POTM: National Novel Writing Month

POTM: National Novel Writing Month

October and November Photos of the Month

This is my first contribution to the Ex Libris Universum’s Photos of the Month series, and it comes on the heels of a very hectic autumn! I know for myself and many others, October and November are chaotic and busy months. School is well under way, the holiday season has begun, and in the northern hemisphere there are fewer hours of daylight and the weather is growing colder. Time seems to be rushing along for everyone. But one of my favorite ways to take time and feel like I’m mindfully participating during these autumn months is to prepare for and participate in National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is an annual event every November where participants aim to write 50,000 words in 30 days (approximately 1,667 words a day) on a writing project of their choice. Novels, short stories, scripts, and comics are all welcome mediums.

While November is a time for intense writing, for many participants October is a month of intense project planning. (AKA more writing!) So though this is a somewhat late Photos of the Month post for October AND November, it gives me a great excuse to look into images from the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives (ESVA) featuring physicists at work on their own writings. 

(Oh, and of course, a belated Jack o’ Lantern photo of Francis Dahlen for the Halloween fans that hold the line and keep Christmas carols from encroaching on October.)

In the above photo we can see Beatrice Tinsley making notes while examining an image of a spiral galaxy! Tinsley was an astronomer best known for studying the life cycles of galaxies and their interactions. Her pivotal work taught us about how stars age and how to measure the size of the Universe. A collection of her records is available at Yale University, and you can read her oral history interview here!

This image of Charles Steinmetz looking mildly disheveled at his desk is, as the kids say, a vibe. Steinmetz was an electrical engineer and mathematician known for his contributions to industrial research, including alternating-current motors, power transmission systems, and transformers. His papers are currently held at Carnegie Mellon University, Union College, Schenectady County Historical Society, and the Museum of Innovation and Science.

Hedwig Kohn, in the above photo, is either collaborating with others or being interrupted. Who’s to say! Kohn worked as a physicist and educator over the course of her career, notably contributing to flame photometry and optical spectroscopy. Flame photometry is a part of the field of atomic absorption spectroscopy and measures the concentration of certain metallic elements in substances, and optical spectroscopy is a method for observing how materials interact with electromagnetic radiation. You can find an oral history with Hedwig Kohn here, and a collection of her papers here at NBLA.

I always love seeing decorative maximalism in offices. Something about walls of art and notes can be so comforting, which seems to be a feeling shared by Homer Dodge judging by his writing desk surroundings. Dodge was the director of the Oklahoma Research Institute, a longstanding educator at the University of Oklahoma in the Physics department, president of Norwich University, and a founder and president of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). You can read his oral history here, or check out his papers at NBLA (here, and here), or at Colgate University.

Robert Bullough at blackboard

Robert 'Robin' Bullough, of the University of Manchester, writes equations on a blackboard at Physics of Quantum Electronics (PQE) summer school, Flagstaff, Arizona.

AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives, Stephen Jacobs Collection

While there is no shortage of images of physicists working at desks, we love to see a good blackboard photo as well. Here we can see Robin Bullough at work. Bullough was a mathematical physicist and was one of the founders of the soliton theory. Solitons are solitary waves that behave like particles (namely in that they maintain their shape while moving at a constant speed, and when together with other solitons they remain unchanged except for a possible phase shift). Bullough’s proposals led to improved optical telecommunications and the development of trans-oceanic optical fiber communication.

This photo features Ellen Adler Bohr, the mother of physicist Niels Bohr. Though she wasn’t a physicist herself, she was part of the Adler family, who were notable politicians and bankers in Denmark. She met Niels’s father Christian while attending a course for female students that Christian taught, and the two were married in 1881.

I always love seeing pictures of communities within our holdings, whether they are groups of coworkers in a laboratory, or a peaceful portrait of someone’s mother at her desk. I hope wherever you all are, you have the opportunity to spend time with your own communities as well!


About the Author

Max Howell

Max Howell

Max Howell is the Manuscript Archivist. They have a B.A. from the Evergreen State College and an MSLIS from Simmons College. Maxwell handles the manuscript collections by accessioning, processing, describing, and providing access to researchers. One of their favorite books in the collection is The Bastard Brigade by Sam Kean.

Cover image of The Bastard Brigade

See all articles by Max Howell

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