Emeritus Faculty Association news February 2012
Friday February 3rd, usual time and place 10.30 am Javits Room, 2nd floor library. Due to a Spring semester change in his teaching schedule, our original speaker for this date, Prof Peter Manning of the English Department, is now unable to join us. Fortunately Paul Zimansky, Professor of Archaeology and Ancient History, having just (1-21) gotten the Iraqi provincial and national governments to agree to give him an exit visa to return here(!) has kindly agreed to step in at short notice. His talk will be entitled "Recent personal adventures in the archaeology of Iraq".
Bio: Prof Zimansky obtained his Ph.D in 1980 at the University of Chicago on Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. His research interests are Ancient Empires, Near Eastern Archaeology, Anatolian Archaeology & History, Urartu, Ancient Mesopotamia. This academic year, as the war in Iraq was supposedly dying down, he had resumed his collaboration there with Elizabeth Stone (our speaker in 2003).
Jared Farmer of history talked on the first section of his current book project, "Trees in Paradise: A California History ". This uses four famous types of trees (sequoias/redwoods, eucalypts, citruses, and palms) to tell the history of California since the Gold Rush. After the giant redwoods (the California coast redwood and the giant sequoia of the Sierras) were discovered in 1852, it took only a year for these trees to go from obscurity to world-wide fame. The papers were full of pictures with such captions as: "this very tree was standing during the time of Jesus", and wealthy Europeans rushed to plant saplings on their estates. Actually nobody had a good idea of the actual age of any of these trees. Even after 1858 when tree ring counts on tree stumps showed that most were not much older (at 1300 years average) than the yews in English churchyards, still most people continued to believe what they wanted to believe. Witness John Muir (founder of the Sierra Club), who said in 1891 "these trees are probably older than 4000 years", (and then insisted he had counted the rings). And David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University, who said "it is safe to say . . . (these trees) . . . have stood on Earth for 8000 years". It fell to Ellsworth Huntington to study of hundreds of stumps and find only small minority over 2000 years old and only three which actually exceeded 3000. But he was only doing it to confirm his pet theory of the "pulsatory" climate evolution of human civilization. He wanted the tree ring data to try to relate it to the climate history of Palestine among other things, without too much concern for the fact that his measurements were made possible by the wholesale destruction for cheap fence posts and housing shakes of the most magnificent groves - which will take a 1000 years (if ever) to be replaced. Huntington had failed his PhD exam at Harvard but nevertheless managed to get hired as associate professor at Yale and funded for his worldwide boondoggles. He famously said that "the human race must be bred as carefully as racehorses" and became, like Jordan, a leading eugenicist. But after a long career at Yale he failed to convince majority scientific opinion of the reasons for his own "superior teutonic stock". Somewhat more respectable was Andrew Ellicott Douglass who founded the discipline of dendrochronology - the dating of wood by analyzing and comparing growth ring patterns. He succeeded among other things in dating the Anasazi ruins and documenting historical periods of drought and plenty.
Finally, it was not until comparatively recent times that it was realized that the bristlecone pines of the dry ridges East of the Sierras were in fact the oldest living trees, and to form a more complete climate history from a composite of tree cores, ice cores, sediment cores and the various forms of radio-activity dating.
From last month's summary of the talk on John Toll, there was a correction on the composition of the original group of physicists at Princeton. On our main webpage, click on: news archive/Dec 2011.
Peter Dollard died on 30 October, 4 years after his wife Elsa. Dollard came to Stony Brook in 1963 as one of the earliest members of the Electrical Engineering department and was here until 1978, when he left to take up a position at Bell Labs. While at Stony Brook he also served for a period on the board of the Three Village School district. See:
Note to readers: The following two items were truncated in the version mailed out to members
Generation 1 Reunion
The Alumni Relations office has been contacted by two volunteers (Ken Marcus '71 and Ed Berenhaus '74) who are interested in organizing a reunion for the first twenty classes here at Stony Brook. Apparently they have received positive feedback from a group of individuals that finished Stony Brook during those years (1961 - 1981). So present plans are for a "Generation One" Reunion to be held on April 28, 2012.
Emeritus faculty from that period may want to keep this date clear to be able to greet some of their old students and find out about their lives since.
On Minds and Hinds
In recent years the national press has spent much time decrying the growing scourge of obesity and diabetes. On our campus it seems like a long time ago when there was a general phys-ed requirement (the students hated it). Soon it was a rare academic building or dormitory that was not equipped with commercial soda and snack machines. These days in the general exercise room at the gym, weight machines lie broken and un-repaired for months, going into years. Of the 4 surviving exercise bicycles, only 2 are in proper working order. A recent delivery of shiny new bikes was quickly whisked away for team use only. To add to the difficulties for would-be exercisers, there is now something like an organized crime ring in the building, as the phys-ed administration and campus police well know. Many lockers (approx 140 = 10%), having been broken into, lie unusable. Gym bags have been stolen from the squash court areas even while games were in progress.
So perhaps, as our heading suggests, it is time to alter just one character in the slogan that appears on the rear of campus busses:
You are following some of the greatest minds in the country.