EDITORIAL “…AND ALSO SCIENCE”
We know their names! With such surnames as “White,” “Whicher,” and “Wilson” making up the main body of the “Ws,” while “Carpenter,” “Collins,” and “Cunningham” supply names from the front of the alphabet, we have a record of their names. But what do we know about the importance of their work, the value of their experiments, the quality of their teaching, their ability to write, think, and speak with clarity?
Yes, we know their names – or at least we know how to find them with relative ease – but how can we find out more, not just about them personally, but about the scientific programs they produced at Hastings College during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries?
Browsing through the pages of the early college catalogs, we are immediately confronted with the fact that a significant number of the teachers of scientific subjects were in those early days “dually employed,” with such assignments as “Professor of English Literature and Natural Sciences” or “Professor of German [Language] and Mathematics” not being uncommon. The discovery of such a situation quite naturally generates the question: Were these “double-duty” professors, scientists who also taught English Literature and the basics of the German Language, or was it the other way around? That is, were they professors of German and English Literature who, being forced to teach Natural Science courses, kept a day or so ahead of their students by reading an extra book or two, or by means of studying a generally accepted scientific day-by-day approach manual for whatever science course they had been asked to teach?
We decided that the only way to ferret out the answer to that important question was to seek out publishable papers written by some of these early teachers of scientific subjects, thus affording you, our reader, the tools with which to make your own judgment concerning the state of the “Sciences” in the early years of Hastings College. As a result of this search, we have found some interesting papers, which we are pleased to be able to put into your hands.
Professors Harry James, John Moulton, Vernon Fleharty, and Walter Kent were all intelligent, well-educated scientists (PhDs), who kept up-to-date on scientific matters as regarded discoveries made during the years they were professionally active – that is, during the nineteen thirties, forties, and fifties. We think you will find their papers interesting.
We would be negligent if we did not supply you with another kind of information which we now have at hand: the answer to our “proof-of-the-pudding” question: Did Hastings College (especially the early College) supply the undergraduate background necessary for the production of some very special scientifically well-educated persons? For physicians of note? For mathematics professors who were also the authors of mathematics texts? For astronomy teachers who were much more than stargazers? And did the majority of the College’s science majors become teachers whose thorough backgrounds and excitement concerning their special subject (be it chemistry, physics, biology, botany, astronomy, or geology), served to kindle in each of their students a keen desire to pursue the paths of science, leading to the betterment of the human condition?
In answers to such specific questions concerning the early science teaching at Hastings College lies the answer to our initial question: What was the state of scientific study during the early years at Hastings College? We hope that the essays collected here may be of some help to you in answering that question for yourself. And we must inform you (with pride) that the answer to our questions concerning physicians, mathematics texts authors, and astronomers is a resounding “Yes!”