POTM: The letter S

POTM: The letter S

May Photos of the Month

NBL&A is having so much fun with our rare book ABCs series; we’re expanding our alphabet-based collection exploration to the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives. I've decided to kick off May's Photos of the Month by highlighting terms that begin with the letter S, quoted to be “the best letter of the alphabet” by your unbiased author, Sarah. 


L-R: Wernher von Braun in Huntsville, Alabama showing Dwight D. Eisenhower how Saturn booster will work. Both stand next to a Saturn model..

Credit line: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Von Braun Wernher C1

Saturn V

The Apollo spacecraft wouldn’t have reached the moon without the lifting power provided by the Saturn V rocket. Standing at 363 feet tall and weighing over 3,000 tons, the Saturn V remains to this day, the largest rocket ever to launch. In the photograph above, director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, Wernher Von Braun shows 34th U.S. president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, an early Saturn model. This photo is dated 1960 yet the Saturn V wouldn’t launch its first uncrewed test flight (Apollo 4) until November 9, 1967. You can view video footage surrounding that launch here

Silhoutte of Seth Chandler wearing a hat and glasses.

Credit Line: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Chandler Seth H1


In the late 18th century before the height of photography, silhouettes were popular forms of portraiture in the U.S. because of their affordability, accuracy, and ability to be produced quickly. Named after the French author, politician, and reported "cost-cutter," Étienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), silhouettes are commonly created by cutting away paper to reveal the profile of the sitter. 

The silhouette above depicts astronomer Seth Carlo Chandler, Jr. (1846-1913). Known for his research on polar motion, Chandler received the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (the society’s highest award) in 1896. The portrait was created by self-proclaimed “champion silhouette cutter of the world,” D. Dudley, a Boston-based artist who advertised the ability to cut pictures in half a minute.

Izuo Hayashi, holding a heat absorbing device, points to the location of a new semiconductor laser.

Credit line: Bell Laboratories / Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc., courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Hecht Collection. Hayashi Izuo F2


Now ubiquitous with the information age, semiconductors are essential components of electronic technology, thanks to their environment-based properties (they can vary between conductors and insulators). In the photograph above, physicist Izuo Hayashi holds a semiconductor laser designed at Bell Laboratories. This kind of semiconductor laser was one of the first to operate continuously at room temperature. The work behind this feat awarded Hayashi and physical chemist Morton B. Parish the 2001 Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology.

Informal portrait of Betty Schultz sitting on a sofa.

Credit line: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Wheeler Collection. Schultz Betty B1


Betty Schultz was Niels Bohr’s longtime secretary. Our archives holds three oral history interviews with Schultz, the first of which was conducted on May 17th, 1963 by Aage Petersen and Paul Forman. While the interview heavily focuses on asking Schultz about prominent physicists, there are some occasions where Schultz details her personal experiences, like the time she was initially hired to work for Bohr. 

Hired to start work on January 2nd, 1920, Schultz entered the Polytechnische Lehranstalt only to be received by a completely empty university. A week later she tried again, still no one. Schultz decided to go to Bohr’s home (where she initially interviewed) to get some answers. An unnamed woman at Bohr’s house explained, “Oh, yes I know that Professor Bohr had engaged a secretary, but now he had gone to Norway, and he has thrown your address away.” Presumably, Shultz provided her address again, as she received a letter from Bohr after his return from Norway to officially start work. Schultz charitably described the hiring as, “curious.” 

The photograph shows the space between a large concentrator array with a man in sunglasses standing behind the concentrator, but appearing between the space.

Credit line: Laskar Photo, Sandia National Laboratories, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection. Solar Energy F1.

Solar Power

There are many ways sunlight can be converted into solar energy, though I am partial to any method that involves abstract photography and Blues Brothers glasses. Sandia National Laboratories (shown above) was one of the first sites to use concentrator photovoltaic technology to generate solar power. This type of solar technology uses lenses (right side of photo) to concentrate sunlight onto solar cells (left side of photo). The specific type lenses used in this photo are called Fresnel lenses, which are also employed in lighthouses for their ability to redirect and magnify light in one unified direction. 


American Antiquarian Society silhouettes gallery feat. D. Dudley

Kyoto Prize: Izu Hayashi

National Academy of Sciences biographical memoir on Seth Carlo Chandler, Jr.

Smithsonian American Art Museum blog post: Q and Art: Silhouettes

Vox video: The invention that fixed lighthouses

About the Author

Sarah Weirich

Sarah Weirich

Sarah Weirich was the library's Metadata Specialist. She earned a B.A. in Art History from St. Mary's College of Maryland and an MLIS from the University of Southern Mississippi. Her work at NBLA involved processing new acquisitions and works to increase the accuracy and accessibility of the library's existing catalog records. One of Sarah's favorite books in the library is The Graphic Work of M.C. Escher. In her spare time, Sarah can be found watering the disturbing number of plants in her apartment.

Caption: M.C. Escher "Relativity" 1953 lithograph

See all articles by Sarah Weirich

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