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Physics and Astronomy at Chapel Hill (1795-1946)

by Waldo E. Haisley
Professor of Physics Emeritus
UNC Chapel Hill


Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at UNC (1795-1867)
III. The Transition to Physics (1875-1907)
IV. Modern Physics in a Modern University (1907-1928)
V. Consolidation and the Chairmanship of Arthur Ruark (1929-1944)
VI. Chapel Hill Physics in World War II (1940-1946)


 I. Introduction

The University of North Carolina officially opened its doors in Chapel Hill on January 15, 1795. Since then the original campus has expanded to sixteen campuses, and the institution now at the founding site is called the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNCCH). Today (1988) the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UNCCH1 can identify its origins and trace its development to the present time. In the early years there was no department, either of Physics or Astronomy; in fact, there were no departments at all –there were only professors (e.g., of Mathematics and of languages) and courses with subject headings. Moreover, there was neither a professor of nor a course in Physics; although from the beginning there was a course in Natural Philosophy with a prescribed text.2 In 1795 this subject was well established under the older name, which was only gradually changed to Physics as the century progressed. Astronomy, which was customarily paired in college instruction with Natural Philosophy, was included in the first official plan of studies and was probably in the actual curriculum from the beginning.3

In its pioneering years, the University had low student enrollments and a small faculty. In 1804, the first official year of Joseph Caldwell‘s presidency,4 there was only one professor besides Caldwell himself, and there were only 60 matriculating students. The enrollment was down to 37 in 1809, remaining below 100 until 1817.

Under Caldwell’s successor, David Swain (elected president in 1835), the enrollment rose gradually until it reached a high mark of 461 in 1858 (by one official computation),5 with a faculty of ten. At the end of the century, after four years of being closed during reconstruction and a slow period of recovery from Civil War destruction, the enrollment was only 51 students greater than this peak, and the institution was ready, in the words of its first twentieth-century Librarian,6 to “make the transition from the status of a good college of liberal arts to that of a modern university.”

As this suggests, the University of North Carolina in the nineteenth century was essentially a teaching institution rather than one devoted to pushing back the frontiers of human knowledge. The initial academic emphasis in the curriculum, particularly before 1860, was on traditional classical studies, notably Latin, Greek, and Mathematics, and one of the University’s more important educational aims was to turn out graduates with political skills, whose development was strongly encouraged by the prominence of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies in student experience.


Joseph Caldwell (left), David Swain (right).
Joseph Caldwell (left) and David Swain (right).

II. Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at UNC (1795-1867)

The nineteenth century, like the eighteenth, was a period in which technological and scientific themes and practice came to have an increasingly important role in all education. In Chapel Hill, particularly after mid-century, an initial overemphasis on classical studies was gradually displaced.

In looking at early plans and discussions of curriculum during the first ten years, one finds evidence that, in spite of the classical emphasis, the impact of the Enlightenment on public awareness of science was considerable. Thus, it became fashionable early on for ladies’ clubs to purchase items of “philosophical apparatus” and present it to the University and for others to make gifts of various scientific apparatus, such as a telescope, a microscope, a barometer, a thermometer, and the like.7 In 1796, when Joseph Caldwell was at Princeton considering an invitation to come to Chapel Hill as Professor of Mathematics, he received a letter from Charles Harris (then Tutor of Mathematics here) advising him first to visit Philadelphia and learn more about the instruments of “experimental Philosophy,” (e.g., “electrical machines, air pumps, telescope, microscope, camera obscure, magic lantern, quadrants, sextants, and whatever else may be found useful”). And Natural Philosophy, Astronomy, and Chemistry were all included in a plan worked out by William Richardson Davie shortly after the opening in 1795, though never fully carried out in this period.

Caldwell’s chief claims to specialist competence were in Mathematics and more notably in Astronomy. He was recognized as a professionally competent astronomer and was appointed in 1807 to serve in this capacity on a committee charged with running a boundary line between North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.8 He was never noted for his competence in Natural Philosophy, but he may have taught it as an academic chore since it was offered at the start (perhaps as a reading course). It was in connection with Astronomy that he made his most important contributions to the University’s traditions.

In 1824, he recommended to the Board of Trustees that books and scientific instruments be purchased, specifically suggesting “an Astronomical Clock, a Transit Instrument, and an Astronomical Telescope.”9 Quality instruments and cheaper books were more readily available in Europe, and since a knowledgeable agent is preferable for critical purchases of this nature, he offered to go there in this capacity at his own expense. His proposal was agreed to by the Trustees, who appropriated six thousand dollars for the purchase, and he returned after a journey of nearly a year, having divided his purchases evenly, as instructed, between books and instruments. In the latter were included three telescopes, a sidereal clock, a meridian transit, and various other apparatus useful in astronomical observation and demonstration. 10

Caldwell’s abiding interest in the subject had preceded the trip to Europe and was part of his teaching activity, as has been related: “Upon the roof of his … dwelling, … Caldwell built a platform, surrounded by a railing, and here he would sit, night after night, pointing out to the seniors, taken in squads of three or four, the outlines of the Constellations and their principal stars, and the highway of the planets and the moon.”11 After the English purchase, he put the newly acquired instruments to professional use in the University library (on the second floor of South Building), which was also his study, and with the collaboration of University colleagues made measurements and calculations from which he could determine the longitude and latitude of South Building; the figure recorded for these in Battle ‘s history was 79deg 17m W., 35deg 54 m 2 ‘s N.12 As the limitations of the library site for observation became more restrictive, he decided in 1830 to build an astronomical observatory, the foundations of which were laid in April, 1831, and the final completion of which was in August, 1832.13

The observatory was located on the highest summit of a hill north of the village cemetery and by Battle’s account measured 15 by 23 feet and 25 feet high. Bruce Carney of the present-day Physics/Astronomy faculty has put together a description more graphic than Battle’s, calling the building “two-storied, with masonry walls and a wooden roof separating the ground floor and top story … Its core, like observatories today, contained a stable pier on which the telescopes rested. This pier was made of brick, anchored to bedrock, and probably was not in physical contact with the building in order to provide exceptional stability. The pier contained two platforms, one on each story, and each was capped with disks of sandstone to which the telescopes were bolted. The “alt-az” telescope was mounted on the unsheltered second story, but was protected during the day and in inclement weather by a “roll-away” wooden structure. For viewing, this could be moved along rails to the north with the aid of ropes and a windlass. On the ground floor, but somewhat elevated, was the pier’s second platform, upon which sat the meridian telescope. Since it was meant to work only along the north-south circle in the sky, the observatory’s walls had a long slit from the north wall through the roof to low in the south wall. The telescope thereby had access to almost a full 180 degrees vertical range while being protected from the wind.

President Caldwell died only three years after the observatory’s completion, and it was allowed to decay thereafter, so that its importance is symbolic rather than substantive, but its historical significance is of interest.

Astronomy was taught at Harvard as early as 1642, and a telescope was in place there by 1672, but the first permanent housings of telescopes to permit systematic studies of the heavens did not occur in North America until late in the 18th century, and then only because of the interests of wealthy amateurs, such as David Rittenhouse, who operated his own observatory in Philadelphia from 1786 to 1796, and William Cranch Bond, who operated his near Boston from 1823 until 1839. Colleges lacked resources to build observatories until the early 19th century, when John Quincy Adams wrote to encourage Harvard to build a major observatory and offered $1,000 toward that end. Harvard would take 15 years to act, however, and Caldwell’s building antedated it by 8 years. The Chapel Hill structure was in fact the first observatory erected by an n. American college, followed by observatories at Williams College (1836), Western Reserve College (1836), Wesleyan in Connecticut (1838), Western Reserve College (1838), and Harvard (1839).14

President Caldwell’s expedition and enhanced astronomical activity came shortly after the coming, in 1818-1819, of two faculty members who improved significantly the quality of the science taught at Chapel Hill. This innovation was memorialized (though definitely not celebrated!) in a speech made long afterward by Dr. William Hooper, who had been first a student (he graduated in 1809) and later, in 1817, Professor of Ancient Languages at the University. Referring to some of his student difficulties, Dr. Hooper threw in a remark relevant to the contemporary level of science education here. “As for Chemistry and Differential and Integral Calculus and all that” he recalled, “we never heard of such hard things. They had not then crossed the Roanoke, nor did they appear among us till they were brought in by the Northern Barbarians about the year 1818.”15 Battle, in quoting this snide comment, said Hooper was referring to Elisha Mitchell, who was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in 1817-1818, arriving in late January. Mitchell was familiar with the second subject from his education at Yale, and the University at last had a faculty professor who was qualified to teach Natural Philosophy at a respectable level.

Mitchell was followed a year or two later by Denison Olmsted, who had been his fellow student at Yale and who came here to be in charge of Chemistry, a subject which, though included in the original curricular plans, had not previously been offered. His professorship coverage included Mineralogy, and during the seven years of his tenure here, he also served in various associated public capacities. He was appointed state geologist and he directed a geological and mineralogical survey of the state; an additional year of this survey was directed by Elisha Mitchell after Olmsted was invited back to Yale in 1825.

Elisha Mitchell.
Elisha Mitchell.
Denison Olmstead.
Denison Olmstead.

While Olmsted probably did not teach Natural Philosophy or Astronomy here, he was eventually given these subjects at Yale, where he wrote and published a text in each. The book on Natural Philosophy, which ran through many editions, was used extensively in the course at Chapel Hill, and it provides interesting clues to what was taught in such courses during this period.

There are several copies of Olmsted’s text16 in the University library. One of these, from the Fifth Edition dated 1844, has almost 600 pages, the first 250 of which are devoted to mechanics, including 100 pages of practical applications.

Then there are sections of hydrostatics, hydraulics, pneumatics, and acoustics, with a final 200 pages on electricity, magnetism, and optics. There is no section on heat, and the section on electricity is entirely on the phenomena of electrostatics, with nothing to say about current electricity a la Volta, Ampere and Faraday. Nothing is mentioned about electromagnetism, and the word “battery” refers to a set of capacitors rather than to a set of Voltaic cells. At one stage, Olmsted does mention “Galvanism,” which he says is regarded at Yale as a branch of Chemistry.

In 1844 many physicists still regarded the nature of light with indecision, unsure whether to consider it as made up of waves or of particles. Foucalt’s decisive measurements of the velocity of light in water were still six years in the future. In his fast paragraph on the subject (p. 527) Olmsted comes down on the side of “undulatory” theory, but very gingerly.

Unlike Olmsted, whose stay here was so brief, Elisha Mitchell remained until his death, in 1857, during his fortieth year of service. His name –particularly after the formation of the scientific society named after him –came to stand for a major regional tradition of science, as well as to designate the highest mountain peak in the United States east of the Mississippi, which he had explored thoroughly.

When Olmsted left, Mitchell, who had asked for the change, was appointed Professor of Chemistry, Mineralogy and Geology. This left Natural Philosophy without a professor, and a new one was appointed to fill the gap. James Phillips, who had been teaching in Harlem, New York, was invited to apply for the Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and came in 1826, remaining in that capacity until his death in 1868.

Phillips’s course was the Physics of the middle nineteenth century here, and we can gain some idea of its nature from the fact that it was offered as a course in Mathematics, which seems to distinguish its character from that of Chemistry, which became a separate department when that organizational term was officially introduced in the 1840’s. The other natural sciences, such as Botany and Zoology (referred to as Natural History in the catalogs), were no doubt similar to Chemistry in being more empirical and descriptive.

Some of the differences between Natural Philosophy and Chemistry, as taught here, grew from contemporary fashions and traditions, but much of it grew out of the character and personality of the professors who taught the two subjects. James Phillips was trained as a mathematician. After a religious conversion experience about 1832 he became a devoted student of theology, and the biographical material we have suggests that he was inclined to be thoughtful and studious rather than observational and manipulative in his style. He did, of course, work closely with Joseph Caldwell in the use of the latter’s telescope, but this contribution was probably confined to making calculations. His catalog descriptions of the course make no reference to the phenomenological aspects of the subject, and he valued it because (as his daughter later wrote) he believed “in the discipline of the mind resulting from the study of the exact sciences, as the most important of all aids in its cultivation.”17 The course was sometimes designated as “Mechanical Philosophy,” and when it was taught for only a single semester (as it sometimes was) it was limited largely to the logical and mathematical niceties of Newtonian mechanics.

This is in contrast to Chemistry, where catalog descriptions speak of the “phenomena and laws” of “Light, Heat, Electricity, and Galvanism,” which are “treated of at such length as their relations with the science of Chemistry seem to require.” Policy statements18 indicated that in both Chemistry and Physics, the Professor “performed experiments in the presence of the class,” but various lines of evidence suggest that Elisha Mitchell was a more enthusiastic and skillful class demonstrator than James Phillips.19

It has been said20 that Physics even in this relatively modern period was often taught by rote memorization of standard texts, and what we know of James Phillips suggests that his teaching was typically of that nature. Thus we learn21 that he disapproved of and discouraged questions asked in class, and he succeeded in passing an unenforceable faculty rule against allowing students to bring copies of the text to recitation sessions22 which suggests a didactic mode of teaching and rather mechanical grading.

This impression is reinforced by a description given of James Phillips by Battle in his history (Vol. 1). 23

“The Professor of Mathematics, Rev. James Phillips, to whom the University gave the degree of D.D. when he was absent as a visitor to West Point in 1851, was a very strong character …. He was as firm as adamant in his opinions. He was a most accurate scholar, especially in Theology and Mathematics, Natural and Applied. His lectures on Physics were written accurately and clearly, without interlineation, and embracing the latest researches of his time. When the teaching force was enlarged, his work was _ confined mainly to Pure Mathematics. His teaching was somewhat mechanical, taking the propositions in regular order and, as a rule, calling up the students alphabetically. The idlers took advantage of this and calculated not only the day when their turn came, but also the problems which would fall to their lot.” His daughter affirmed that he was “a rigid taskmaster and disciplinarian in the classroom,” though she added that he “unbent as soon as he came out of it,” and there is general agreement that in ordinary situations he was kindly and well-liked.24

James Phillips was born in 1792 in England, and immigrated to America with his H. brother in 1818, where he was teaching at a classical school in Harlem, New York when he received the invitation from Joseph Caldwell to apply. Like his predecessor, he came as a Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, and the demands on him seem to have been somewhat greater (and probably more crucial) in the first subject than in the second.

The family of James Phillips figured prominently in the social relationships of the University as well as of the town (or what came. to be referred to during the twentieth century as “old Chapel Hill”). James and his wife, Julia, established (and she taught) the Phillips Female Academy, an important local auxiliary source of education for many years, and Julia became fast friends with many faculty wives. Their oldest son, Charles, became a Professor of Mathematics at the University, and their daughter, Cornelia Phillips Spencer, became an important writer about the University’s history and problems and the grandmother of Cornelia Spencer Love, who returned to Chapel Hill and wrote about it in a later generation. Phillips Russell, a grandson of Charles Phillips became a Professor of English at the University in the twentieth century and wrote a well-read book, THE WOMAN WHO RANG THE BELL, which was essentially about Cornelia’s life and the role she played in the University’s recovery from the Civil War.

Up to the Civil War, the leadership in science on the UNC campus belonged to Elisha Mitchell, whose personality was the more colorful and whose interest in recent ­developments was the more ongoing as well as the more outgoing. Thus, when Caldwell’s observatory went to rack and ruin after his death, it was Mitchell (who had, along with Phillips, aided Caldwell in the earlier project) who arranged that astronomical observations (in a conventional building on a different site) continued to be made. And, as previously noted, the public lectures on scientific developments with popular appeal were given by him.

Mitchell was, indeed, a person of outstanding stature. He was a prodigious worker, serving in a variety of public capacities–University Bursar, Town Commissioner, Justice of the Peace, Chairman of the Faculty. After Joseph Caldwell’s death, he served as Acting President of the University until the appointment of President David Lowry Swain.

His interests were exceptionally broad. Battle, in commenting on them, remarked25 that “he might have been among the great specialists in this country if he had not aspired to be universally learned. To his students he appeared to know everything in literature and science. He seemed familiar not only with flowers and rocks, minerals and ores, and the secrets of chemistry and physics, but with questions of fiction and poetry, theology and law, history and art. He was a strong mathematician, indeed … was professor in that department for several years. He once taught rhetoric and logic. He read Blackstone for recreation. He was well versed in the classics and was a good theologian.”

This breadth of interest is evident also in the extent and variety of his library, consisting of 1897 volumes which were purchased for the University for its own library after his death. It was stated by Professor Michael McVaugh, in a public lecture given in 1983 on the Centennial Anniversary of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society’s founding, that the books in Mitchell’s library were “divided about evenly between theology and belles-lettres, on the one hand, and science–chemistry, biology, mathematics, biology-­ on the other. This can be contrasted with a statement in Battle that26 the library of James Phillips, (given after his death to the University) was “mainly theological,” indicating that the latter subject, rather than natural philosophy or any other science, was his main driving interest after his conversion experience in the early 1830’s.

As the disruptions of the Civil War period grew imminent, a change occurred in the University of great significance for the nineteenth-century shift toward the sciences and technology–the formation of a new School for the Application of Science to the Arts, which was authorized by the Board of Trustees in 1852 and initiated in January 1854. The school had two new departments-one of Civil Engineering and the other for the Application of Chemistry to Agriculture and the Arts. It was “intended to prepare for the professional life Engineers, Artists, Chemists, Farmers, Miners, and Physicians,” and it had several significant innovative features–one of them allowing its students to bypass some of the degree requirements in the classical languages of Latin and Greek, which had come under severe criticism from various sources, and the other offering courses with more apparent practical value to the average citizen, such as a new course in Agricultural Chemistry. It also became possible to obtain a college degree (Bachelor of Science) in three years.27

This development was part of a widespread movement on a national scale to make college education more accessible as well as more effectively relevant to the average person’s life.28 It became quite general in the 1850’s and bore fruition in the Morrill Act of 1862 and the consequent proliferation of the so-called land-grant colleges. Its chief themes were a rebellion against old-style classical education, with its perceived overemphasis on Latin and Greek, a new emphasis on the sciences, and a trend toward the practical and toward democratic education. Before the Civil War, the University of North Carolina‘s reaction was as indicated. Afterward, it had reason to be thankful for the movement, for it became itself a land-grant college and used the land-grant money to fund its reopening in 1875.29


III. The Transition to Physics (1875-1907)

The American Civil War began with the fall of Fort Sumter in April, 1861, and ended with the surrender of Lee and Johnston’s armies in April, 1965. During the war period the University, though its enrollment declined severely,30 managed to survive. During the reconstruction period, however, it was subject to political and internal stresses and suffered financial losses that left it heavily in debt. President Swain died in August, 1868, after an accidental fall from a buggy drawn by a runaway horse. Under a new Board of Trustees selected under the terms of a new constitution (it had refused to reappoint Swain), the University attempted to continue with a new president and faculty, but was finally forced to “suspend its exercises” at an Executive Committee meeting in December, 1870, and did not reopen again until September, 1875. The process of winning back public acceptance and financial support was complicated, involving political action by the legislature, the passage of a constitutional amendment by the state, and favorable court decisions, but at its core was a successful campaign to gain the reinstatement of $7,500 of annual income for the University as interest on a principal of $125,000 of Land ­Grant funds, the state’s allotment from sale of Land Grant Scrip generated by the Morrill Act of 1862. In 1876, a year after the reopening, Kemp Plummer Battle was elected by the Trustees to be the University’s President, an office he held until 1891. 31

James Phillips, after directing the Natural Philosophy course through the war, had died in 1867, and for seven years afterward it was taught by various professors, who divided their time between that subject (sometimes called Physics in this period) and either Chemistry or Mathematics, with a different professor in charge of Astronomy in some years. It was not until 1882 that a new faculty appointment took permanent charge of the subject–he was Joshua Walker Gore, who came as Professor of Natural Philosophy – and Engineering. Equally important for the University’s future in science was the arrival of Francis Preston Venable, who had come two years before Gore as Professor of Chemistry.

Joshua Walker Gore.
Joshua Walker Gore.

In the second volume of Battle‘s history 32 is a section titled “State of the University in 1884.” It gives an account of the 1884 report of a visiting committee from the University Trustees, and from it, one can get a picture of the state of the sciences here at that time.

There were three baccalaureate curricula, each leading to a separate academic degree: (1) a Classical Course,–essentially the prewar curriculum, leading to an A.B.; (2) a Scientific Course leading to the degree of B.S., which dropped Latin and Greek from the Classical course and substituted Agricultural Chemistry, Natural History, Drawing, Bookkeeping, and “additional studies in English;” (3) The Philosophical Course, a compromise which included only one classical language and led to the Ph.D. degree. Emphasis in the report was placed on the fact that the three degrees were all “of equal dignity,” and they all involved elements of practical instruction.

“The conditions imposed by the Federal Government in the Land Scrip Grant are met,” it said, “and the University is prepared to turn out men educated for the farm as well as the forum and the bench. Especial attention is given to the English language in all the departments, from the beginning to the end of all the courses.” The practical aspects taught in each subject were spelled out in some detail.

By 1884 this practical component had become crucial, since the University‘s reopening in 1876 had depended on the annual $7,500 it obtained by qualifying as a “Land Grant” college under the terms of the 1862 Morrill Act. Hence the committee‘s explicit claim that the “conditions imposed by the Federal Government in the Land Scrip Grant” were met, along with its concrete listing of practical subjects taught (e.g., influence of fertilizers on plant growth, injurious insects, soil chemistry, bookkeeping, and the application of electricity to the telegraph}. Whether the University could continue to qualify with the conditions of the Act was becoming a political issue, which in 1887 finally resulted in its loss of the Land-Grant income. The point of the committee’s curricular accounting was the new possibility of getting substantial degrees for which more time was spent on scientific and applied subjects and less on classical languages.

The committee’s report describes Venable’s chemistry laboratories and salutes him especially for the “elegant and valuable museum of chemical, industrial and valuable products which he has collected and so handsomely arranged.”

In its description of Gore, the report paints a picture different from the image one remembers of James Phillips: Gore was considerably more skilled as a demonstrator and handier in working with equipment. He obviously made a hit with the visiting committee, whose report referred to him as “another young, learned and efficient instructor, who had made a strongly favorable impression on his visitors.”

“Under his instruction,” it went on, “the student is enabled to gain an intelligent understanding of the forces in nature from the motions of planets to the turning of a flutter-mill. The skill and industry of the Professor in repairing old apparatus and the purchase of new enable him to make experiments in the presence of the class, which constitute an important and impressive part of his instruction. He illustrates the movements of the sidereal heavens, shows the application of electricity to the telegraph, telephone, etc. He explains the phenomena of sound and the properties of light and heat. He also teaches land surveying, plotting, leveling, laying out railroad curves and switches, and all railroad work, to the point of actual construction.”33

The measures adopted on this campus proved insufficient to compete with the contemporary trend in the Land Grant colleges toward purchase of expensive equipment for practical education. Three years after the visiting committee report of 1884 the University lost the income from its $125,000 of Morrill funds when that sum was transferred to the new College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts at Raleigh34 and that institution became the state’s official Land Grant college. 35

There was a connection between Venable’s arrival in 1880 and Gore’s in 1882. Francis Preston Venable was the son of Charles Scott Venable, who in 1880 was a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Virginia. The father36 was an old friend of President Battle, and when a position became vacant in Chemistry at Chapel Hill, he wrote a letter recommending that his son, then in Germany working toward a chemistry Ph.D., be appointed to fill it.

Joshua Walker Gore was born in January, 1852, the son of a farmer and merchant in Frederick County, Virginia. His higher education began at Richmond College, where he earned certificates in mathematics and physics. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a civil engineering degree in 1875 he spent two years at Johns Hopkins, where he studied mathematics under J. J. Sylvester and physics under H. A. Rowland. After several years as Professor of Physics and Chemistry in the Southwestern Baptist University at Jackson, Tennessee, he was called back to the University of Virginia to assist Charles Venable in mathematics. Undoubtedly, Gore and Francis Venable owed their respective appointments to the same source of recommendation.

Venable and Gore were both important acquisitions for the University. The former became highly valued for professional attainments in chemistry (leading incidentally to lucrative applications) and effective teaching, leaving a legacy of scientifically important research and highly successful Ph. D. graduates.37 He also contributed local and national leadership, becoming President of the University in 1900 and President of the American Chemical Society in 1905.38

Gore’s achievements, while less illustrious than Venable’s, were nonetheless substantial. He continued as faculty until his death in 1908, serving also as Dean of the Faculty for most of his earlier tenure and acting as President of the University during a time when President Edwin Alderman was absent on a tour of Europe in the academic year 1898-1899. During the Venable administration, when the Department of Applied Science (formed in 1904 from the Department of Mines, itself established in 1901) was reorganized as the School of Applied Science, Gore was appointed as Dean.

A year after he arrived, he became active in helping to organize the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society and become its secretary and treasurer. A word is in order here about this group, which was initiated in September of 1883 and formally organized in October 39 of that year. Francis Venable had taken the initiative in starting it up, and it provided a mechanism for encouraging its scientifically active members to meet, give papers, and publish. It hoped for a larger outreach but never provided much service to scientists outside of North Carolina, simmering down to a mere campus organization after the first ten years. It did, however, provide an effective publications outlet for a wide readership and a source of journals for the University library; in 1888, it was exchanging journals with 129 other scientific and learned societies across the nation and throughout the world.40

Joshua Gore’s direction of his program during his years of teaching was representative of trends in college physics education during the latter part of the nineteenth century, one of which was the rise of laboratory teaching, a subject discussed by Melba Phillips in two recent historical articles on the subject.41

College laboratory work in physics, as we know it today, was first required of students in the late 1860‘s, following suit to a similar and somewhat earlier development in chemistry. The laboratory at M.I.T.,–which Phillips suggests was in some sense “invented for the purpose of requiring laboratory work in science,” was first ready for operation in the fall of 1869.

Laboratory work in physics at Chapel Hill was officially offered at the 1875 reopening of the University, and by 1890-1891, we find a special section in the catalog describing the “Physical Laboratory” as located among departmental rooms which “occupy the first floor of the New West Building.” The “equipment of the department,” it goes on to say, “comprises many fine instruments of precision, especially for Electrical Measurements….”

Gore, who no doubt wrote this description, continues with the remark: “A work­ shop, attached to the laboratory, is provided with a steam engine, lathe for wood and metal, and the necessary tools and material for making apparatus. An electric light plant has been installed, chiefly for instruction in electrical engineering.” There are many other references in the catalog through succeeding years to the “Practical Laboratory” and a formal separation of laboratory instruction from classroom instruction.

Another trend was the evolution of engineering education, which under Gore took the direction of electrical engineering, though his expertise and interest in railroad construction was covered under civil engineering.42 In 1901-2 Physics Three was offered as a course in heat, heat engines, heating systems, steam boilers, pumps, and the like43 and after the establishment of the School of Applied Science electrical engineering and / physics continued to be taught under the same administrative umbrella. After Roentgen‘s discovery in 1896, Gore took a strong interest in it and added an x-ray source to his laboratory.44

Another trend of the period, which became complete in 1895, was the replacement of the term “natural philosophy” as a name for the subject by the term “physics,” and the transition is perhaps symbolic of the rising importance of engineering applications. The change shows up in the catalog of 1895-6, with Gore and the general subject referred to for the first time as “Professor of Physics” and “Physics.” The transition, however, had been somewhat more gradual.45

Thus, in the planning of the curriculum and degree requirements for the 1875 reopening, the subject was uniformly called “physics,” and the professors teaching it thereafter were designated accordingly.46

The two terms were also combined in various ways in subject and course descriptions. Thus in the 1893-4 catalog one finds offerings in Physics, Experimental Physics, Electrical Engineering, and Astronomy grouped together as Natural Philosophy.47

Gore’s services to the University at upper administrative levels have already been mentioned. They also included a number of important technical responsibilities m. appropriate to his personal skill and engineering expertise. He was credited with being “wholly responsible for the electric light plants and in large measure for the heating and water plants,48 and aided in establishing the University press, and he had charge “of the erection of the Y.M.C.A. building.” He also took strong technical interest in the evolution of the telephone and participated importantly in the installation of the first long-distance connection to Chapel Hill (by way of Durham) during the academic year 1900-1901.49

Within the University community, he served early on as registrar and played important roles in faculty committees; he also served as alderman for the town of Chapel Hill and as director of the Bank of Chapel Hill. 50, 51

Gore was widely honored and beloved for his personal traits, which included devotion to duty, practical judgment, and public spirit. This was attested after his death in 1907 by the alumni who, at the commencement of 1909, presented an oil portrait of him, to be hung in the memorial room of the new university library. 52

He was personally celebrated among the faculty, notably by fellow members of the (standing) Curriculum Committee, of which he served as chairman, for his skill in presenting the daily schedule of recitations which had to be approved in open meeting by the faculty. “To the amazement and delight of his colleagues,” it is related, “he carried the whole scheme of courses and hours of recitation in his head and could resolve conflicts in much the manner of the skilled chess player who foresees the development of a dozen moves in advance and the ultimate checkmating of his adversary. His dexterity in manipulating the combinations and permutations of course numbers was fascinating.”53

The students regarded him with respect, mixed no doubt with a tinge of uneasiness. Louis R. Wilson, the University Librarian who had been a student here in Gore’s day, recalled that Gore’s course in physics, based on the “redoubtable text of the Frenchman Deschanel,” was “dreaded throughout the University.”

“The simplest problems in it (it was larded with problems) were expressed in terms such as that of geometrical progression or the inversion [sic] square law, or some other mathematical abstraction even more difficult of comprehension by the non-mathematical mind. The course was required of all juniors. It was one of the Four Horsemen–if courses may be so called–that cut down many a student who aspired to graduation.54

The professionalization of science in this period advanced considerably, and by 1910 attention was beginning to be paid to the publication records of particular scientists, as evidence of performance. The number of accumulated publications as of that-date were listed by Kemp Plummer Battle in the second volume of his history,55 where Francis Venable was credited with seventy-four papers (including two class manuals) and Charles Baskerville (who had succeeded Venable as head of the department in 1900) with fifty-four. Gore published five papers, none of which seems to have been in the mainstream of contemporary physics, being addressed to such subjects as a tornado in Western North Carolina, current work in electricity and engineering, and the effect of pressure on thermometers. James Edward Latta, a student of Gore who had earned an A.M. degree in 1901 and served until 1910 as the second full faculty member in the department, published three papers, presumably relating to engineering. Given the period and his record, it is not difficult to accept Joshua Walker Gore as an effective public citizen and as a practitioner and professor of engineering rather than as a mainstream physicist.

IV. Modern Physics in a Modern University (1907-1928)

Louis R. Wilson, in his history of the University during the first thirty years of the century,56 relates that at no time had change been more notable than in the period when “the University, with a clearly defined, though limited college curriculum, a loosely organized program of graduate studies, an improvised Summer School curriculum, and three integrated or partly integrated professional schools of Law, Medicine, or Pharmacy made the transition from the status of a good college of liberal arts to that of a modern university.”

“The predominant characteristics of the University in 1900,” he writes, “were those of the better type of college prevailing generally throughout the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. But when in 1931, by legislative enactment, and in 1932, by trustee authorization, the Consolidated or Greater University of North Carolina came into being –embracing the Woman’s College of Greensboro, the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering at Raleigh, and the University at Chapel Hill -­the original University which Davie and his associates had founded at Chapel Hill in 1789 had already undergone such tremendous change that it had become in a very real sense a new kind of institution. While retaining and expanding the college it had so added to the original function of teaching and the functions of research, publication, extension, and service; it had so multiplied the curriculum; it had so developed its Institutes and Schools, its Library and its Press, that it had ceased to function almost solely as a nineteenth-century college and had attained the stature of a many-faceted university.”

Numerical facts attest to the magnitude of this growth. In 1900-01, the official enrollment was 504 and the catalog faculty count was 38. For 1933-34, the enrollment was 2596 and the faculty count (1932-33) 214. Comparable increases took place in the size of the physical plant and other indices measuring growth.

During almost all of this thirty-year period the activities of the Physics department were under the management of Professor Andrew Henry Patterson (b. September 28, IV. 1870, d. September 9, 1928), who was called from the University of Georgia in 1908 to the post Joshua Gore had held during his lifetime. After three years he also became Gore‘s successor as Dean of the School of Applied Sciences, remaining in both the chairmanship and the dean’s capacity until his untimely death in 1928.

Patterson (familiarly known as “Drew” to his close friends), was an able administrator whose choice in this capacity was appropriate. He was the first director of this department who was also a graduate of the University, having received a double baccalaureate degree (B. Eng. and B.A.) here in 1891. He hailed from Winston-Salem, and his family had strong and active University affiliations running back to its origins.57

As an 1891 graduate of UNC Patterson had a distinguished student record, which was notable in its personal as well as in its intellectual aspects. He placed second in scholarship out of 29; he had been elected president of the student body and was voted most popular student as well as best athlete, –the type of outstanding, all-round student who nowadays is selected as the recipient of a Rhodes or Morehead scholarship. After finishing here, he spent two years of graduate study at Harvard, where he received his A. M. degree in 1893.

After a short period of employment by Westinghouse as an electrical engineer, he was hired as Instructor in Physics and Electrical Engineering by the University of Georgia. By 1908, when he came back to Chapel Hill at the age of 38 as Professor of Physics, he had become the head in Georgia of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and had spent a year (1905-6) abroad, studying at the University of Berlin, the Charlottenburg Technische Hochschule, and Cambridge University. 58

During Patterson’s chairmanship, the fortunes of the Physics Department were closely linked with those of the School of Applied Science, since after a few years he came to serve as Dean of the School and since the fortunes of the department were mixed with those of the School. The mixture in degree terminology was initiated quite naturally in Gore’s day, since he quite naturally fitted both categories, and Patterson was quite broad in his interests.

Gore ‘s offerings in electrical engineering came to intermingle with the physics offerings, and after Venable’s accession to the presidency in 1900, the expansion was quite natural and the two departments grew in parallel, sharing related laboratory concerns, without ever separating until the 1920s. James E. Latta (Ph.D., 1899, A.M., 1901) was a local product, who became Professor of Electrical Engineering, and in 1910 he resigned to “take up the practical side of his profession” he was succeeded by Parker Hayward Daggett, a Harvard product who continued here until 1929.

The department of Physics continued officially under Patterson’s command until his death in 1928. It had been housed officially in the Alumni Building (to which it had been moved from South Building at Christmas, 1901) and as the University continued to grow the problem of finding adequate housing for the physics course became increasingly difficult. The new building was formally thanked by the family in a letter from Mary Phillips Verner and Lucy Phillips Russell dated January 27, 1919, 59 in appreciation for the naming of the building after their family. The reader will remember James Phillips and his son, Charles, from earlier chapters. The third honoree was Charles’s son William Battle Phillips, who had been Professor of Agricultural Chemistry and Mining, 1885-87. He was also the first student on the campus to receive a Ph.D., which was conferred in 1883.60

Departments of Engineering disappeared from the Chapel Hill campus with the consolidation transitions between Raleigh and Chapel Hill in the 1930s, but Phillips Hall has remained the home of physics and mathematics until the present. They have more recently been joined by the Department of Statistics and other equally important related activities (e.g., its Library has become the Brauer Library for Mathematics, Physics, Statistics, and Computer Science). The building was expanded in 1925-7, and a further major increase took place in the late 1950s to accommodate the Physics Department‘s mid-twentieth-century expansion.

Patterson‘s role during this part of his tenure must have been considerable since architectural craftsmanship was part of his expertise.61 His most important official role, however, W8=!, probably one of advocacy, in speaking to a building committee as Dean of the School of Applied Science to plead the need for extra space and the inadequacy of the space in the Alumni Building. He pointed out, among other things, that the lecture room was capable of holding only half the class, even when packed with chairs.62

Patterson’s administrative personality seems to have been one of conscientiousness, likeability, and the ability to command respect and admiration. He served on many University Committees, including the Athletic Committee, where he contributed to the successful organization of the Southern Athletic Conference, adopting new rules that raised the morale and caliber of athletic events in the region.63

He enjoyed the high regard of a large number of the people who knew him and was chosen for special assignments noted as demanding unusual powers of discretion and careful judgment. Thus came the fact that he was selected as a member of Venable’s University Executive Committee only two or three years after he came back to the campus and that he was selected to spend a year in 1915/16 consulting with people who were considering the question of U.S. policy in the event it should be drawn into the World War.

He was active in directing local activities in the Y.M.C.A. and in the Episcopal Church. In 1927, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Georgia, and was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, as well as President in 1920 of the N.C. Academy of Science. His presidential address to the Academy in June was on the general theory of relativity, from which Einstein’s discovery was announced in the November 1919 report of the analysis at Cambridge of the observations made at Principe Island the previous May.

Other personal attributes mentioned in an obituary referred to his sympathetic interest in the “student and his welfare” and his “unfailing courtesy” and “zeal for helpful service.” In the Georgia Alumni Record, January 1926, p. 10, a classmate is quoted as having said about him: “The biggest thing about the man was his personality. He was sane, dependable, honest, clean, trusted. He was a leader in a quiet and effective way. He did the drab and routine things that nobody else wanted to do. It takes a big man to embody those qualities.” There were also many testimonials to his interest in students.

In one of the news items announcing Patterson’s death, he was referred to as “one of the most widely known science educators in the country.”64 Strictly speaking, the term “science educator” is more accurate than either “scientist” or “physicist” would have been in characterizing him, for he was not a research specialist, nor did he direct much student research; only five master’s degrees were earned under his direction.65

Otto Stuhlman, Jr., the colleague who wrote his obituary for the department, referred to the many essays he had written on “cultural, educational, and scientific subjects,” mentioned also scientific contributions covering the “fields of x-rays, high tension phenomena, lightning discharges, and atomic structure.” This language suggests a broad summary type of presentation, and Shearin66 remarks that most of Patterson’s publications” were of a semi-popular nature doubtless intended to appeal to the layman.” This remark, however, is a bit unfair. There is no question that Patterson knew his physics accurately and thoroughly (his son remarked that he “could talk to Einstein eye-to-eye about his theory of relativity equations”). 67

A drive did develop in the department in the 1920s toward forefront research and journal publication, however, and should be noted here. Otto Stuhlman, Jr., was appointed in 1920; one year after the official completion of Phillips Hall, and in 1924 there followed Earle K. Plyler, who had just received a Ph.D. from Cornell. This enlargement of the department was undoubtedly associated with the post-war expansion of the University, as well as with the completion of Phillips Hall.

Until the coming of Arthur Ruark in the 1930s, fourteen years after 1920, the year [V. of Stuhlman’s coming, the direction of graduate theses would be either by him or by Plyler. The first Ph.D. thesis, in fact, was not written until 1929.68

Otto Stuhlman, Jr. (1884-1965), grew up in Ohio and received his Ph.D. in 1911 from Princeton University. He had held faculty positions at various eastern and middle­western Universities before coming here in 1920. He was promoted to full professorship four years after coming, and during the six years after Patterson’s 1928 death, he was executive head of the department. He retired in 1953 and remained in Chapel Hill until his death in 1965.69

Earle K. Plyler (1897-1976) grew up in South Carolina (where he attended Furman as an undergraduate), and took graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins and Cornell. His appointment here was right after his Cornell Ph.D.; he remained until 1940 and spent the twenty years after that entirely in research, most of it at the Bureau of Standards. He returned to the academic world as head of the Department of Physics at Florida State University, holding this post until 1965 and carrying on faculty research until 1972.70

Stuhlman and Plyler were experimental physicists who both worked in spectroscopy, by then a well-established field of research. Stuhlman’s specialty was in the visible and ultra-violet; Plyler’s was in the infrared, to which he had been introduced at Johns Hopkins by August H. Pfund, one of its pioneers.71 By comparison with later sources, their demands were quite modest; crudely put, all either needed was a good – spectrometer, which could easily be financed by a private source of scientific support (e.g., by the Rockefeller Foundation), and by inexpensive chemical supplies, which could be obtained directly through the University supply system (Plyler could buy all his supplies by a University Research allowance of $100.00 a year.) 72

Their respective contributions to research activity differed in extent as well as in nature. Plyler, who was the more single-minded of the two, was responsible for nine Ph.D. degrees here during his sixteen years, thus providing the department with valuable links to the larger professional community.

Stuhlman directed only three Ph.D. degrees during his 33 years here, but did supervise 33 master’s degrees. He was respected by his students and nationally for his well thought out and carefully executed laboratory results.

His efforts were originally directed toward the laboratory testing of the Einstein equation for the photoelectric effect, a prolonged quest which lasted after Einstein proposed it in 1905 until the publication of Millikan’s 1916 paper. It was continued by others (like Stuhlman) who were considering indubitably of greater thoroughness. His work laid great stress on clear definition and clean determination of such classical parameters as contact potential, a critical quality for this effort.

This was, of course, a central concern in the physics community. Stuhlman’s later work, however, turned in directions more of a personal and practical nature –thus he became interested in x-rays and later developed a useful course for training medical school students in their employment. Later he turned to biophysics, in which he wrote a textbook. The last graduate project under his supervision investigated the “Electric Transients Accompanying Excitation in Venus ‘s Flytrap.”

It is not necessary to compare the scientific virtues of mainstream research with those of dark-corner investigation, however. It is probably worth noting here that, after Plyler’s death in 1976, a number of his former students collaborated in setting up a prize to be awarded in his memory. Details of this will be noted in the next chapter.

Plyler and Stuhlman differed not only in their overall approach 6ut in their teaching style. Stuhlman, for instance, made no pretensions to a profound understanding of nor faith in modern theoretical abstractions, whereas Plyler was much more aware of and interested in the theoretical implications of his work (as interpreted, for instance, in the quantum mechanical theory of atoms and molecules). Stuhlman was rigidly prescriptive in giving directions and didactic in lecture presentations. Plyler, though demanding in pace of work expected, was tolerant of varying personal styles and respectfully tactful with all his students; he often ran his class meetings by requiring his students to understand and present after reading original papers.

V. Consolidation and the Chairmanship of Arthur Ruark (1928-1944)

Andrew Patterson died September 9th, 1928. His faculty position was filled by Karl H. Fussler, who accepted the appointment on June 1, 1929. Fussler came here from the University of North Dakota, where he was director of the physics department. He had been enthusiastically recommended for dependability, industriousness and zeal for community service, both at North Dakota, where he had been for the previous nine years, and at the University of Pennsylvania, where he had been both before and after taking his Ph.D. in 1916. He was forty-one years old when he came, with the understanding that he would concentrate on the direction and enhancement of undergraduate instruction.

H. Kennard of Cornell had also been seriously considered and had even made an exploratory visit. Unlike Fussler he was well established nationally and active in theoretical research, and President Chase was tempted by the opportunity, but his choice was governed by more immediate problems. As he wrote to Kennard, he had “two needs” in considering the future of the physics department here, one being the need to “strengthen its work in undergraduate teaching” and the other the desire to build up its research program. Finding it impossible to solve both problems with one appointment, he had determined to build up the undergraduate instruction first, bringing in “a man of maturity and experience, who wanted to devote himself primarily to it,” and leaving the research question for the present, since they could not “afford both additions at this time.”73

Stuhlman, who had been serving as acting chairman since Patterson’s death, continued in this capacity, while Chase reserved the appointment of a permanent department head. Since he left in June of 1930 to assume other responsibilities as president of the University of Illinois, he had no opportunity to carry out the rest of the change. Extraneous developments prevented anyone else from doing so either, and it was 1934 before a permanent head was appointed.

The Great American Depression, following on the heels of the 1929 stock market crash, had by 1930 brought severe cuts in university budgets74 providing an immediate motivation for a proposal by Governor O. Max Gardner to consolidate the administration and academic offerings in three major state institutions. 75 This change, which was authorized by legislative enactment in 1931, yielded a university system of three campuses under one governing board, which was later expanded to sixteen campuses and eventually renamed the Greater University of North Carolina. The immediate motive for this change was economic –it was hoped that by eliminating duplication of courses and programs important economics could be effected.

The process of consolidation lasted several years and delayed important actions, such as the appointment of a permanent head of physics. Of more long-term significance for the department was the loss of its associated school of engineering, which was now taken over and assimilated at Raleigh.

The choice of this particular mode of assimilation provoked bitter controversy, especially among the alumni, and the settlement of the issue proved to be the most time ­consuming in the consolidation process. The final choice was not made definite until 1936, and two more years were required before the last graduating class of engineers was ushered out of Phillips Hall in 1938. 76

The department of physics had profited ever since the turn of the century from its close linkage with the School of Applied Science (which was now also abandoned) and its eventual association and cohabitation after 1921 with the engineering school, and there can be no doubt that their loss at Chapel Hill had an adverse effect. The department lost political clout with the legislature, since its budgetary needs became less visible and less compelling; also weakened was its attractiveness to the kind of industrial support that had figured so importantly in the growth of the chemistry department.

Offsetting this setback to some extent was the administrative philosophy developed as a rationale under consolidation that guided the support of the various institutional v. specialties supported on the various campuses. Graduate study and research were to be at Chapel Hill, and it became natural to regard the department here as a center for professional physics rather than as a mere service department for engineering. Certainly the new search committee, formed by President Graham in the fall of 1933 to look for a new department head, carried out a thorough inquiry of national scope and clearly had Chases’ “second object” in mind.

Arthur E. Ruark, who received the committee’s recommendation, was appointed in the fall of 1934 to be Kenan Research Professor of Physics and head of the department. His record was impressive, identifying him as a rising young physicist with great promise for his own future as well as that of the department.

Born in 1899 in Washington, D.C., he had graduated with an impressive record from Johns Hopkins, from which he then received his Ph.D. after three years of graduate work. Following that, he had been at the National Bureau of Standards for four years and at the Mellon Institute for three more as physicist for the Gulf Oil Company. After publishing an authoritative and widely read treatment on the new quantum physics, as coauthor with Nobel Laureate Harold Urey77 he was appointed professor at the University of Pittsburgh, where his national reputation was further enhanced when he cooperated, again as coauthor, in writing a best-selling textbook on modern physics.

His record at this time cited publication of over thirty papers in the PHYSICAL REVIEW, the JOURNAL OF THE OPTICAL SOCIETY, and the ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL, and he had already, two years after his Ph.D., been starred in AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE.

As the search committee noted in its report, it had started from the presumption that the new appointee should be a “mathematical physicist,” but were “warned away … “ by all the persons from whom they sought advice for a position as head of the department. Ruark, they said, combined experimental and theoretical aptitudes admirably. He was “a scientist of wide knowledge and interest, an active worker in v. research and an enthusiastic teacher with the kind of contagious enthusiasm which would put renewed vigor into any group with whom he was associated.”78

In a letter dated May 8, 1984, President Graham initiated negotiations with Ruark, inquiring whether he was interested in a departmental headship at the then prevailing state salary level enhanced by Kenan Foundation support. Complimenting the candidate on the “splendid impression” he had made during a recent preliminary visit, he added that while his UNC salary would not be up to a level commensurate with “his abilities and values” the appointment would carry additional attractiveness as a “great opportunity to take charge of the Physics Department and make it the center of physical studies for the South.”79

Ruark had already responded eagerly to a suggestion that he prepare an analysis of the needs of the physics department. His report, based on personal inspection during the visit and interviews with Stuhlman, Plyler, and Fussier, probably exceeded everyone‘s expectations, both in its thoroughness and in the level of its recommendations. It ran twelve pages, proposing a three-year expansion program to cost about $55,000, .as spelled out in appended budgetary tables, and explicitly premised on the assumption that in five or six years, the department 1 ‘should occupy a place among the best ten in the United States and that it should be the best department of physics in the South.”80

It recommended the construction of a machine shop, to cost around $15,000, and a schedule of departmental expenditures totaling $40,000, to be allotted to laboratory and lecture presentation equipment, research instrumentation, books and new journals for the library, and special stipends for promising young research fellows.

In an accompanying letter, he assured President Graham that his estimates, though substantial, were not extravagant, since they were consistent with the quality performance assumed. For exemplary programs, he cited Cornell, where about 1930 $25,000 a year had been expended for instructional and research equipment in physics, and Iowa State, where the physics department had a few years before paid $12,000 to v. purchase the research equipment required by a new assistant professor.81

Graham‘s response 82 included a polite acknowledgement of the report, calling it a “fine job” and praising the “care and thoughtfulness” which had gone into its preparation. However, he made no promises. “I hope very much,” he wrote, “that we can at an early date begin to do something about supplying the needs in accordance with your analysis.” Having recently experienced at first hand the rigors of a depression-induced budgetary crisis, and being besides confronted by consolidation uncertainties specific to physical science at Chapel Hill, he was fully aware that the Ruark recommendations could not be quickly carried out.

Indeed, outright major support from public funds of research in pure science was not in 1934 readily acceptable in legislative circles, particularly in this region. Earle Plyler, for instance, whose infra-red research program was one of the most active in the department, later recalled that at this time he was receiving a departmental research allotment of $100 a year, enough to buy thermocouples but not enough for supplementary spectroscopic gratings, for which he was dependent on the generosity and good opinion of R. W. Wood at Johns Hopkins.83 Paul Shearin, who was still here as an instructor in 1930-31, recalls that in that year departmental research benefited from a $10,000 windfall, but this was due to a clerical error producing an accidental budgetary surplus and not an intentional appropriation.84 Dudley Williams, who went on to a position at The University of Florida after completing his Ph. D. here with Plyler in 1936, encountered characteristically hesitant attitudes at Gainesville toward research support from public funds. 85

When Ruark issued his first report as chairman, in February, 1935, after an initial six months, he was still talking in terms of “getting into the leading ten” of the physics departments of the country.86 Another half-year later, however, he was admitting that his original proposals in coming had been “beyond the capacity of the University” so that “I can only say that we must severely restrict our field of operations and trust to our ingenuity in devising important experiments which can be carried out with moderate means.” 87

Ruark never really gave up his dream of competitive “arrival,” however. In the Report of the Physics Department for the Calendar Year, 1939, when the preoccupations of World War U were just before closing in on the department’s research hopes, the records show him still sounding the same theme:

“We stand today in a position where we have the possibility of further advance to a place in the sun … The battle to achieve and hold a place in the first ten departments of physics in the nation must be won or lost in the next five years. It cannot be won with our present staff and equipment.”88

Over the years of his chairmanship, his reports were marked by this spirit of competitive ambitiousness, with frequent allusions to programs at other universities, and along with this characteristic went the personality trait of aggressiveness and emphasis on the honorific aspect of the department’s activities.

Effectively Ruark‘s chairmanship ran from 1934 until July 1944, when he went on leave to engage fully in wartime research.89 He did not return after the war and resigned as of April 30, 1946.

The period of Ruark’s chairmanship was crucial in the history of the department. and in many respects completed the transition into the twentieth century. The extent of development during that period is attested in the so-called “Whyburn Report,” submitted in 1950 to the university by a prestigious committee of faculty led by W. M. Whyburn.90 In commenting on immediate historical background, the report stated emphatically that the department of physics during the previous fifteen years had “grown in strength and number of staff, … in teaching serviceability and in research output.” In 1935, it noted, “when the so· called Hughes Report was published, our Department of Physics received no recognition as a department qualified to give instruction leading to the Ph.D. degree. In 1950, as reported to the Southern University Conference and in consequence of a Southwide poll, the Department was rated with Johns Hopkins University as one of the two distinguished departments in the South. In 1935 only three persons had secured the doctor’s degree here with a major in physics. Since 1935 nineteen such degrees have been awarded.” In support of this point statistics were presented indicating impressive productivity in recent research and publication.

While there is no doubt that Ruark ‘s efforts and influence contributed substantially to the department’s growth and development during this period, its performance record did not keep pace with his publicly voiced-hopes, claims, and intentions, which as we have seen were very high. Retrospective analysis indeed suggests the department’s debt to his leadership rested largely on his promotional skills, infectious enthusiasms and dynamic personality.

Perhaps the department’s most valuable and long-lasting legacy from the Ruark administration grew out of the first proposal in his preliminary report, submitted (as previously described) to President Graham in 1934 before he was appointed, for the establishment of a machine shop to serve the university in general and the physics department in particular. This project was activated during Ruark’s first year, with noteworthy good fortune in the choice of the person who was found to initiate and direct it.

This person was Nestore Di Costanzo, a mathematics graduate student from Providence, Rhode Island, who was hired initially as a half-time instrument maker and became the shop’s full-time director, bringing to his position an unusual combination of background and know-how. Before coming south to complete his youthful education, Di Costanzo had served an apprenticeship in Providence as instrument maker with Brown and Sharpe, makers of precision tools, followed by a period in which he continued to develop his skills as an employee of various other companies.91 Ruark referred to his new employee as a “craftsman of the highest grade,” who could “make anything and who was “agreeable, conscientious, and obliging.”92

Along with his shop responsibilities, Di Costanzo continued his academic program and received his master‘s degree in 1939, when Ruark persuaded him to postpone going further. Although other impediments (the war, a growing family, the aging process) finally forced him to abandon further academic ambitions, he and his shop continued to be an increasingly valuable asset to generations of experimentally oriented faculty and students.

Research done in the department during the Ruark years falls into three categories: (1) research done and/or directed by faculty already established here when he came (Stuhlman, Plyler, Fussier); (2) research done or directed by those who came as his permanent faculty appointments; {3) research done as part of or in close conjunction with his own personal research projects.

Stuhlman‘s research was described in the previous chapter. Dudley Williams, who had taken a course from him as an admiring undergraduate in the 1930‘s, remarks93 that “subsequent to his early studies on the photoelectric effect, Stuhlman had conducted research on numerous and diverse subjects, but had never established any definite and sustained research program of his own. By 1936 his research interests arrived at their final phase; he developed a course in biophysics and radiology for premedical students and published a textbook for it. 94 The principal topics were listed95 as (1) the physics of the sense organs, (2) the instruments and physical devices used by the doctor, the optician and the ear specialist, (3) the devices used in physiotherapy, and (4) technique of taking and interpreting x-ray photographs.

The course and the text were important locally to the university’s premedical and medical program, but they did not bring credit as forefront research. Ruark’s hopes at this level were focused on Stuhlman’s aspirations for carrying out an extensive program involving the construction and research uses of an electron microscope.

The work of Earle K. Plyler in infra-red spectroscopy was also outlined in the previous chapter. By the early 1930‘s, after ten years of independent research experience and a sabbatical at the University of Michigan, Plyler’s investigations were well focused and steadily advanced by him and under his direction.

A major element in the scientific motivation of infrared spectroscopy had come to be an improved grasp of the molecular chemistry of solutions and mixtures, attained by studying their effect on transmitted radiation. While amply justifiable by such results, the actual laboratory work was tedious and time-consuming; –as Ruark commented, “it required careful preparation of materials and of cells to contain them, as well as great numbers of galvanometer readings.” Much of its intellectual challenge and satisfaction came from organizing and clarifying messy complications and confusions and filling in important gaps in sundry published literature, an appeal without strong drawing power for many pioneering minds; the ultimate results were of interest, moreover, only in the no man’s land between physics and chemistry. Although Ruark respected the dependable quality of Plyler’s results and spoke highly of his work, it was really not the kind of dramatic research, relevant to forefront concerns in physics, to which he could have pointed with major satisfaction.

It should be emphasized, though, that this research, because it was attainable through merely respectable intelligence combined with patient and persistent hard work, made ideal material for the research training of students at the graduate level, contained a satisfactory combination of scientific merit, level of challenge, and educational effectiveness to provide the agenda for an impressive series of graduate degrees. During the period from 1934, when Ruark came, to 1940, when Plyler left, he directed nine master’s degrees and eight doctor‘s degrees, respectively 60% and 61.5% of all such graduate degrees in the department. Plyler, who was a gentle but persistent taskmaster, enjoyed the respect and loyalty of his students, many of whom became an asset to the physics community and a credit to the effectiveness of his instruction. After his death in 1976, several of them cooperated in establishing the Earle K. Plyler Prize, now given as an annual award by the American Physical Society for distinguished research in v. molecular spectroscopy.

Major appointees during Ruark’s administration were John A. Wheeler, who came in 1935, Paul E. Shearin, who came in 1936, and James B. Fisk, who was appointed in 1938 and stayed one year.96

Wheeler, who like Ruark had done his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins, was a fortunate acquisition for Ruark and the department, coming here after two years as a post-doctoral Natural Resources Council Fellow, a major part of which was spent with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen, where he had a direct involvement in forefront research on important theoretical problems in the physics of that period (e.g., the energy relationships in nuclear interactions).

He was only twenty-four years old when he came, but his presence enhanced the morale of both colleagues and students. People who had been here then remembered later with grateful enthusiasm his clear-headed analyses, given generously with unpretentious modesty, which made him an exceptional pleasure to work with.

His three-year stay here was long enough to direct the degree research of one doctoral student.97 He went on from here to a long and distinguished career at Princeton, during which he made significant and substantial contributions to the field of physics –typically noteworthy was his coinage of the term ‘black hole’ in connection with astrophysics and relativity theory. His stay here, though, was too short to establish a research tradition to survive him in the department.

Paul E. Shearin, who was Ruark’s second appointment, had already been associated with the department before. He had been a physics major undergraduate here in the 1920 ‘s, serving as lab assistant during his junior and senior years and as teaching fellow thereafter while he earned a master’s degree under Plyler’s direction. This was followed by a doctor’s degree from Ohio State, where he studied with Harald Nielsen, working on the infrared spectra of organic liquids and solid hydrogen chloride.98 Unable initially to obtain a college faculty position because of the widespread academic unemployment at V. this time, he taught high school physics for two years in Rocky Mount, N.C., and was finally reappointed here as instructor in 1936. His connection with this department, begun in 1925, was to continue with no further break until his eventual retirement in 1972, lasting almost 50 years, and would contribute importantly to its history. Appropriately enough, he was a native North Carolinian (b. Halifax County, October 16, 1906).

Shearin’s research plans when he returned were a continuation of his dissertation work at Ohio State on solid hydrogen chloride, and were outlined in the Fred/Pierson 1938 report as leading to a further investigation of diatomic and polyatomic molecules near the transition temperature as it showed up in vibration-rotation spectra. Except for directing the doctoral research of Clifford Beck (Ph.D., 1943) on the infrared spectrum of solid ammonium halides, Shearin was unable to find time to follow up on these plans. He possessed an easy-going competence, which combined with his initial academic “juniority” to impose many extra teaching and administrative responsibilities when he first came. He was a patient, thorough, and fair-minded teacher and colleague, ~~ a natural choice, for instance, to replace Fussier in teaching the large elementary physics course when the latter was forced to go on leave for health reasons, and later to replace Ruark, going on military research leave in 1944, as acting chairman. In 1938 and 1939.he took over a new course in photography and collaborated in its development with John Tiedeman, of the Women’s College of Greensboro, who-had introduced it here during the previous summer. It was well subscribed from the start and eventually became one of the most successful non-specialist courses offered by the department. Another time­consuming obligation was the composition of a departmental history (HISTORY OF THE PHYSICS DEPARTMENT, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1944) undertaken as a contribution to the University’s sesquicentennial program. During the war the university undertook a physics research contract with the navy, in which Shearin was one of the principals.99 When, after a busy ten-year postwar period of full V. departmental chairmanship he was finally replaced and could return in the late 1950’s to active research, his undertakings took an entirely different direction.100

By 1938, the year the UNC engineers finished moving out of Phillips Hall, Ruark’s buildup as department chairman had arrived at what see med a promising situation. The faculty had been increased from three to six, the last of whom to arrive101 was of exceptionally high caliber and up-to-date orientation.

Largely due to Ruark‘s presence and efforts, the department had been gaining in reputation and leadership status, regionally and nationally, within the physics community. He had, for instance, cooperated with other regional leaders in establishing the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society, whose first annual meeting was held jointly here and at Duke on February 19-20, 1937.102 Dudley Williams103 commented on the value of the new organization to previously isolated physicists in the Southeast, similar to the value of the Elisha Mitchell Society to regional scientists when it was first formed in 1884. He had instituted a series of semi-weekly joint colloquia with Duke, which enhanced the tone of professional interest and commitment hereabouts.104

The situation within the department and its readiness for new initiatives were fully described in the Fred/Pierson 1938 report previously cited, which Ruark submitted to appropriate university authorities in December of that year.105 With his characteristic tone of confidence, he described the progress -the department had made since his coming, suggesting that at last, it was in a position to move forward. He cited the increase in staff and noted the 1974 installation of the physics shop, observing that it had “been brought to a state where the equipment [was] better than [in] most universities.” The departmental library had been modernized, and space for new laboratories and research rooms had been made available after the departure of the engineering school. Reconditioning of the building and installation of fixed equipment units106 had been paid for out of a special appropriation of $30,000 provided by the 1937 legislature to take care of modifications made appropriate by the departure of the engineers. Many purchases made toward restoring the deficiencies left after the depression had been paid for from grants by the National Research Council, the Rockefeller Foundation, the General Education Board, and the American Philosophical Society, totaling roughly $7,850, and other useful acquisitions had come as gifts of equipment from the Army Air Corps, the U.S. Navy, and the Western Electric Company.

This period of material build-up, he noted, would soon come to an end. Existing and soon-to-be-acquired apparatus would be enough to support the activities of a number of men for “at least a five year period.”

The section that followed was an itemized account of anticipated and planned departmental research programs. Most of these were continuations of recent research in infra-red spectroscopy, x-rays, and biophysics, but heading the list were two new ones, which constituted Ruark‘s research initiative, his bid to bring the department into the mainstream of contemporary physics. One was a program employing a Van de Graaff generator, to be built locally, and the other a program for a “six Foot Cloud Chamber,” also to be constructed by Dicostanzo and his staff. Each of these instruments was expected to be operational before the year was out.

The research projected for the new equipment was quite up-to-date. The Van de Graaff, a newly invented high voltage particle accelerator,107 had recently come into – use at such forefront institutions as M.I.T., Harvard, and the University of Wisconsin, producing beams of energetic electrons and nuclear particles to serve as bombardment probes revealing the nature and internal structure of atoms and nuclei.

The construction and operation of the machine at Chapel Hill was to be directed by James Fisk, the new appointee, who had come well versed in the technology of its construction, operation, and use. He had taken his Ph.D. at M.I.T. in 1935, where Robert Van de Graaff was then on the faculty, and he had worked on important modifications to a 750,000 volt Van de Graaff at Harvard while a Fellow there in 1936-1938.108 According to Fisk’s account in Ruark’s report, the Chapel Hill machine was to yield three to four million volts of acceleration potential.

Fisk had taken a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, and the experimental expertise he had subsequently acquired had given him an unusually broad competence in contemporary research. Although he could no doubt have directed the project quite adequately by himself, Ruark was named officially as his collaborator.

Fisk had worked on various problems in nuclear physics, some of them theoretical; included among subjects he listed in Ruark’s report were the structure of light nuclei, internal conversion of gamma rays, the disintegration of nuclei by gamma rays (obtained from the bombardment of suitable elements by Van de Graaff protons). His initial project here was to be a “complete investigation of the disintegration of atomic nuclei by high energy gamma rays.”

Ruark, who was to direct the cloud chamber project, was already experienced with cloud-chamber research, having presided over the dissertation work of Creighton C. Jones, (Ph.D., 1938), one of his first two Ph.D. advisees. Jones had taken part in the design and construction of the more conventional chamber used in his doctoral research.

The new chamber, Ruark claimed, would be the largest in the world and, he hoped, one of the world’s most productive physical instruments for “revealing the existence of atomic and nuclear events with a frequency too low for positive detection in any other known way.”

It was to be 6 feet high, 1 foot wide and 10 inches deep, and Ruark noted that in searching for infrequent events it would have an advantage over earlier cloud chambers, of customary size, of from IO-fold to 150-fold, making it possible to study events with a cross section of from 10 to 150 times smaller than those previously available. lts greater dimensions were to make newly ‘feasible the study of tracks from particles with greater energy, since their curvature would now be more readily measurable because of their greater length. Ruark itemized various types of investigation accessible with the larger v. chamber, such as determination of collision cross-sections, the study of pair production by gamma rays in the gas of the chamber, the re-determination of the mass of deuterium by the “method of proton recoil,” nuclear disintegrations produced by cosmic rays, and measurement of the half-life of the neutron, –newly possible by virtue of the enhanced probability of critical events in the large chamber. Work with the larger instrument, he proposed, would begin with an extension of conventional cloud-chamber studies which had recently been made (referring, no doubt to Jones’s research).

The Van de Graaff and big cloud-chamber proposals constituted a high-water-mark in Ruark’s drive toward professional attainment during the period of his chairmanship. The outcome, regrettably, makes rather sad telling.

James Fisk left at the end of the year, going on to better things at Bell Telephone Labs. His reason for leaving, he said officially, was that he had decided the University simply did not have adequate resources to support the project he had come there to do.109 In private conversation he was outspoken in explaining his departure as partly due to the fact that collaboration with Ruark had become a serious burden on his time. He was called on to supply frequent explanations and to engage in extensive analyses he considered superfluous. Some of this amounted to a de facto “teaching load” he had not expected, and the merely reportorial requests came too frequently and in too much detail.

There were undoubtedly budgetary problems too. Ruark was given to intemperate angry outbursts against makers of policy, as well as to uncompromising positions vis-a-vis competitors in the various University departments for supplies and budgetary allotments. Official responses to his requests, which had initially been generous and cooperative, became decreasingly so. At any rate, the initial Van de Graaff proposal was unrealistically optimistic in its predictions of a nine-month completion time, whether the delays were due to budgetary and political problems or to procedural inefficiency.

After Fisk‘s departure, Ruark continued doggedly with his confident predictions, v. but in 1941 he was finally forced to the reluctant admission (“we must face the fact …,” he wrote, that ”this important machine” could not be finished “until a year and a half after the close of the war.”

The fate of the cloud chamber was even grimmer. It was spoken of in two succeeding departmental reports, with official optimism but shrinking confidence. In December, 1940, he wrote: “During the year we completed a cloud chamber for viewing electron tracks, which is the largest in the world …. It was thoroughly tried out and results were not satisfactory, so it is now being modified, and should soon be in excellent shape.” Again, a year later: “Our large cloud chamber has been rebuilt, and tests will soon be made.” No further mention appears in this record.

The large cloud chamber survived Ruark’s 1944 departure and was around the department for a number of years thereafter, constituting a hazardous challenge to various ambitious graduate students who rashly expended time and resources trying to get it to yield useful tracks. There is no recorded or remembered testimony that such an attempt was ever successful, and for a while it became known as “snow White’s Coffin.” 110

The coming of the war put an end to Ruark’s ambitions to do or encourage forefront non-military physics research in his department. Since he did not come back afterward, his record as physicist and chairman here must be evaluated primarily on the basis of his pre-war performance.

On the level of intellectual leadership it gets high marks. His brilliance was beyond question, as was also his knowledge and understanding of contemporary physics. It has been said that he did most of the work put into the writing of ATOMS, MOLECULES , AND QUANTA, the book which made him famous, and he contributed numerous worth111 while ideas to the physics community at meetings and in papers. Also noteworthy was his ability to grasp the nutshell essentials of a complex scientific paper and to express them in pithy presentation.112

He was widely known by physicists, including the best of them,113 and he knew his way around well in the academic circuit; it was easy, for instance, for him to assume leadership in the 1937 formation of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society.

These various assets, dynamically useful in many circumstances, were unfortunately marred by other less valuable traits. One of the latter was an excessive preoccupation with organizational detail, which gave Ruark a reputation for “organizing himself to a dead standstill.”

A second trait remembered by colleagues was complimentary to the first -­disorganization arising from yielding to tempting tangential sidetracks; some physicists would call it a “high scattering coefficient.” Paul Shearin remembers that Ruark would often go abruptly from one thing to another, losing interest in the previous subject without following through on it. He compares Ruark to R. W. Wood, whose performance at Johns Hopkins, illustrious though it was, suffered he says from a similar lack of discipline.

Other bothersome traits, having to do with human relations, detracted from Ruark’s effectiveness as a department head and as a teacher. While he could be personally charming and inspiring, his fits of anger and hostility were unpredictable and undiplomatic, and they provoked hostile responses both in the department and elsewhere on the campus. Also on occasion endearing were his self-confident assertions, which could degenerate into simple bragging. They were often coupled with rash predictions, such as those made about the large cloud chamber project, where he ended up looking rather foolish. Confident assumptions of imminent triumph are today often regarded positively in our salesmanship-oriented culture, but when they backfire the penalty can still be severe and the over sized ego they manifest can provoke skepticism and distrust.

Ruark ‘s relations with the graduate students whose work he directed seems to have been satisfactory –at least Creighton Jones stated without reservation that he found v. Ruark a good research director in all respects. However, attitudes among students surely varied somewhat with the individual, and Scott Barr, who had been personally fond of Ruark, observed later that “there were times when the graduate students trembled at the sight of seeing him come down the hall. They’d dodge around the corner so they could avoid him, and that sort of thing.”114

After he left the University, Ruark’s career included extensive government service, such as the many years he spent with the Atomic Energy Commission in the controlled thermonuclear program, and three years of academic duty in a named professorship at the University of Alabama. He died in 1979 at the age of 79.

His professional obituary115 details the places he had been and in what capacity, with some general words of praise for his continued “striving for intellectual honesty” and the fact that “his phenomenal recall of scientific facts continually amazed his associates.”116 It was unable, however, to cite a single memorable permanent contribution he had made to the science of physics. In view of his profound respect for the discipline and his intense passion for its advancement, this note is indeed saddening.

Though he fell short of lasting fame, this should not obscure the importance of his contribution to the department’s growth and development, nor the residue it left, a silent memorial to his tenure, of enhanced awareness of physics as a professional enterprise and of broader participation in its thrust at the national level, a legacy about which the Whyburn report testified so convincingly. This transition was intimately associated with Ruark‘s dynamic personality and, for all his faults, owed much to his forceful and energetic leadership.

VI. Chapel Hill Physics in World War II (1940-1946)

The shadow of World War II, which began in September, 1939, fell officially over the University on June 7, 1940, exactly 18 months before Pearl Harbor117, when a resolution was passed by the trustees that a committee be appointed to consider the installation of military training at Chapel Hill. This resolution was extended in August to include the other two branches of the University, to call for fund allocation financing local airport improvement, and to make explicit a concept of National Defense training to which the University was to be committed.

Early developments arising from these resolutions included the establishment of a Naval R.O.T.C. unit, strengthening of student physical training, a program to turn out civilian airplane pilots, and the introduction of new courses and new emphasis in existing ones. After the December, 1941, entry of the United States into the war there came new developments more immediately relevant to the nation’s military training goals. Notable among these were: (1) designation of the UNC at Chapel Hill (one among four institutions so chosen) as the base for Pre-Flight School for “physical conditioning and -toughening” of cadets for air service; 118 a Navy V-12 program which provided officer training for Annapolis-caliber education for students in the Registered Reserve and Naval R.O.T.C. programs119 and (3) two important units (for pre-meteorology and language area studies) of the Army Special Training Program. 120

Estimates have been made of the enrollment in these new military programs. The pre-flight program, which was commissioned in May, 1942, accounted for 1800 cadets when it grew to its full quota. The Army Special Training units and the V-12 program (begun in July, 1943) accounted for about 1300 students. There was also a six-course program taken by many of the 800 women students enrolled, designed to qualify them as WAVES, WACS, or other similar service personnel. This would add up to 3900 VL students assigned to or eligible for specially designed service oriented curricula.121 The other male students taking civilian degree programs, many of which were maintained though with a sharply reduced population, were primarily students classified 4F by the Draft Boards. The overall increase in total enrollment can be gauged by comparing the estimated figure of approximately 4,700 in 1942-3122 with the official University fall enrollment of 3,509 in 1938.

The course enrollment for the department of physics is recorded in the chairman’s reports for that period as estimated from departmental records. Freshman and sophomore physics courses, which had contained about 300 students under normal peace­time conditions, increased in the fall of 1942 to around 600, reflecting a sharply heightened student interest in taking physics. Special courses were designed for the wartime situation, such as Physics 10, a special three-month course taught by Ruark and Rosen for a group of preinduction students, and physics A, (Radio Communications), a well-attended course taught by J. Gray McAllister, a departmental windfall in the local community.

As a result of additional demands by the pre-meteorology and V-12 programs, the freshman/sophomore enrollment increased by September, 1943, to a wartime peak of 1100, spawning an acute need for additional classroom teachers and laboratory instructors. Such vacancies had already become harder to fill as qualified physicists were absorbed into wartime industry/research and the local pool of graduate students continued to decrease.

To cope with this crisis unusual measures had to be adopted, such as the temporary employment of colleagues from nearby colleges and from the better high schools of the state. 123 Most of these, as Ruark reported, proved ”more than satisfactory, demonstrating the presence of first-rate men in the high school system.”

An even more striking measure adopted was the employment of teachers drawn from other departments on the campus, where they had because of wartime student shortages come to be underemployed. To provide preparation for such volunteers a six months course was run and attended by seventeen people of whom three (from Education, Philosophy, and Psychology) became full-fledged physics instructors for the duration of the emergency. The names of the various extras were included in an annual report being listed with the regular faculty, yielding a full-time teaching staff of five along with temporary teaching staffs of 16 full-time, 12 half-time, and 3 quarter-time auxiliaries.

From this peak population of 1100 the number of students in physics courses declined steadily until the end of the war as the military training enterprise fell off. By January of 1946 the number was down to 166, well below the prewar norm, and it was beginning to increase again, rising to a total of 366 the following December.124

In contrast with the heavy involvement in undergraduate teaching during the war was a severe curtailment in graduate study; in his report for 1943 Ruark noted that the department‘s “last Ph.D.”125 had gone into full-time war work, and that advanced course offerings were now limited to the master’s degree level. Academic research dwindled here also as scientific brainpower was drawn into military and war-oriented industrial research and the supply of graduate students was cut off. The department did, however, obtain two military research contracts, as noted in the 1942 departmental report.

The earliest of these, which became known as the “metals project,” was the Naval Research Laboratory. It arose out of national puzzlement over the surprising and disastrous epidemic of breakups in the new Liberty Ships and its two research programs dealt with the fracturing effect in metals and with the scaling effect in testing. The most crucial finding of the former was that the embrittlement of metals in fracture was temperature-sensitive, so that conditions apparently providing adequate proof against fracture under lab testing conditions could still be inadequate in frigid ocean waters. The second program involved primarily geometric factors and led to more interesting, as well as more esoteric physics.

The second contract, made with the National Defense Research Council, involved the design of feedback instrumentation for anti-aircraft fire control. Construction work was done in the physics shop and field testing was done at Camp Davis on Topsail Island. This contract, supervised by Eugene Greuling during his tenure here, resulted in a number of instruments, which constituted important items in the wartime evolution of computing and fire control.

The instrumentation contract was terminated in October 1945, but the metals contract lasted well into the post-war period (it was still going in 1948-1949), and resulted in a large number of papers, some of them delivered at special scientific meetings such as one presented by Paul Shearin to a 1947 meeting at the University of Bristol in Bristol, England.126

During the course of its existence, many people worked on the metals contract. Initially, they were Rosen, Ruark, Shearin, and Cooper in the physics department and Ralph M. Trimble in mathematics.127 In later phases, particularly after 1947-1948, when its supporting funds were increased from $15,000 to $40,000 a year, full-time contract employment was extended to others, including Marguerite M. Rogers, a departmental faculty wife who was also herself a physicist, and T. Eugene Pardue, who had earned an M.A. degree here in 1941. Other faculty employed under the contract were Fred T. Rogers, Jr., and Joseph W. Straley. Nestore Dicostanzo, of course, continued to direct the shop staff, which had contributed significantly to the country’s military needs during the war. In the postwar world it numbered five at this time and included Mrs. J, Gray (Rose) McAllister.

Mrs. McAllister, who is entitled to special mention in this chronicle, was the wife of the J. Gray McAllister who had contributed so helpfully to the department’s wartime program when he offered the Radio Communications course. In 1946 she went to work running the liquid air machine, initially only to make a little money, and as time passed she became a permanent and highly valued member of the non-teaching staff. She remained with the department for many years until she retired in 1972.

During the wartime period the department was expanded by two faculty appointments which continued afterward. Nathan Rosen came to teach here in the summer of 1941 after a year at Black Mountain College and received a permanent appointment that fall. Joseph W. Straley, then acting head of the physics department at Toledo University in Ohio, came in July, 1944, with a temporary wartime appointment, which was replaced in 1946 by a permanent appointment as associate professor.

Rosen, before going to Black Mountain, had taken a doctor’s degree under J.C. Slater at M.I.T. in 1932, followed by post-doctoral research at Michigan (where he was a fellow of the National Research Council), Princeton, and the Institute of Advanced Study, and two years as professor of theoretical physics at Kiev in the U.S.S.R. In addition to substantial early and subsequent contributions to physics as teacher and theorist, he made, while at Princeton and the Institute, a memorable and substantial contribution to the philosophy of quantum mechanics when he collaborated with Albert Einstein and Boris Podolsky on a paper questioning the orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics, which became a standard part of the literature on its associated debates.128 Rosen remained in Chapel Hill until 1952 when he and his family joined the migration to Israel. He was a valuable member of the faculty, and during the war he had contributed usefully to military research.

Paul Shearin remarks that Joseph Straley was his first faculty appointment, made just after he became acting chairman when Ruark left to do wartime research at the Naval Research Laboratory in the summer of 1944. He still speaks with gratitude of the contributions made by this energetic young recruit toward the maintenance of some order in the midst of wartime confusions bordering on the chaotic, and still feels lucky to have found Straley’s name, which was on a list of physicists compiled and distributed by the National Manpower Commission to help alleviate the shortage.

Straley had done his Ph.D. research (at Ohio State in 1941) in infrared spectroscopy, and he directed graduate research in this field for a number of years following the war. His role in the University, the community, the state, and the nation was broader than that of the average faculty member, and he contributed importantly to many public and academic concerns, including quality physics education, teacher recruitment and training, and community betterment. He supported crucial political initiatives at local, state, and national levels, and his energetic pursuit of what he found worth-while retained its thrust without cessation after his official retirement in 1980.129

As hostilities ended during 1945, the administration and faculty n the University began looking forward to the beginning of the fall quarter of 1946 as the time when (as Shearin expressed it in a departmental report), a return might be expected to “more nearly normal peacetime activities.” By the spring of 1946, it had become a pressing question what decision Ruark would make about returning to the University.

From correspondence in the University archives dated in 1945 and 1946 several things are clear.130

Ruark, in a September 1945, letter to House, had requested an early interview and presented his view of national events as seen from Washington. He expected a considerable postwar inflation and was concerned about what the University would be able to muster in the way of faculty salary increases. About two months later Walter Gordy wrote President Graham expressing concern as an interested alumnus over impressions he had received and inferences he had made suggesting that Ruark might not be returning to Chapel Hill and recommending a possible replacement. Dudley Williams, another alumnus, had heard similar rumors and wrote about the same time to Dean Hobbs expressing similar concerns.

Gordy’s letter alluded to “remarks” Ruark had made to him, which suggests, in conjunction with statements in Ruark’s September letter to House131 that Ruark may have been deferring his return in order to shop for positions in alternative institutions.

In the following February Ruark had still not declared his intentions for the fall of 1946. House, in response to a request from Shearin, wrote him on March 4 asking him to inform the University whether he would be back then.

By late March impatience with the situation was mounting in the department, coupled no doubt with a considerable ambivalence as to whether Ruark’s return was really desirable. A letter to House, dated March 22, 1946, and signed by Karl Fussier, Nathan Rosen, and Joseph Straley, requested the appointment of Paul Shearin as Head of the Department for 1946-7.

On April 6 a letter was sent out by House setting up a special University-wide committee of six and requesting them to recommend a replacement for Ruark, who was said to have resigned his professorship and headship.

The committee, under the chairmanship of John N. Couch, reported to House on May 18, recommending that Paul Shearin be appointed Chairman of the Department of Physics for a period of three years and that “the Department, under his chairmanship, select immediately a man to replace Dr. Ruark as Professor of Physics and refer his name to this committee for its consideration.”

These are the public details, but it became well known among department faculty members that although Ruark had indeed resigned his professorship he had done so only after being told he would not be reappointed as head of the department. There seems to be no written record of this in the archives, but it was confirmed to Shearin by Ruark during what was very nearly his last visit to Chapel Hill. It had already been learned directly from House, who had come to the end of his patience before taking this action.

No replacement for Ruark was ever obtained, but Paul E. Shearin became officially Chairman of the Department of Physics without further delay. He remained in this capacity until July 1, 1956.


  1. While the two subjects have always been closely associated in this department, the word “astronomy” did not become officially part of its title until 1973, when its present designation was adopted. See a pamphlet by Morris Davis entitled “History of Astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1792-­1975.” Beginning in 1950 there was officially a separate Department of Astronomy, but it only lasted about three years.
  1. See Kemp P. Battle, HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, Vol 1–From its Beginning to the Death of President Swain, 1789-1868 (Edwards & Broughton Printing Company, Raleigh, N.C., 1907) pp 54, 55, 56.
  1. See p. 1 in Paul E. Shearin’s “HISTORY OF THE PHYSICS DEPARTMENT,” Chapel Hill, NC, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1944.
  1. Caldwell had been here since 1796, when he came as a Professor of Mathematics. Initially there was no President–only a Presiding Professor serving as administrator, an office that came to be held by Caldwell, whose title was elevated to that of President by the Trustees in 1804.
  1. See Louis R. Wilson, THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, 1900-1930–The Making of a Modern University (Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 1957), p. 21.
  1. Louis R. Wilson, op., cit., p. 3.
  1. See Battle, op. cit. pp 132 ff.
  1. Battle, op. cit., pp. 181, 182.
  1. Battle, op. cit., p.292.
  1. For more details, see Morris Davis, op. c:it., and Chapter 10-in Archibald Henderson’s THE CAMPUS OF THE FIRST STATE UNIVERSITY, (Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 1949). Many of the instruments he brought back are still preserved, and some of these are exhibited photographically on p. 46 of William s. Powell’s THE FIRST STATE UNIVERSITY, (Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 1972).
  1. Henderson, op. cit. p. 99.
  1. See further Henderson, op. cit., p. 100, and citations there. Battle’s figure was on his p. 33 5.
  2.  Caldwell undertook the observatory building at this own expense but was later reimbursed. For an early description of the observatory, see Battle, op. cit. pp. 334, 335.
  1. The historical material in this paragraph was contributed by Bruce Carney.
  1. Battle, p. 180.
  1. Denison Olmsted, INTRODUCTION TO NATURAL PHILOSOPHY, Designed as a Text Book for the Use of Students in Yale College.
  1. Phillips Russell, THE WOMAN WHO RANG THE BELL, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1949, p. 13.
  1. Battle, p. 257.
  1. See, for instance, Battle, p. 552, where it is noted that James Phillips was induced by his son, Charles, to “turn over … the Experiments in Natural philosophy,” after which Charles “repaired and polished the dust-covered instruments bought by Dr. Caldwell in 1824 and proved to be a brilliant experimenter.” See also an account in Battle, p. 475, of a scientific demonstration performed publicly during the Commencement program of 1842, in which “the indefatigable Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Mitchell, made various very successful experiments with the fine electro-magnetic apparatus which the University has lately procured from Boston. He produced powerful and most rapid motion by magnetism alone, and demonstrated the practicability of its application to useful arts.” It was apparently Mitchell, rather than the “physics” professor in the math department, who volunteered to do such things.
  1. For instance, by Barbara Myers Schwartz, in “Joseph Henry, America’s Premier Physics Teacher, in PHYSICS HISTORY FROM AAPT JOURNALS (Melba Newell Phillips, ed.), American Association of Physics Teachers, 1985, p. 175. Citing Stanley Guralnick, an American historian of science, she remarks that in the middle nineteenth century, knowledge was considered by many to be static, “to be acquired by rote drilling and memorization. There was little concern with stimulating intellectual curiosity or in making use of the student’s interest to encourage learning.”
  1. James Vickers and others. CHAPEL HILL, An Illustrated History, (Chapel Hill, N.C., Barclay Publishers, 1985) p. 31.
  1. p. 464 in Battle.
  1. p. 542.
  1. Russell, op. cit., p. 19.
  1. Battle, p. 537.
  1. Battle, p. 54·3.
  1. Battle, p. 642.
  1. For an extended discussion of this development in the national scene, see Allan Nevins THE STATE UNIVERSITIES AND DEMOCRACY, Urbana, Ill., University of Illinois Press, 1962.
  1. The new course in Agricultural Chemistry was probably adapted from a similar course at Yale begun in 1847, making use of a subject developed in Europe by Humphrey Davy and Baron von Liebig. See Nevin, pp. 9, 10.
  1. The number of students, 430 in the fall of 1859, was down to 63 matriculates in the fall of 1864; at the 1865 commencement there were 15 graduates and in 1866 only three, compared to the 94 in 1858, a representative pre-war year; see Battle, op. cit., appendix and passim., pp. 721-753.
  1. The details of this sequence are fully described at the beginning of the second volume of Battle‘s history: Kemp P. Battle, HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, Vol. II–FROM 1860 TO 1912 (Raleigh, Edwards and Broughton Printing Company, 1912), referred to hereinafter as “Battle II.”
  1. Battle II, p. 272.
  1. The passage quoted begins on p. 275, Battle II.
  1. Battle II, p. 124.
  1. By the time this change was made, the Chapel Hill institution had begun to receive direct legislative appropriations, which minimized the fiscal impact of the change.
  1. The elder Venable had been a Civil War colonel and was a public figure of some prominence. Francis P. Venable’s family and educational origins are presented in some detail in Maurice M. Bursey‘s CAROLINA CHEMISTS, The Department of Chemistry of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1982, Ch. 2.
  1. For a full account of their attainments see Bursey, op. cit., pp. 41-57 and Ch. 3.
  1. See Maurice M. Bursey, op. cit. pp. 53ff. For an account of his administration as University President, see Louis R. Wilson THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, 1900-1930 (op. cit. Book Two (pp. 43-179)).
  1. Battle II, p. 512; Louis R. Wilson, op. cit. p. 46; Nancy Smith Midgette, “Vanguard of a New Generation; the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society and the Scientific Profession in the South,” THE JOURNAL OF THE ELISHA MITCHELL SOCIETY, 100 (2), 1984, pp. 27-35.
  1. Midgette, op. cit., p. 34.
  1. Melba Phillips, “Early history of physics laboratories for students at the college levels,” Am. J. Phys., 49 (6), June 1982, and “Laboratories and the Rise of the Physics Profession in the Nineteenth Century,” Am J. Phys., 51 (6), 1983, both reprinted in PHYSICS HISTORY FROM AAPT J OURNALS (Melba Phillips, ed.) 1985.
  1. For a recent term paper in a history of science course, Thomas Kevin Cherry examined a diary Gore kept during a European trip he made in the summer of 1883, and noted that the recurrence of references to museum visits he had made testify to his fascination with gadgetry-a railroad, a cathedral clock, a fisheries exhibit, and the first locomotive with smooth wheels, of which he made a drawing.
  1. Cherry
  1. Louis Round Wilson ‘s account (op. cit., p. 16) notes that “under the skillful handling of Professor Joshua W. Gore,” the x-ray apparatus in the laboratory of the Department of Physics “was used effectively in locating fractures in bones and metal objects in wounds that could not be discovered by ‘probing,’” anticipating “later standard medical practice.”
  1. The transition had taken place both in England and America. See the second of the two articles by Melba Phillips previously cited.
  1. In 1875-76 Alexander Redd was Professor of Physics and Chemistry; Ralph Henry Graves had charge of Physics (called by that name) in 1876-77; in 1877-8 he also taught Mechanics and Astronomy. In 1878-79 Carey D. Grandy, who had come at the reopening in 1875-6 as Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Chemistry, took permanent charge of the subject, which was once again called natural philosophy. It retained that traditional title under Gore when he came as a replacement after Grandy’s untimely illness and death. See appropriate university catalogues and Battle II, passim.
  1. The origin of the older term is something of a story in itself. The translation as “natural philosophy” had been one of the possible renderings of Aristotle’s “physics” and was appropriated in the 17th century for the new natural science of Galileo and Newton. See William Calvert Kneale, “Philosophy and Philosophical Studies,” vol. 17, p.756 in the 1957 ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA (William Benton, Publ.) In its subsequent evolution the content of natural philosophy, as written in textbooks and taught in universities, changed gradually from Aristotelian (often called “peripatetic” or “scholastic”) physics, which dominated textbooks in the early seventeenth century, to modern scientific physics, which had become well established by the middle of the 1700’s. Cf. J. J. McCarthy, “Physics in American Colleges Before 1750,” p. 163 in Melba Phillips (ed.) PHYSICS HISTORY FROM AAPT JOURNALS (op. cit. 1985.)
  1. Collier Cobb, “Joshua Walker Gore,” p. 197, vol. 15 of BIOGRAPHIC HISTORY OF NORTH CAROLINA (Samuel O’Court, Publisher, 1905).
  1. Battle II, p. 597.
  1. Battle lit pp. 389,475.
  1. Collier Cobb, op. cit.
  1. Battle Il p. 688.
  1. Louis R. Wilson, op. cit., p. 5.
  1. L. R. Wilson, op. cit., p. 72.
  1. Battle II, p. 742.
  1. Louis R. Wilson, Op. Cit., pp. 3, 4.
  1. Patterson’s father was Colonel Rufus Lenoir Patterson, an alumnus of 1851 and a Trustee for many years, who was explicitly credited by Kemp Plummer Battle with persuading him to accept the presidency after the 1875 reopening. Rufus Lenoir Patterson was in turn the son of Samuel F. Patterson, also an active trustee –this time only during President Swain’s administration. Samuel Patterson had connected the later Trustee relatives of the family with the earlier trustees by marrying a granddaughter of General William Lenoir, who in 1790 had served as the first president of the Board of Trustees. It is worth noting here also that Drew Patterson had a brother, Rufus Lenoir Patterson (Jr.), who shared credit in 1931 with John Motley Morehead as a donor for the University Bell Tower.
  1. For two obituaries, see Alumni Review, October, 1928, p. 11, and Georgia Alumni Record, January, 1936, p. 10. In 1897 Andrew Patterson married Eleanor Spurrier Alexander, daughter of Eben Alexander, who had been Professor of Greek at the University of North Carolina and served as an important dean in the first ten years of Venable’s term.
  1. Trustee Affairs (UNC) Minutes, vol. 12, pp. 113, 114.
  1. According to the testimony in July of 1987 of Sterling Stoudemire, who had attended mathematics classes there as a freshman in 1918, some use was already being made of the building even that soon.
  1. CHAPEL HILL, An Illustrated History, by James Vickers (Text), Thomas Scism (Illustrations), and Dixon Qualls (Color Photographs), 1985, Chapel Hill, Barclay Publishers, discusses this on p. 118, giving as an example work done by Patterson and T. Felix Hickerson planning the Gimghoul Castle, in the century’s middle “teens” and in the middle twenties, when it was actually built.
  1. Arthur Stanley Link, A History of the Buildings at the University of North Carolina. A thesis … for the degree of Bachelor of Arts, with honors, in the Department of History (Chapel Hill, 1941) Typescript in the University of North Carolina Library. p. 184. See also Trustee Affairs (UNC) Minutes vol. 12, 1904­1916 pp. 489, and 1917-24 pp. 43, 59.
  1. Wilson, op. cit. pp. 426 ff.
  1. Greensboro Daily News, September 11, 1928.
  1. See list compiled by Elizabeth Henderson of all departmental graduate degrees, 1901-1985.
  1. op. cit., p. 7.
  1. Letter of Howard Alexander Patterson to his daughter, Mrs. William (Betsy) Lancaster, May 20, 1973. It is of some interest that although he did not make any serious effort toward it, there were people in the University in 1919 who considered him a serious possibility to become president of the University. His granddaughter, Betsy Lancaster, provided me with a document which dates from this period and which paints a most convincing picture of his merits.
  1. In fact, it was written by J. Fenton Daugherty, who had done an earlier master’s thesis in 1925 under Stuhlman.
  1. See his faculty committee obituary by Joseph W. Straley, V. A. Hoyle, and Paul E. Shearin, chairman.
  1. See his obituary by E. Scott Barr, Walter J. Lafferty and Steve Edwards in Physics Today, November, 1976, p. 84.
  1. Barr, Lafferty, and Edwards, op. cit.
  1. Interview with E. K. Plyler, April 7, 1964, by E. S. Barr with W. S. King present, transcribed and kept at the Center for History and Philosophy of Physics, American Institute of Physics, New York City; transcript, p. 16.
  1. Chase to Kennard, June 7, 1929. In CHANCELLOR’S RECORDS, PHYSICS. UNC Archives, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
  1. See President Frank P. Graham‘s 1930 report to the University Trustees for a graphic account of this crisis.
  1. The State College of Agriculture and Engineering at Raleigh, the traditional University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and the Women’s College at Greensboro.
  1. Further details of the process have been given by Louis R. Wilson in THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA UNDER CONSOLIDATION, 1931-1963, HISTORY AND APPRAISAL . . . .
  1. Ruark, Arthur Edward and Urey, Harold Clayton, ATOMS, MOLECULES, AND QUANTA, New York and London, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1930.
  1. Report to the president by a “Committee on the headship of the Department of Physics” in folder labelled “Physics Department, 1930-1935,” CHANCELLORS OFFICE RECORDS, from ROBERT BURTON HOUSE SERIES in the University Archives, Manuscripts Department, UNC Library, Chapel Hill, N .c.
  1. Graham to Ruark, May 8, 1935, ROBERT BURTON HOUSE SERIES in CHANCELLORS OFFICE RECORDS (Physics Department, 1930-1935), University Archives, Manuscripts Department, UNC Library. Future references to this source will be abbreviated as “House Series, 1930-1935”.
  1. P. 1, Report accompanying letter, Ruark to Graham, April 12, 1934, House Series, 1930-1935,_loc. cit.
  1. Ruark to Graham, April 12, 1934, House series, 1930-1935, loc. cit.
  1. Graham to Ruark, May 8, 1934, House Series, 1930-1935, loc. cit.
  1. Transcript of a Tape Recorded Interview of E. K. Plyler by E. S. Barr on April 7, 1964. Center for History and Philosophy of Physics, American Institute of Physics, New York, pp. 16, 17.
  1. P. 1 in notes on interviews with Paul Edmondson Shearin, December, 1985, Department of Physics Records, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N .C.
  1. See his “Autobiographical Notes,” pp. I-1 through I-79, in Dudley Williams, COLLECTED PAPERS, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, 1982, particularly at pp. 1-25, 1-26.
  1. His current “top ten,’1 one of which must be “edged out,” were Harvard, Massachusetts Tech., Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Chicago, California, and California Tech. Letter of February 7, 1935 from Arthur E. Ruark to Dean R. B. House, in Records of the Dean of the Arts and Sciences: Physics Department, University Archives, Manuscripts Department, UNC Library, Chapel Hill.
  1. Letter of transmittal to Dean R. B. House with ANNUAL REPORT OF PHYSICS DEPARTMENT, 1934-35, fall 1935 in Records of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, loc. cit.
  1. Records of the Dean of the Arts and Sciences, loc. cit. quotation is from p. 11.
  1. Shearin, HISTORY OF THE PHYSICS DEPARTMENT, 1944, p. 7.
  1. W. M. Whyburn report, UNC Archives, Phys/Astronomy; submitted May 9 by D. P. Costello, H. D. Crockford, W.W. Pierson, and W. M. Whyburn, chairman, in response to their appointment to “survey the needs of the Physics Department.”
  1. e.g., the General Railway Signal Company, the Northeast Electrical Company, later the Delco Corporation, and the Builder’s Iron Foundry, makers of high grade water meters. See section on “Shop and Power Facilities” in December 26, 1938 report by Arthur Ruark and others to Dean Fred of Arts and Sciences and W. W. Pierson, Dean of the Graduate School –later referred to as the “Fred/Pierson 1938 report.” The report, which is over 110 pages long, is titled RESEARCH PROGRAM AND FACILITIES, THE DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA.”
  1. Chairman’s Annual Report of the Physics Department 1934-5, UNC Archives.
  1. Dudley Williams, op. cit., p. 1-2.
  1. AN INTRODUCTION TO BIOPHYSICS, 1943, John Wiley and sons. –
  1. Physics Department Head’s report, December 127 1938.
  1. Russell H. Lyddane, who came first as a temporary appointment in 1938, left during the war and remained in military research afterward. Nathan Rosen came as an important faculty appointment in 1941, but belongs more properly to the post-war, post-Ruark period.
  1. Katharine Way, Ph.D., 1938.
  1. The chief dates in Shearin’s educational preparation were: 1925 {matriculation at UNC), 1929 (A.B.), 1930 (A.M.), 1931-2 (instructor at UNC), 1934 (Ph.D. at Ohio State University).
  1. As were also Ruark and Ralph M. Trimble (of the mathematics department).
  1. After joining the faculty in 1944 as Shearin’s first appointment, Joseph W. Straley took over the departmental program in infra­red spectroscopy, in which he had also done Ph.D. research with Harald Nielsen at Ohio State.
  1. James 8. Fisk, who had replaced John Wheeler.
  1. See E. Scott Barr, “The First Meeting of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society,U BULLETIN OF THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY s II 13, (February, 1968) 230 (Abstract).
  1. Dudley Williams, op. cit. pp. 1-26, 1-27.
  1. The presence of newly arrived European physicists at Duke (notably L. W. Nordheim, Hertha Sponer –later Sponer-Franck –and in 1939 Fritz London) intensified this effect.
  1. “Research Program and Facilities, the Department of Physics, University of North Carolina” , circa 104 pp., with letters of transmittal dated December 26, 1938, to E. B. Fred, Dean of Arts &: Sciences and W. W. Pierson, Dean of Graduate School.
  1. Including, notably, a liquid air plant chiefly for use by physics and chemistry here and at neighboring schools.
  1. It had been developed at Princeton about 1930 by Robert Jemison Van de Graaff, a post-doctoral fellow there. For its operating principles and history see James M. Cork, RADIOACTIVITY AND NUCLEAR PHYSICS, New York, Van Nostrand, 1947, Ch. 3, and references cited there.
  1. See I. A. Getting, J.B. Fisk, and H. G. Vogt, PHYSICAL REVIEW, 56 1098 (1939).
  1. Creighton Jones interview notes, p. 2.
  1. Various explanations have been given for its failure, chiefly one invoking its extreme size as leading to temperature gradients and convection currents. One possible diagnosis is suggested in a story recalled by Everett Palmatier, who inherited the Ruark artifact after coming here in 1949 and initially hoped it might be useful in his cosmic-ray research. He and W. W. Brown, a Duke acquaintance conversant with cloud chamber technology, examined the construction of Ruark’s chamber and found a serious flaw –a wooden frame which had been placed in front of the expansion mechanism for purposes they could not determine. This frame, they calculated, would make it mechanically impossible fo obtain an expansion ratio of the size theoretically needed to produce tracks. There was no way, however, to determine whether this frame had been there early or was added after Ruark’s departure.
  1. See, for instances, citation in Max Jammer THE CONCEPTUAL DEVELOPMENT OF QUANTUM MECHANICS, New York et al., McGraw-Hill, 1966.
  1. This showed up, for instance, when he was serving as editor for SCIENCE ABSTRACTS.
  1. Everett Palmatier recalls finding an abandoned box of Ruark‘s correspondence, containing letters from a world-wide assortment of physicists, a number of them famous. He surmises the box would today command a substantial price from autograph collectors.
  1. Interview of Plyler by Barr, p. 93
  1. PHYSICS TODAY, September, 1979, p. 84.
  1. Another statement from the obituary is worth adding: “Although he often presented a gruff exterior, those who knew him found underneath a soft heart with a true caring for the individual, especially the underprivileged.11 His former student Creighton Jones (loc. cit., p. 2) recently endorsed this statement as true also in his younger days.
  1. Louis R. Wilson, THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA UNDER CONSOLIDATION, 1931-1963–HISTORY AND APPRAISAL (Chapel Hill, UNC Consolidated Office, 1964), Ch. X.
  1. op. cit., p. 108.
  1. Others were either recommended for pre-commission training, allowed to continue as worthy non-commissioned recipients of all or part of a free college education, or discontinued for disciplinary reasons such as academic failure; see the alumni letter by J, Maryon S~unders, ALUMNI REVIEW xxxii No. 1 (October, 1943) p. 231.
  1. Wilson, op. cit., pp. 108, 109.
  1. The pre-Flight Cadets were not intermingled with the regular student body or regular classes, but had their own prescribed programs of specially designed courses in separately reserved classroom buildings. The V-12 students, however, though they wore uniforms and took prescribed programs, were taught in essentially standard courses, intermingled and graded with civilian students. Wilson (op. cit., p. 106) noted that the University “remained in control of its regular program, which, while varying from the normal, still retained much of its spirit and general characteristics. Course lengths were modified and term lengths were frequently shifted, and women students constituted a decidedly larger portion of the regular student population than formerly, but much of the former pattern of the University remained the same.”
  1. Wilson, op. cit., p. 109.
  1. Ruark, CHAIRMAN’S REPORT, JAN. 26, 1944, p. 2.
  1. These numbers are taken from the chairman’s reports for December 16, 1942, February 15, 1945, and December 19, 1946.
  1. Clifford Beck, under the direction of Paul Shearin. –
  1. Another such paper was “Size Effects in Steels and Other Metals,” by P. E. Shearin, A. E. Ruark, and R. M. Trimble, given at the Chicago Seminar on Fracturing of Metals, Copyright 1948.
  1. Fred Coensgen, Robert Hines, and Edwin Burns, in the physics shop, were also working for the contract in this period.
  1. A. Einstein, B. Podolsky and N. Rosen, “Can quantum-mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete?” PHYSICAL REVIEW 47, 777-780 (1935). For the story of this collaboration see Max Jammer, THE PHILOSOPHY OF QUANTUM MECHANICS, Wiley & Sons, New York et al., 1974, pp. 180, 181.
  1. Two wartime appointees of longer residence may also be noted, although their tenure did not outlast the war. They were Dr. Eugene P. Cooper (1941-1943) and Dr. Eugene Greuling (1942-1944).
  1. See particularly: Arthur Ruark to R. B. House, September 10, 1945; Walter Gordy to Frank P. Graham, November 21, 1945, Paul E. Shearin to R. B. House, February 23, 1946; R. B. House to Arthur E. Ruark, March 4, 1946; Dudley Williams to Dean W.W. Pierson of UNC Graduate School, September 5, 1946.
  1. “… I am planning to sit right here in Washington until the big money for science is voted. I wish to be present at this distribution… The University should have a full-time ambassador in Washington this fall.”