Solar Energy Project at Smith

June 15, 2011

With all the talk about renewable energy sources these days, and the current projects at Smith including the solar panels on top of the Campus Center, and the hands-on student work on solar houses in the Physics department and the Center for Design and Fabrication, the College Archives thought it would be interesting to look back at other junctures in Smith’s history where solar energy was utilized.

A 1948 solar house was designed and built by architect Eleanor Raymond in Dover, Massachusetts .  Raymond was a graduate of the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, which was formally associated with Smith College between 1934-1946.  The house was the only existing home heated solely with solar energy systems designed by Maria Telkes, a metallurgy researcher at MIT at the time.  The design lasted 2.5 years before corrosion and erosion of the tanks used to maintain the system took its toll.

In December 1949, Gladys A. Anslow, professor of physics, and a number of interested Smith alumnae took a tour of the Dover House.  The trip was designed to show the work and design of the house, and to garner support for establishing an Institute of solar design at a woman’s college.  Anslow, naturally, wished it to be housed at Smith and hoped the Board of Trustees would agree.  In her report to President Benjamin Fletcher Wright, she noted that the sponsoring group of women “…selected this institution because of its recognized interest in science, the existing graduate program, and the desire to have the prestige that will go to the sponsoring institution come to the alma mater of several of the sponsors.  It is believed that in addition to the prestige…there will eventually be income from patents similar to the income now enjoyed at many of the larger universities and institutions in this country.”  Other Smith women involved with the sponsoring group were Ruth H. French, ‘1902, Eleanor Raymond, CSA, Janice Tarlin, ‘1931, and Laura Cabot (Hodgkinson), ‘1922. [report by GAA, December 17, 1949]

The report was presented to the Board of Trustees in early 1950, and after further investigation and lengthy discussions, the idea was voted on, only to have the motion lost.  This did not deter Anslow or her colleagues in the Physics department from their investigations of solar energy.  In 1952, Nora M. Mohler, chairperson of the Physics department presented on “Our Unpaid Servant, Energy” at Alumnae College.

Unfortunately, this is where the trail ends in the College Archives documenting  Smith’s involvement with the Solar Energy Project of the late 1940s and early 1950s.   If you have any additional information about Smith’s involvement, we’d love to hear about it!


Eve Curie and the “Magic of Radium”

July 24, 2009

Over the years Smith Clubs have been creative in their ways of raising funds to support various scholarship programs and/or annual campaign drives of the College.  On January 22, 1940, the Philadelphia Smith Club sponsored a lecture by Eve Curie, the daughter of Nobel Prize winner, Madame Marie Curie, who was awarded an honorary degree at Smith College in 1921.

Program of Curie talk sponsored by the Philadelphia Smith Club, January 1940

Program of Curie talk sponsored by the Philadelphia Smith Club, January 1940

The lecture by Eve Curie was held at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.  Dr. George E. Pfahler, a pioneer in radiology, and a Professor at the Medical School at the University of Pennsylvania,  introduced her.  According to the minutes of the Club, the idea to ask Curie to speak came during a discussion of money-making ventures.  Emma LaBarre Miller, class of 1914 (Mrs. James Jaminson Waygood) introduced the idea of Eve Curie speaking.   A year’s worth of planning and selling tickets to the event culminated in her talk “the Magic of Radium” to a sell-out crowd.

Over 80 couples and singles contributed towards the event as “Patrons and Patronesses”.  Some of Philadelphia’s leading names turned out for the event including, Biddles, Chews, duPonts, Strawbridges, VanDusens, and luminaries in the world of health also supported the program.  The goal of ‘selling out the Academy’ was completed by a team of  27 Philadelphia Smith Club women.  Through their efforts the Philadelphia Smith Club cleared over $1,500 for the event.  The money went to the Club’s Scholarship Fund to support 2 students from the Philadelphia area attending Smith.

Goodbye, dear friend, Betty Horner

May 1, 2009
Elizabeth Horner, 1916-2009, Myra M. Sampson emerita professor of Biological Sciences

Elizabeth Horner, 1916-2009, Myra M. Sampson emerita professor of Biological Sciences

It is with much sadness we say goodbye to our dear friend Betty Horner, who died on April 29, 2009.  I met Betty during one of my first weeks at Smith.  She came over to introduce herself, and to drop off some items from her office.

Betty came to Smith College in 1938, as a young scientist from Douglass College in New Jersey, pursuing the master’s program while working in the laboratories at Burton Hall.  She later received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1948.  Betty always joked that she came to Smith ‘along with the 1938 Hurricane!’  One of her many contributions to the College Archives collection includes slides of that event (among other things).

Betty spent her entire academic career at Smith, sharing her absolute love of science and inquiry with many a generation of young women.  She persevered as a professional at a time when women were not always welcomed into the scientific academy.  She once told me of her mother’s dislike of her pursuing a career.  “But that didn’t stop me” she noted.  Nothing ever dampened her enthusiasm or spirit for her work.  Betty served on numerous department and College committees, and retired as an emerita professor in 1986.   However, she never really ‘retired’ from her work, and until her health intervened last year, could be seen working in her office at Sabin-Reed Hall.

In recent conversations she told me that “I want to come back in another life as an archivist.  You have such a wonderful job!”  A self-proclaimed pack-rat, the College Archives collection has been greatly enhanced by her contributions–in many forms, as have other units of the Library, including the Mortimer Rare Book Room, where Betty has donated wonderful 19th century volumes on natural history, according to Martin Antonetti, curator of rare books.

Because of her warmth and openess to explorations of all kinds, Betty has legions of friends from all over the world, and in many generations who will miss her greatly.  The College Archives will do its best to honor her work and life achievements by preserving her papers for the future.

Photograph by Dick Fish, 1986