Largest War Changes In Physical Sciences

This is the third in a series of articles to appear during the coming weeks discussing the effects of the present war on the departments of concentration, their courses, enrollment, and Faculties.

Of all the academic training a University like Harvard offers most intimately connected with war are the physical sciences: physics, engineering sciences, and mathematics. Because of this relation the departments teaching these subjects have been most deeply shaken by the war.

Physics, especially, the field on which has been placed the heaviest demand for skilled college graduates, has been disrupted in its every phase. It is the only department which is now on a virtually full wartime basis. Its entire structure has been scrapped and a streamlined service organization put into action.

Throwing aside its entire tutorial system, the Physics Department will abolish all divisionals and require all concentrators to take 16 full courses. In addition to the summer school program, the other important adjustment is the concentration credit granted for a single Chemistry course. Until now, a student in Physics had to take two Chemistry courses before receiving any credit toward concentration.

No Concentration Changes


Engineering sciences has not been on a tutorial basis and requires neither theses nor divisionals from undergraduates in the field. It has not reduced its concentration requirements and is participating in the summer school system, which it originated a year ago in collaboration with the Physics and Chemistry Departments on a smaller six-week schedule. Mathematics has made no adjustments in its concentration program except the utilization of the summer school. That Department retains its thesis requirement for each student whether an honors candidate or not.

Reasons for the Physics changes can be found in the effect of the war on both the Faculty and enrollment in the Department. The Physics Department has lost the services of a third of its permanent staff of last October. Several other men have been forced to combine their teaching with defense research.

Four broad economics have been necessary to meet this emergency. The Physics Department has first found it essential to reduce the number of beginning courses, second, extended summer teaching; third, dropped the tutorial system; and, finally, the entire staff has converted time formerly spent in individual research to teaching.

Engineering Loses Four

Four men have been lost to the Engineering Sciences Department because of the war. Associate Professor Howard Aiken taught only in the graduate school but the other three were essential cogs in undergraduate instruction. Associate Professor Den Hartog is now a Lieutenant Commander in the Bureau of Ships; Faculty Instructor William Bollay, formerly in charge of the CAA courses, is a Lieutenant in the engineering section of the Navy Air Corps; and Instructor John Hollomon is on active duty as a Lieutenant in the Army's ordnance department.

Billy J. Pettis, Benjamin Peirce instructor in Mathematics, who was drafted a year ago, has been the Math Department's only war loss to date. Professor Joseph L. Walsh, in addition, has surrendered his post as chairman of the Department, but at the moment, is still teaching. Professor Marshall H. Stone replaced Walsh as departmental chief.

Enrollment Increases

In Physics the number of concentrators has wavered around 50 during the past three years with 46 registered last fall. Since that time six additional concentrators have entered the field. Students taking courses in the Department also showed a marked increase at midyears, rising from 420 to 484. This jump was particularly in evidence in the elementary courses.

Student enrollment in Math has as yet been only slightly affected by the war. There is a noticeable tendency; however, toward a reduction in the number of incoming graduate students.

Last November there were 160 students concentrating in Engineering Sciences, an advance of 50 from the previous November as a result of the "directly useful" nature of the work. Increases in the enrollment in elementary courses have been offset by very obvious decreases in the more advanced courses, especially in the graduate school. Army and Navy officers studying electronics and cathode ray tubes and the sanitation of defense areas are an added burden to the Physics and Engineering Departments, both their teaching staffs and lecture facilities.

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