MWPS, MIT, KT, and JAS

Lincoln High School, Tacoma Washington, graduated 333 Boys and 319 Girls, a total of 652 Seniors at The Armory, Thursday Night, Tenth of June 1937, its Thirty-Third graduation exercise. MWPS was Class President and also Valedictorian. The Valedictory he delivered is presented below....

For orientation it is useful to know that the Pacific Northwest had a labor force dedicated to unionism. The Depression Era was the a time of labor strife. The lumber strikes were occasions for bloody conflict. The movie strikes brought stink bombs. The drama stressed loyalties to the limit, confronting the belief in a social order that respected workers, and the destruction that the strikes produced and that had certainly been wreaked by the union strikers. There was a question to be answered: Was the social unrest that accompanied unionism the source of the disorder, or part of the solution?

Lincoln High School had deep academic resources. MWPS took an Economics course the Spring term, 1936, and a Social Problems course the Fall term, 1936. But there were store front political clubs using the real estate vacated by shops that had gone out of business. There was an older sister taking a college course on the Soviet Social System. Her books were lure to be perused. And MWPS was a library page in the Central Tacoma Public Library afternoons and evenings for a few years. Things were quiet enough at night so that a retreat to the basement stacks was possible to look at journals, the new books in the accessions department, and the books to be stacked that others had found interesting.

Once the topic for the Valedictory had been roughly outlined, it was not long before the literature search brought him into contact with the gospel President Karl T. Compton was spreading in journals about the responsibility of engineers in the world order. Compton had a bully pulpit from which to preach. He was appointed President of MIT in 1930. F. D. Roosevelt, in the hyper active days of his first administration, created the first Science Advisory Board on 31 July 1933, and he named Compton to be its first chairman. In February 1935 Compton was elected President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Representative examples of his speeches that were published in Science are 80:387, 2 November 1934; Science and Prosperity, 81:374, 12 April 1935; The Government's Responsibility in Science, 85:301, 19-26 March 1937; Engineering in an American Program for Social Progress. Reading this valedictory or KT's articles it is clear that solutions do not solve problems. World order, justice, etc., are ruled by the principles of dynamic equilibrium not static equilibrium. That is the message of the paradoxical aphorisms: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, - or Tancred's remark in Lampadusa's The Leopard, ``If we want things to stay the same, things will have to change''. And how true of education. The problems remain the same; only the solutions change.

Finally a word about vocabulary. Engineer and scientist and technologist are all used interchangeably in the text. Today there is also an imperative to use a single name, like scientist, to gain the safety of numbers. But even in the field of physics all physicists are not interchangeable. They are all hyphenated. Biologists have forsaken their turn of the century title of naturalist, which I think is still most appropriate. The tendency to drop qualifiers in the interest of gaining political strength is lamentable, in my humble opinion.

The Future of Engineering
``Science for the sake of Science''; ``Engineering for the sake of Engineering'' . What narrow concepts are embodied in these two mottoes! In this age it seems inconceivable that there could ever have been thought that there was such a thing as engineering for the sake of engineering alone, for engineering is too closely tied up with the social structure to be able to operate without serious consequences to human welfare. Very telling are the effects in the world today of talking over the engineer's telephone to a friend a thousand miles away, of riding in the engineer's automobile over the bridge made possible by the engineer's skill. One hundred years ago the smith heated and reheated his iron and hammered and hammered it again, and finally made a hinge for a door; today the engineer's machine stamps out with one stroke a hinge that is just as good and much better looking. Such things as these have made the world engineer- conscious. Not so many years ago the engineer was thought of as an occasional builder of roads, bridges, canals and fortifications; now the world realizes that the engineering profession is one of the controlling forces in the economic system. What is more, the engineer is realizing the responsibility of his position. Until recently the engineer isolated himself. and diligently designed and supervised the building of machinery, bridges and other structures . Working under the philosophy of ``Engineering as an end in itself'', he did not bother himself about how the people would get used to its practical applications and whether they could be fitted into the economic structure. One hundred years ago power looms destroyed the hand cotton weaving industry. With the impact of the two, misery and destruction strode over the English country-side, crushing thousands of lives. This occurrence has been repeated time and again in the course of history. It has been called progress because man has conquered nature, and in the long run the common man shared in the increased productivity made possible by the machines; but in the short run he paid an almost too dear a price for the benefits he received. This repetition of collision between new methods, and the old, resulting from technological advancement has spelled out the problem clearly. It is no longer a question of man's mastery over nature, but what shall be the consequences of that mastery. The discoveries of the engineer, unless guarded with the utmost care, may produce unfortunate situations. Unemployment today may have resulted, not because research necessarily leads to unemployment, but because of the difficulty in immediately adjusting the economic system to the improvements in production that may have much great values to mankind. Thus during the last few years and many times before we have seen the result of new ideas coming into a world not prepared for them. The engineer's function is to anticipate not only the immediate but also the remote consequences of the changes he initiates. The engineer' s responsibility lies in planning his contribution with foresight so that they may be assimilated into the general scheme of life with as little disturbance as possible. This does not mean the stifling of engineering progress. It means that, (since in a world of hard facts changes occur very slowly) technological advancement should be planned so that its speed may harmonize with the rate of change possible with the human factors involved, and not flow with the rush and slack of scientific advancement. This means that the engineer should be an intelligent connecting link between Science and Society.

[ Page Missing in manuscript.. The original had a word count of 1176 words. This one has 780 words]

...and their colleagues help the students of engineering to acquire a greater breadth of knowledge and training so that they may they may possess the foresight and wisdom so necessary in bringing about a better balance between technological advancement and social change.

May not this century of progress be superficial, after all? The increased output per man-hour is tremendous, about 300 to 400 per cent. But that is an inadequate yardstick. Man has food, clothing, and shelter, but so do the beasts of the field. Food, clothing, and shelter should be taken for granted in this day of mechanization; they are just the starting point of life. When reputable British and American engineers begin to acknowledge the responsibility of engineering sciences to promote human welfare to provide a richer and more satisfying life there is really something new under the sun. We are given a firmer basis for the hope that better controlled use of engineering science will result in man's having a higher percentage of his energy available for enjoying things instead of merely making things. Finis

Colophon

There is bound to be the question: What happened to the third page of the manuscript? The answer is the question, Why did the remaining 3 pages survive? So, depending on one's fancy, the third page can be imagined as a masterful prescription for bringing about the changes envisioned. Or, as a pedantic sermon about what others should do.....

As intriguing intellectually as Compton was, I did not apply to MIT. Harvard made me an offer, as they say, that I couldn't refuse! During my Junior year at Harvard, 1939-1940, I have a vague recollection of an encounter with Compton. I was living at that time in Dunster House. A friend and fellow house member from Oregon, Charles O. Porter, knew a girl from Oregon whose brother was at MIT. So he took her to an MIT dance --- probably held at Walker or the Hanger, a building from WWI that was razed long ago. The date was a social obligation so he let her wander by herself, while he, bored, wandered elsewhere. KT was a presence at the Ball and their paths intersected. The bored Charley got to talking with the --- bored? --- Compton. Charley challenged the humanism of the MIT education, and KT defended the support that the curriculum in the Humanities that he had immediately installed on becoming President gave to a socially conscious education. Charlie made the point that at Harvard the intellectually broadening education was not carried out in the classroom, but at the dinner table. The result was that KT ended up accepting an invitation to dinner at Dunster with Charlie and friends. When Charlie casually mentioned to the Dunster House Master, Clarence Haring, Bliss Professor of Latin American History, that Compton was coming for dinner, Haring panicked. There was no protocol in place for such a social event. So he never did show up when the dinner took place. The Senior Tutor, the laconic Seymour Harris, Associate Professor of Economics, did stop by at the table to pay his, and Dunster House's, respects to President Compton. Charlie reminisced over the event at my request. The details of the table conversation have been purged from memory, but he remembered walking Compton out to his car when he was leaving. Compton was smoking a Kirsten pipe and Charlie, like all intellectually curious students at the time, was interested in the Kirsten pipe as a possible addition to his list of vices. The pipe was invented in 1936 by a Seattle professor. It had a briar bowl attached to an aluminum tube that acted as a condenser of the moist smoke. It thus delivered dry smoke to the mouthpiece, leaving the tobacco tars trapped in the tube. Charlie expressed interest in the pipe to Compton. KT was delighted at the opportunity to demonstrate the pipe. He flipped open the valve at the bottom of the tube and poured a goodly amount of ugly black goo on the ground. Charlie absorbed the image, and immediately said to himself that he had been shown convincing proof that he should not smoke a pipe.

One might be tempted to draw the moral from the story that role models influence their subjects as much by their sterling qualities as they do in warning them away from the paths where the role model has been a failure. If this were, indeed, the case then in a few generations we would see subjects with perfect behavior, all the defects having been previously exposed and avoided by successive generations. This not being the case by simple observation one must conclude that there is a fault creating mechanism in human beings!

One will note that the Nazis moved on Poland in the first of September at the start of the academic year about which we are talking. With Charlie as the instigator he and I and others started the Harvard Student Defense League. It was an organization having a goal of counteracting the pacifism in the States. The Harvard in the name was soon deemed too parochial for the grand purpose of the organization, so it was replaced with American. Because pressures related to my personal survival, financially and academically, I slowly became inactive in the organization. So, as I approached graduation, the war time preparations and the need for a job, brought me again into the sphere of President Compton. My TSE --- Temporary Student Employment --- employer at Harvard, Donald Menzel had a friend, Winfield Salisbury, who had recently joined a laboratory, Radiation Laboratory, at MIT. They urged me to apply for a job down there with the plumbers at the other end of the River. It turned out that the personnel officer was a Harvard man from the University of Illinois, Wheeler Loomis. He thought I would do real well in the Advanced Development Group. So I signed on to K.T. Compton's establishment on Monday, 1 June 1941, worked a few days, took off a few days for graduation exercises, and started in earnest on Wednesday, 11 June 1941. Loomis said I would be what MIT called a Research Associate. It's like Associate Professor, he added in explanation.

Oh, yes. How does JAS get into the title? In one of my early conversations with MIT President-to-be Julius A. Stratton, we discussed our life in the Pacific Northwest. He asked me why I had never gone back there. I said I never found a way to do so; my research budget was larger than the whole physics department research budget of most of the Universities out there at that time. We chatted about other matters, and, as we parted, he turned and said, ``If you ever find away to get back there ... let me know how you did it!''




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Malcom W. P. Strandberg
1998-05-26