Emeritus Faculty Association #118 October 2006
Friday, October 6, at 10.30 in the Javits room, 2nd floor library. Every few decades, scientists discover that the science being taught in the schools is wrong or at least not up-to-date. It is not a matter of wrong facts, but rather of antique methods of observation and interpretation. There have been a number of major attempts to join school and college curricula, some going back to the 19th century. Prof Clifford Swartz will describe several of these, leading up to the major revisions of the 1960's. These latter were known as the alphabet courses because of their acronyms (e.g. PSSC for Physical Science Study Committee). He will describe them, ask whether they still exist; did they make permanent changes; were they worth the money; would they be created in this present era? There are several morals to be drawn from such a review. A physics lecture without a demonstration is like an emeritus meeting without food, and Cliff assures us that we will not go hungry.
Bio: Prof Swartz originally did research in high energy particle physics, specializing in measurements of the intensity and location of particle beams. He first got involved in teaching (at SUNY Oyster Bay) during a break from Brookhaven Laboratory when the Cosmotron broke down in 1957. He discovered that he enjoyed teaching, and year by year found himself spending more time at the college and less time at the lab. He helped revise the New York State high school physics curriculum and taught PSSC physics for one year at Ward Melville High School. He began to write text books covering the whole range from kindergarten to graduate school. There are now over 30 of these published, plus four books of poetry. For 29 years he was editor of the Physics Teacher, a journal for the instructor of introductory physics at any level. About one half of the 12,000 subscribers are high school teachers, and about 1,000 are from overseas. In 1987 he was the recipient of the Oersted medal awarded annually by the American Association of Physics Teachers. Now in nominal retirement he continues to teach courses for future physics teachers. He is also working on a text on medical physics, a subject of increasing personal interest.
Last Meeting, Friday September 8
The last newsletter had an error in the time of the talk sponsored by the hospital auxiliary "Wine, Women, and Song" by Lousia Hargrave at the Three Village Inn. (She and her husband initiated the wine industry on LI). Betsy Palmedo will sing some drinking songs. It is at 11.30 am on September 28.
Joel Rosenthal reminded new retirees that, instead of destroying all their materials, they might consider donating them to the university archives (for more information click on the university archives on the left side of our main webpage).
In the absence of Beverly Birns, the speaker for the day was introduced by Karl Bottigheimer. Nancy Tomes, Professor of History, came to Stony Brook in 1978 and lists her areas of specialization as the history of American medicine, nursing, and popular health, and the history of American women and gender relations. Among her many publications are three books, most recently "The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women and the Microbe in American Life (1998)". She is presently working on a fourth, "A Patient Paradox: The Making of the Modern Health Consumer, 1930-1980". Karl noted that he and Nancy both originated in Loiusville, and one result of this was that they shared the military honor of being Kentucky colonels.
In the first half of the 19th century it was free for all with quack doctors and worthless nostrums (as illustrated for example in Donizetti's contemporary L'Elisir d'Amore). In America, a watershed of sorts was the AMA's code of ethics in 1847. After this, advertising by doctors was banned and drug companies advertised only to doctors, not to the general public directly. Yet here we are at the dawn of the 21st century and the sheer volume of snake oil and medicine men with outrageous claims being hawked in the public media would embarass even Dr. Dulcamara. What got us to this point was the subject of Nancy's talk, based on research for her latest book.
For a century after 1847 things went well. The trend was toward scientific medicine and away from homeopathy, herbal doctors, and "patent" remedies (a misnomer). In the late 1800's many states passed medical practice acts. In 1914 the FTC was established to regulate trade practices nationally, followed by the FDA in 1930. Unlike Europe where national health plans retained much control, in the US little restraint remained after a drug was approved by the FDA. At first this increased the emphasis on rigorous testing before FDA approval which was how the US managed to avoid the Thalidamide tragedy.
Then things started to move the other way. In the 1950's the advertising industry, restrained by not wanting to offend the AMA, sought foreign sources in order to prove that "more doctors smoke Camels". In the next two decades as part of the consumer revolution many polls showed that people wanted access to more medical information (although they never asked for more advertising!). Finally in 1975 the FDA sued the AMA for "unfair trade practices". The AMA had undercut its position by blocking information on doctor's records and lost the suit. By the time of the Reagan administration there were few restrictions on advertising by doctors and drug companies and the "medical-industrial complex" went into overdrive. Finally in1997 the FDA permitted full (and very frank) "direct to consumer" advertising with little in the way of "fine print" qualification.
Members can view medical advertisements archived by Nancy at a public website. But remember, this is a limited time offer, so you must ACT RIGHT NOW:- http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/mma
Emeriti into basic trainiing?
I hadn't realized how far our nation's military had been stretched by the wars in South Asia and the Middle East until I heard a report on the radio on Aug 28. A man from the metropolitan area was reactivated for service in Iraq at the age of 55. In the ensuing interview I couldn't help but admire the spirit with which he received the news. Even his wife was encouraging him out the door, saying "for a man of 55 he really is physically very fit."
This got me to thinking, if it is true as some commentators say, that the administration is hot to start another war in Iran, then the only way may be to reactivate the emeriti; Especially those with experience of service in World War II and the occupation of the aftermath. At this point in our lives we do not have a lot of time to lose. We need to start now and expand the contingent utilising the emeritus gymnasium privilege.