telescope room. A brick arch springing from the north and south walls of the tower supports the base for the telescope. The telescope was a four and a quarter inch refractor with a achromatic (two element) lens made by Alvan Clark, the well-known optician of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts. The sheet metal tube, the cast-iron mounting and the tall wooden stand seemed to be an odd pastiche of astronomical parts. Because the telescope had a long focal length, the floor of the observatory was built up in a series of concentric steps. The wooden dome and its copper covering are the originals, as is the track for rotating the dome. This telescope was donated to the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in 1975.
Astronomy was always part of the natural philosophy course, but when the rigid antebellum curriculum broke up in the latter years of the nineteenth century, it was taught as a course in the mathematics department. In the early years of the twentieth century it was an elective for juniors, with one semester of descriptive astronomy and a second semester of practical astronomy. The textbook by Young was used for many years in this course.
Two things conspired to put the Ascension observatory out of use. Originally Ascension was heated with stoves, but when central heating was installed in the mid 1920s, the metal roof radiated, causing air currents that ruined the viewing. A large tree to the southwest of the observatory tower, probably planted at the time that Ascension was started, grew tall, and by the 1950s blocked out the view of the sky in that direction. The observatory was then abandoned, apart from occasional surreptitious visits by students. The offending tree was taken down - and another planted in its place.
For a number of years portable instruments were used for laboratory work and observations, but a gift of $25,000 in 1990 made it possible to purchase a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegranian instrument made by Celestron. This had a short focal length, and a temporary flat floor was installed over the concentric steps.
After a gap of many years, Astronomy returned to the physics curriculum in 1970. Franklin Miller, who was an expert amateur astronomer, used an increase in the number of faculty members to start a one semester course in Astronomy on the non-majors level. The observational work was done with a group of small, portable Celestron telescopes.
Paula Turner, who joined the faculty in 1992, had a doctorate in physics and astronomy, and used her start-up funds to build a ground-level observatory on the eastern end of what used to be the Kenyon airport runway. The telescope was taken from Ascension and reinstalled in the new building that was dedicated as the Franklin Miller Observatory in 1994.
The construction of a new maintenance building about 2000 blocked part of the view from the observatory, and visual pollution from the mercury vapor lights from the nearby sewage treatment plant completed the disaster. In 2004 the observatory was moved to the high ground on the west side of the campus, reached by a 0.4 mile paved road leading off to the north of Rte. 229. Once more the building was dedicated to the honor of Franklin Miller. Prof. Turner and her assistants open the observatory on one Friday evening each month for the local community to enjoy the facility.
Student interest in astronomy has remained high, and in many years two semesters are offered: one on the solar system and one on the rest of the universe.