AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXVI, No. 2, Fall 1994

 

AIP CENTER FOR HISTORY OF PHYSICS RECEIVES $600,000 BEQUEST


Rose Hutchisson, the widow of the second director of the American Institute of Physics, has endowed the Center for History of Physics with $600,000 for a Rose and Elmer Hutchisson Fund. The endowment, which has come to AIP following her death, adds to the existing endowment of the Friends of the Center for History of Physics, which had reached $1 million before this important contribution.

In 1995 the Center will begin using income from the new endowment to support worldwide collection of information useful to scholars studying the history of physics and allied sciences. For example, the bequest will allow a significant expansion of work already underway to locate and index information on collections of correspondence (see INTERNATIONAL CATALOG OF SOURCES article) and to support oral history interviewing of scientists of the former Soviet Union.

Rose Valasek graduated from Flora Stone Mather College in Cleveland (later absorbed into Case Western Reserve University) and married Elmer Hutchisson in 1925. She was offered an assistantship for graduate work in history at the University of Minnesota, but at the time two married people were not permitted to have jobs at the university, and she deferred to her husband's career. Elmer Hutchisson was subsequently a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and served as AIP's second director from 1957 through 1964. He originated the Center for History of Physics and its Niels Bohr Library. He believed, as he put it in a 1970 oral history interview, that "since the institute is dealing primarily with people, rather than with physics research... we should have a library concerned with physics people." A strong advocate of preserving historical documentation, and seriously concerned about what he called "scientific illiteracy in an age of science," he felt that establishing the Center and Library was one of his ost satisfying personal accomplishments. He died in 1983 (see Physics Today, August 1983, p. 77).

Some of Elmer Hutchisson's other accomplishments as director included establishing AIP's advisory committees, its education department, its translation program for Russian-language physics journals, and the annual meeting of its Corporate Associates. While assistant director of AIP in 1936-1937 he founded the Journal of Applied Physics and was its editor from 1937 through 1953.

As a couple the Hutchissons have now followed the examples of the Ford and Segre families in enlarging the endowment of the Center for History of Physics. Income from the endowment (along with annual donations from the Friends of the Center) are important in giving flexibility; the staff can respond to sudden opportunities in preserving historical information without going through a lengthy grant-application process. More broadly, endowment forms a natural couple with an archival institution such as the Niels Bohr Library. The Library is dedicated to preserving written and oral history information into the most distant future--and an endowment will always be there to help. The AIP, and all those concerned with preserving and making known the historical record of physical science, are deeply indebted to the Hutchissons for their generosity.


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