California Institute of Technology
Talk of the Archives


Talk of the Archives
· 2014
· 2013
· 2012
· 2011
· 2010
· 2009




Talk of the Archives



The 1961 Rose Bowl will be long remembered for the stunning prank pulled off by Caltech undergrads during the scheduled half-time card stunt.

Unwitting Washington fans displayed “Caltech” instead of “Huskies,” thanks to supremely clever maneuvering by diabolical Techers.  After a long hunt by one alumnus, the only known original color photograph of the redirected stunt, taken inside the Rose Bowl, has been located and donated to the Caltech Archives. 

For the full story of the photograph click here. Posted 12-22-2014

Beckman Museum to open first Friday afternoons

Arnold Beckman portrait
Arnold Beckman portrait.
Photo ID AOB7.5-8
The Beckman Room on the ground floor of the Beckman Institute (room 131) is a small museum devoted to the history of chemistry and to the scientific and philanthropic work of Arnold O. Beckman. Starting on October 3, the museum will be open to walk-in visitors from 1 to 4 PM on the first Friday of each month. The museum is also open by appointment to individuals and groups.

Please contact the for appointment information. More information about the room and its displays may be found here. Posted 9-28-2014


Welcome to Kristin Antelman, Caltech’s new University Librarian

With a strong background in digital library management, Kristin Antelman brings Antelman phototo Caltech an understanding of the profound changes that have affected library services in the last decade. For the Caltech Archives, an informed application of new technologies to support digital collections will be fundamental to maintaining the historical record of the Institute.

We look forward to working with Kristin as we develop our 21st-century archival management know-how. Further information: Interview with Kristin Antelman.

Posted 8-28-2014

On Display now: Archimedes and the Recovery of Greek Mathematics

Visit the online exhibit here

Early printed editions of classical Greek mathematics from the Caltech Archives’ collection are on exhibit from April 7 through July 31, 2014. Beginning with the first edition of the complete known works of Archimedes in both Greek and Latin published in Basel in 1544, the display includes 16th-century Italian editions of Euclid and Archimedes that were used by Galileo in his mathematical studies.

Portrait of Archimedes from the 1792 Oxford edition of his works in Greek and Latin.  Caltech Archives Rare Book Collection.

The first English translation of Euclid’s Elements from 1570 and editions of Archimedes and Apollonius of Perga published in the 18th century by the Oxford press are shown, as well as the 17th-century French edition of Diophantus of Alexandria’s Arithmetica—the work that inspired Pierre de Fermat’s last conjecture. The exhibit is located on the second floor of Parsons-Gates Hall of Administration and may be viewed during weekdays, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM. The Caltech exhibit complements the Huntington Library’s “Lost & Found: The Secrets of Archimedes” (March 15-June 22, 2014). Posted 4-16-2014


New Photo Search launched

Archives' patrons may now use our new online photo collection, the Caltech Image Archive. The new digital collection uses the Islandora open source framework for the management of digital assets. Images may be browsed or searched. The Image Archive is the first of several digital collections planned for presentation by the Archives.

The Archives' legacy digital image search, PhotoNet, has been decommissioned. Its original data forms the backbone of the new digital collection, which will be augmented with new graphic material on a regular basis.  The collection includes over 10,000 historic and contemporary photographs of people and places, reproductions of historic scientific artifacts and art, and illustrations drawn from Caltech's exceptional rare book collection in the history of science. Posted 12-16-2013

New Archives Request System!

As of June 20, 2013, all patrons are required to create an account in order to make an appointment in the Caltech Archives or to order reproductions of archival materials for study or for publication. Please follow the link provided to proceed to registration. Once you have registered, your account will be valid for 12 months.

The page of the Archives' new request system.

An automatic request to update your account will be issued after 12 months. Please note that our former online Contact Form has been disabled. For those patrons who simply have questions or want additional information, you are welcome to e-mail or phone us per instructions on our Contact page. For more information, see our detailed Access Policy. Posted 06-20-2013

New Archives Request System coming soon!

Beginning in late June, the Caltech Archives will launch an online patron registration and request system. We will use Aeon, a product of Atlas Systems, Inc. All Archives' users will be required to create an individual account, and active Caltech-affiliated patrons will be able to use access.caltech credentials for quick authentication.
The new request system will allow patrons to manage and review their own requests, download materials electronically, and schedule appointments for on-site visits. Additionally, patrons will be able to send requests for materials directly from our collection guides at the Online Archive of California (OAC) web site. The Archives will continue to welcome contact by e-mail or phone. Posted 06-17-2013

Looking Back: Alumni mini-interviews now online

Prof. Daugherty chatting with other attendees at Seminar Day, 1977. Photo ID RLD9.3-2

On Caltech's Alumni Seminar Day in May 2012, the Archives recorded short interviews with eight alumni volunteers. Several of these interviews may now be read in transcript form at our oral history web site. The interviews are grouped for easy retrieval under Alumni Seminar Day as subject. Alums related entertaining stories from their student years, replete with pranks and social antics. They also spoke about the seriousness of their days on campus, the hard work, and the high value of a Caltech education in later life.
This year on Seminar Day, May 18, the Caltech Archives will again host alumni for 10 to 15-minute recording sessions between 12 noon and 2 PM at the Sherman Fairchild Library. Interested alums are warmly invited to drop in. Read more about the Alumni Reunion weekend 2013. Posted 4-5-2013


Art Center Exhibit "PAGES" extended until January 27

Public enthusiasm for the Art Center College of Design's PAGES has resulted in an extension of the exhibit for an additional two weeks, until January 27. An evening of literary readings organized by LitFest Pasadena will take place in the gallery on Sunday, January 6. Posted 12-14-2012

Art Center Exhibit "PAGES" to Include Caltech Treasures

The exhibit PAGES flyer

On the evening of October 12, coinciding with Pasadena's Art Night, the Art Center College of Design will open its new exhibit titled "Pages". The exhibit explores the role of the page in its many manifestations in forming and preserving collective memory. Entry to the exhibit is free to the public beginning at 6 PM.
Three artifacts will be on loan to the exhibit from the Caltech Archives: two rare books and one sheet of mathematical calculations on a placemat. The books are a volume from the historic atlas of cities of the world, Civitates orbis terrarum, printed in Cologne around 1600, and an account of the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 printed in Germany. The page of calculations is by Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winner in Physics (1965), late Caltech faculty member, and sometime diner at Gianonni's bar in Altadena.
Materials from the Albert Einstein papers will also be shown, courtesy of the Albert Einstein Archives of Jerusalem and the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech.
"Pages" is curated by Stephen Nowlin and John David O'Brien and will be mounted in the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery at the Art Center Hillside Campus, 1700 Lida Street, Pasadena. Posted 10-01-2012

Alumni stories from Seminar Day 2012

Photo ID CaltechY 3.6-4

The Caltech Archives and Library captured nine sessions of alumni reminiscences on Seminar Day, May 19, for inclusion in the Oral History Project. Degree years ranged from 1943 to 1997, and engineering grads led the way, followed by math and physics. Recounting of pranks and social life was a popular theme, but some alums also took a moment to reflect positively on the value of a Caltech education. Recordings will be transcribed and released (with permission) for inclusion in the Archives' collection and for online publication in the Library's digital repository. For more details, contact us. Posted 5-22-2012

Bring your stories to Seminar Day 2012

The Caltech Archives and Library will be running a session for alumni to record a 10-minute story for inclusion in the Oral History Project. "Caltech Oral Histories in the Making" will take place from 12:30 to 2:30 PM on Saturday, May 19, in the Sherman Fairchild Library. On a first-come, first-served basis, alums may capture on audio tape a favorite professor story, a worst/best day of student life, or any good story about their Caltech years. Recordings will be transcribed and released (with permission) for inclusion in the Archives' collection and for online publication in the Library's digital repository. For more details, contact us. Posted 5-11-2012


Historic footage of the Palomar Observatory now online

200-inch mirror in the astrophysics optical shop on the Caltech campus.
Photo ID 10.16-16

Palomar Observatory stars in the first archival video posted to the web by the Caltech Archives. Original footage of the Observatory’s construction, along with images of the preparation of the 200-inch mirror in the astrophysics optical shop on the Caltech campus, may be viewed at the Internet Archive. Dating from the period 1936-1940, two of three extant reels of historical footage have been digitized as part of California Light and Sound, a series of moving images of California history. The project is managed and funded by the California Audiovisual Preservation Project, funded and operated by the California Digital library. The third reel is scheduled to be digitized and made accessible in the coming year. Posted 9-8-2011

A Display of Medals and Awards

National Medal
of Science, first awarded to Theodore von Kármán in 1962.

Caltech's scientists and engineers have won a magnificent array of prizes. The bar was set high by Robert A. Millikan, George Ellery Hale and Arthur Amos Noyes—the triumvirate of Caltech's founding fathers. Millikan won Caltech's first Nobel Prize in 1923. Today the Institute claims 31 Nobel laureates from the ranks of its faculty and alumni. But there are other stellar awards, decorations and citations to be celebrated, many of them embodied in visually striking form or presented under deeply memorable circumstances. The current display, located on the second floor of Parsons-Gates Hall of Administration, provides a close-up view of some of these grand marks of distinction, drawn from collections in the Caltech Archives. For full information on the exhibit, click here. Posted 4-5-2011


ON THE MAP Exhibit


Detail of map of southern Russia, published by
Abraham Ortelius in the first atlas, 1570.

A selection of rare maps and related books from the Archives is currently on view for the Caltech community on the second floor of Parsons-Gates Hall of Administration. Beginning with one of the earliest prints of Ptolemy’s map of the world, the exhibit covers the themes of mapping the earth, mapping the skies, and the mapping of longitude. Highlights include a beautifully bound edition of the Braun and Hogenberg atlas, Towns of the World, dating from 1572, which contains hand-colored copperplate engravings that will charm today’s armchair traveler. Several celestial and star maps are not only works of art but incorporate important observational data. Finally, the quest for accurate measurement of time and its relation to the determination of longitude is portrayed in part by Cassini’s famous meridian in Bologna and by Huygens’s invention of the pendulum clock. Posted 10-5-2010

The Campus turns 100

Throop Hall,
Caltech's first building, dedicated June 8, 1910. Photo ID 40.4-70

Caltech celebrated the centennial of its founding in 1991, but the current campus is having its own 100th birthday in 2010. The complex of six schools that formed Throop Polytechnic Institute, Caltech’s predecessor, broke apart in 1910. The first building on the current campus, Throop Hall, was dedicated June 8, 1910, and was paid for by the citizens of Pasadena—and was originally named Pasadena Hall. The campus occupied the 28 acres bounded by Wilson and Hill Avenues on east and west and by San Pasqual Street and California Boulevard on north and south—only about 20 percent of the present grounds. The newly reformed Throop was to be collegiate only and devoted to the education of top-level engineers and scientists. The former lower division became the independent Polytechnic School, located just across California Boulevard from the new college.
Until it was irretrievably damaged by the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, Throop Hall stood at the center of the new campus.  The original campus plan dates from 1908.  It was later superseded by the work of renowned architect Bertram Goodhue. Posted 5-3-2010


A Feynman Fiftieth

Feynman in 1959
Photo ID 1.10-48

"What I want to talk about is the problem of manipulating and controlling things on a small scale." So Richard Feynman stated the topic of his talk at the American Physical Society meeting on the Caltech campus, December 29, 1959: "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom." Fifty years later, much has been written about Feynman's role in launching the nanotechnology revolution. The historic importance of the talk is undisputed, and we celebrate its half-century mark in the Caltech Archives with some photos and documents related to the original occasion. See both our homepage PHOTO GALLERY and IN THE NEWS. The Archives is home to the Richard Feynman Papers. Posted 12-1-2009

Changing of the guard

Judy Goodstein in a 1974 photo

On October 1, 2009, Judith R. Goodstein retired after 41 years as Caltech's first university archivist. After receiving her PhD in the history of science from the University of Washington, Goodstein came to Caltech in 1968 to create an institutional archive formed around the papers of Caltech's faculty and administrators, beginning with George Ellery Hale, Robert Millikan, and Theodore von Kármán.

Shelley Erwin

Among many other scholarly achievements, Goodstein wrote a history of Caltech, Millikan's School (1991). Goodstein is succeeded in the Archives by long-time associate archivist Shelley Erwin.
Posted 10-1-2009


Volterra's chronicle continues

First published in English in 2007, University Archivist Judith Goodstein's biography of Vito Volterra is now out in an Italian edition, Vito Volterra: Biografia di un matematico straordinario.
This book describes the life and times of one of Europe's most important scientists and mathematicians, whose contributions continue to influence fields as diverse as economics, physics, and ecology. Volterra (1860-1940) was an eminent scientist and Jewish intellectual, a passionate Italian patriot and a devoted family man. His life's story encompasses the rebirth of science in the new Italian state, the rise of Italian Jewry, and its travails under Mussolini's Fascist state. Posted 07-17-2009

Commencements past and present.

Photo ID 20.7-8

Caltech's Commencement archive runs from 1920, the year the school became the California Institute of Technology, to the present. In 1920 the Commencement speaker was Dr. George Ellery Hale, Director of the Mt. Wilson Observatory and Institute trustee, who spoke on "Scientific Research as the Foundation of Engineering Education and Industrial Development." Caltech awarded its very first PhD —to Roscoe Gilkey Dickinson in chemistry. The ceremony was held in front of Gates Laboratory (now Parsons-Gates Hall of Administration). The Institute awarded 31 bachelors and 3 masters degrees, in addition to the first doctorate. Posted 06-12-2009

Highlights from the Seymour Benzer papers: The correspondence with Francis Crick (1955-2004).

Photo ID 10.24-187

Seymour Benzer learned about the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA from Francis Crick's collaborator, James Watson, at a lecture at Cold Spring Harbor in 1953. His correspondence with Crick starts two years later, in 1955, when Crick expressed interest in Benzer's work on the fine structure of the gene. Benzer worked with Crick at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge in 1957-58, and the correspondence over the next few years points to a close collaboration between the two men. The letters of 1960-1962 are especially noteworthy with discussion of each other's findings, honest comments on drafts of each other's papers, and also, some indications that the relationship was not always so smooth. Benzer's practical mapping techniques and his success in showing the physical nature of the gene helped Crick's more theoretical orientation and contributed to his fundamental work in understanding the genetic code in the 1960's. In addition, Benzer's papers provide detailed information on the formation of the Salk Institute, in which both men were involved. Posted 05-07-2009

Seymour Benzer's papers donated to the Caltech Archives.

Photo ID 10.24-12

Seymour Benzer (1921-2007), the father of neurogenetics, was one of the leading biologists of his time. His papers, presented to Caltech by his family in 2008, are now being arranged for future access by researchers. Benzer's scientific interests covered three distinct fields: physics (semiconductors), molecular biology (bacteriophage genetics) and neurobiology (the relationship between genes and behavior, working with mutants of the fruit fly Drosophila). These three fields are highlighted in the wealth of material: research notebooks, correspondence and reprints. The notebooks demonstrate his meticulous work over close to 70 years of scientific creativity and innovation. The correspondence reflects his cooperation and lifelong relationships with some of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, including numerous Nobel Prize winners. His correspondents include Francis Crick, James Watson, Francois Jacob, Salvador Luria, Max Delbruck, Eric Kandel, Sydney Brenner and Renato Dulbecco. The material also reveals his role as mentor and advisor to generations of students. Posted 04-09-2009

Robert A. Millikan's oil drop experiment is known to every student of physics.

Photo ID 1.22-8

Now his actual notebooks, in which he meticulously recorded his painstaking measurements, may be viewed online. Millikan began his attempt to measure the charge on the electron in 1907. The only two lab notebooks which he kept until the end of this life, and which are now in the Caltech Archives, record his conclusive work on this problem during the period from October 1911 through April 1912. Millikan won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1923. The notebooks are presented in digital facsimile in the Archives' new repository titled Lab Notes Online within the Caltech Libraries' Digital Collections (CODA). Additional lab notes and data by others will be added to this repository over time. Posted 03-2009

go to top

©2014 California Institute of Technology. All Rights Reserved.   last update: 01/05/2015
| Site Map | Privacy Notice



go to the Caltech Archives home page