Cambridge 02138

Nuclear terrorism, creme fraiche, Mr. Agassiz, pioneer woman

FOOTNOTE

I'd like to add a footnote (what else?) to Edward Tenner's article, "Lasting Impressions," in the September-October issue (page 36).

The late Hugh Brooking Clark of England left the class of '42 to join the British Army in North Africa, where he might possibly have seen examples of the north Saharan boot with the Goodyear sole pictured on page 43. Either way, he, doubtless influenced by his family's business, conceived the idea that the world needed a tough boot that abjured polishing and was easy to manufacture. He called his resulting design the "brothel creeper," he explained to me. It involved an upper of undyed rough leather and a sole of a buff-colored, wear-resistant rubber. The novel part of its structure lay in the way the two were stitched together. His pattern called for what we surgeons term an "everting suture," which turned the leather outward to meet the sole, as contrasted with the conventional shoe in which it turns inward.

After the war, he said, he secured his legal rights to the creeper and assigned the manufacturing/marketing franchise to a bunch of other Clarks of England, i.e. the family firm, of which he became a functionary. His cousins who controlled the organization were strait-laced, militant Quakers. Certainly they thought the name he had given his brainchild was uncouth. Their prissiness demanded its change, but their pacifism didn't prevent them from selecting "The Desert Boot™," a name more than a little redolent of Montgomery's rough-and-tumble in the north Sahara. The footwear itself was wildly successful; it helped boost the corporation's sales some eightfold. Eventually, strains on the family laces resulted in the company's buying our hero out, freeing him to pursue the dream he'd always had of becoming a sculptor.

My own interest in the affair comes from having spotted his name in our College class report of 1972. I wrote to him and he invited me to call on him at Dinder House, his home near Wells, when I was next in England. I did so, and found that he had been amazingly productive. His output ranged from a naturalistic, life-size bronze nude in his entrance hall and small marble niche statues in his church (replacing the ones that Cromwell had busted up some years earlier), to abstractions in various materials. One of these, a five-foot, curving, polished bronze "column" in his garden, I found intriguing. Its helical form was vaguely reminiscent of Bernini's columns in St. Peter's, but overall it appeared to have been adapted from an organic structure. He asked me to guess, as a physician, what it was, but I failed this pop quiz in comparative anatomy. It turned out that it was his impression of the ulna of a fox, modified a bit to suit his aesthetic. I found that it also suited mine, so he made me a copy; thus I came to have the only example of his work in North America, but my piece has a verdigris finish, which better fits my informal garden.

I doubt that any other alumnus has made a more "lasting impression" than the Squire of Dinder.

Charles Klippel '42, M.D.
Paxton, Mass.

 

Edward Tenner comments: On the Clarks website, the company states that the Desert Boot™ was introduced in the early 1950s by another fighting Clark--Nathan, not Hugh--and that it was "modelled on the simple, comfortable boots that his fellow army officers found in the bazaars of Cairo." I would like to be on the side of the Harvard claimant, but would rather not interfere in a possible family dispute. Although "brothel-creeper" became popular in the 1960s, the phrase suggests late-Victorian jollity. The Oxford English Dictionary is mute on this one.

 

NUCLEAR TERRORISM UNLIKELY

I find Graham T. Allison's analysis of the Russian nuclear threat ("Russia's 'Loose Nukes,'" September-October, page 34) wholly unconvincing and particularly chauvinistic. During two courses about terrorism with Professor Louise Richardson of the government department, I recently learned how unlikely nuclear terrorism really is. Perhaps unpaid Russian missile supervisors might succumb to terrorist bribes--but the actual chances of terrorist groups (a) summoning and moving the money to the right men and (b) gaining access to such men are negligible.

But say they could be bribed--so could poor American military staff. McCarthy encouraged Americans to scan the room for the communist among us, undoing democracy through fear. Allison conjures up that same fear in encouraging Americans to buy back these weapons of mass destruction before the terrorist among us does. Why not realize that both men have failed, that we in our fear have failed, and failed even earlier when we watched such weapons take shape? As many should have in the case of McCarthy, I say question the premise, struggle for a truly free world; destroy the bombs.

Molly Hennessy-Fiske '99
Port St. Lucie, Fla.

 

DEANS, COLLECTIVELY

Burton Benedict says in a letter (September-October, page 13) that the collective noun for deans is a "delay" of deans. Some years ago, in the Harvest restaurant in Cambridge, I passed a table where four or five Harvard deans were having lunch. I stopped and asked what a group of deans was called. Without a pause, one of them--I think it was Burt Dreben, then dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences--replied, "A gripe of deans."

Anthony Lewis '48
Boston

 

HARVARD AND HITLER

Apropos of "Cheerleaders Take Flight" (September-October, page 86), there's something of a dark side that didn't get mentioned. Ernst "Putzi" Hanfstaengl '09, who was a member of Hitler's entourage, wrote that Hitler got the idea for having the crowds at his rallies chant "Sieg Heil" from Hanfstaengl's stories of how Harvard cheerleaders used to get football crowds excited. Sorry about that.

Martin Needler '54
Monterey, Calif.

 

U TAKE THE PRIZE

In "The Living Harvard Force," about changing graduates as seen through 90 years of alumni directories (September-October, page 60), John Bethell writes that, "The Registrar's rolls [in 1910] listed students from all 48 states...."

As a Harvard government major, I can state with some assurance that there were only 46 states in 1910. Oklahoma was admitted as the forty-sixth in 1907, but Arizona and New Mexico did not come in until 1912, fixing the number at 48 until the admission of Alaska and Hawaii in 1958 and 1959. Another trivial pursuit in the alumni directories might be the shortest surname. My classmate Maung M. U takes this prize with one letter, although another alumnus whom I don't know also bears the surname "U."

Richard O. Neville '58
Fort Myers, Fla.

 

TOO MUCH CREME FRAICHE

Naturally, I am as happy as everyone else about the new scholarships, faculty, and facilities made possible by the huge success of the University Campaign ("With a Little Help from Harvard's Friends," July-August, page 40). I could not help feeling uneasy, however, at the unabashed delight the article took in describing the fête thrown for the biggest donors (those contributing over $1 million), with its loin of veal, roasted shallots, chilled spring soup with crème fraîche and mint, and boulevard of ficus trees. Particularly disquieting was the author's dismissal of the "living wage" campaign as a mere nuisance unworthy of any more notice than the rain. Such lavish displays and flattering commentary do little to dispel the perception of Harvard's wealth that President Rudenstine lamented, or the feeling among many alumni that Harvard cares about them only when they make large donations.

Theodore Hong '95
London

 

Editor's note: Perhaps Hong reads "unabashed delight" into a purely factual account. For news coverage of the living-wage issue, see "Beyond Wages in the Workplace" (July-August, page 83), "Treating Workers Too Casually" (November-December 1999, page 82), and "Students Protest Sweatshop Labor" (May-June 1999, page 67).

 

MR. AGASSIZ'S PHILANTHROPY

Louis Agassiz well deserves to be remembered by Neil L. Rudenstine ("A Hazard of Good Fortune," July-August, page 47) as a champion fundraiser as well as a zoologist, and his letters (preserved in three Harvard archives) prove that his practice of amassing more specimens than he could display or even catalog was deliberate brinkmanship. He did return from Brazil in 1867, as Rudenstine said, with barrels of fish that he lacked the wherewithal to study. Too soon, however, the world-famous naturalist died, in 1873.

 

l-agassiz

Mr. Agassiz, benefactor. Little thanks he got.
Harvard University Archives

The Museum of Comparative Zoology lived on, under the leadership of his zoologist son, Alexander Agassiz, A.B. 1855, LL.D. '85, who was always referred to as "Mr." to distinguish him from "Professor" Agassiz. Alexander had grown up seeing his father racked by money worries, so at Harvard he applied himself to chemistry and geology as well as to the subject he preferred, zoology. His strategy succeeded spectacularly well, thanks to Michigan copper mines, and before long Mr. Agassiz was one of the wealthiest men in America.

Before his death in 1910 he poured millions of dollars into the MCZ, and in his will he endowed several research chairs. President Eliot's description of the MCZ's need for money (page 48) was unintended irony, and so is President Rudenstine's use of it, for the complaint is taken from the museum's annual report and expresses Alexander Agassiz's exasperation that his own contributions were not appreciated. The son's philanthropy, no less than the father's enthusiasm, deserves to be remembered.

Mary P. Winsor '65
Toronto

 

Editor's note: Winsor is the author of Reading the Shape of Nature: Comparative Zoology at the Agassiz Museum (University of Chicago Press, 1991).

 

NO EXCUSES, EXERCISE

As a fitness instructor and personal trainer certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, I was dismayed by "Japan's No-Aerobics" (September-October, page 20). It mentioned the World Health Organization's study that ranked the Japanese as the "world's healthiest people" and cited research that suggests they have achieved this without the "no pain, no gain" ethic of fitness clubs. This article, I fear, will give people yet another excuse not to exercise.

Unlike the deep-fried-super-sized American diet, the Japanese diet generally is low in cholesterol, fat, and calories. This is probably the main contributing factor to their national health, not the fact that they shun exercise in favor of pounding drinks at strip clubs and bars.

Moreover, last year the Japan Society for the Study of Obesity warned of an epidemic of obesity among Japanese children and reported that the number of overweight Japanese has more than quadrupled in the past three decades. Here in the United States we are growing fatter and fatter. A recent surgeon general's report found that approximately 34 million American adults--one third of us--are overweight and 18 percent are obese, and 27 percent of American children are obese. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable deaths in America.

Yes, getting massaged and lounging in a sauna are wonderful ways to relax. But they do not aid in the prevention of health problems like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, gout, gall bladder disease, or osteoarthritis. Obesity contributes heavily to all of these. Yet only 7 percent of Americans exercise even twice weekly. And of those who do start a fitness program, half drop out within three to six months.

Jennifer Lapierre, A.L.M. '97
Somerville, Mass.

 

 

REMEMBER HENRIETTA LARSON

Henrietta Larson in 1951

Henrietta Larson in 1951

Walter R. Fleischer/Harvard University Archives

I am just now catching up with the November-December 1999 issue. Its cover article (page 50), "Harvard's Womanless History," is subtitled "Completing the University's self-portrait." Not quite completing.

Although the article concentrates on the College, it does mention Alice Hamilton at the Medical School. But it makes no mention of Henrietta Larson, who was at the Business School from 1928 to 1961. She went there as an associate in research and became an assistant professor in 1939 and associate professor in 1942, a rank she maintained until 1961. In that year, in which she retired, she was designated "emerita" and became the Business School's first woman full professor. In 1979, she received the Harvard Business School Association's award for distinguished service, the first woman to be so recognized.

During all her 33 years of that service, she was on one-year appointments, was not allowed to attend faculty meetings, and couldn't use the faculty dining room. When she gave a luncheon at the faculty club for a guest, she had to ask a male colleague to take the guest to the private dining room, to which the access was through the faculty dining room, while she went up the kitchen stairway.

I was at the Business School from 1945 to 1954. After I had been there several years as a research associate, my department proposed a faculty appointment for me, making me the third woman on the faculty. Dean Donald K. David came himself to my office and said, "I just want to be sure you understand that so long as I am dean, no woman will ever be on the tenure track." I was also the first woman to appear on a program of the HBS Association (as a member of a panel organized by Professor George Lombard). A letter was sent to all those scheduled to appear on that day inviting us to a luncheon meeting in the faculty dining room to finalize arrangements. Down in the lower left-hand corner of my letter was a hand-written note: "What are we going to do with you, a woman?"

Larson was one of the early scholars in the field of business history, and her work was seminal. I do think she deserves to be remembered by Harvard.

H. Ronken Lynton '41
Pittsboro, N.C.

 

HIGH-COST DISTANCE TEACHING

Distance learning is something we here in Montana know something about since everywhere in the state seems to be several hundred lonely miles from everywhere else. Distance learning has become a hot topic among educators here.

Clearly, the Internet is a marvelous tool for solo research and continues to have an enormously beneficial impact on isolated communities and individuals, but the use of the Internet and other forms of communication, such as "real-time" video conferencing, in an attempt to engage students in classes remotely has been, in my experience, mostly an abject failure.

"Distance [email protected]" (July-August, page 75) illustrates one of the main reasons for this. The picture caption shows "$200,000-worth of equipment" in the distance-education production room and explains that this represents a "basic facility." Perhaps in Cambridge every classroom, home, and conference room is suitably equipped with high-speed communication services and superior, state-of-the-art equipment, but I can assure you this is not yet the case in Montana.

Quality presentations require quality equipment, high connection speeds, and wide bandwidth to successfully communicate, present, and display material with any degree of sophistication or professionalism. Furthermore, unless they are unusually gifted, faculty and others who attempt to engage students through distance-learning technologies need to have extensive and expensive training.

I believe that much of the real value of faculty-student interaction cannot be successfully transmitted by most forms of "distance learning" as it now exists.

Thomas G. Lyman, M.Ed. '78
Billings, Mont.

 

HOT COPERNICUS

In an embarrassing but forgivable glitch, University Hall overlooked an announcement of my retirement from teaching this June, as well as the end of "The Astronomical Perspective," Harvard's "longest running course under the same management." In a valiant attempt at recovery, Harvard Magazine announced that I was "an expert on the...[nothing]."

The accidentally dropped words ["Errata," below] might have mentioned Copernicus, the Polish astronomer who introduced the heliocentric system in his De revolutionibus, published in 1543. When Christie's of London recently announced the auction of a copy of the book with estimated bids exceeding half a million dollars, thieves took notice. Presently, Christie's was asked if they were interested in another copy. "Not unless Professor Gingerich clears it," was their reply. The reason was that these books are not like peas in a pod. They were individually bound, and bear the tracks of their early owners. I've personally inspected nearly every known copy, and my detailed notes cover 276 examples. The marginal annotations help document the gradual acceptance of the Copernican system and record how comparatively unsuccessful the Roman decree of 1620 was in censoring the book, something the Inquisition never knew.

In due time I received via e-mail rather fuzzy images of a copy on offer from a Russian agent. It took only a few minutes to identify it as the property of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. Not wishing to get mixed up with the Russian mafia, I kept a low profile, but eventually suggested to a St. Petersburg colleague that he should inquire about the book. Within a week the director of the library announced that 24 rare books were missing from their vault, including not one, but both their copies of De revolutionibus. Apparently, he had been unaware of the losses. Subsequently, rather to my chagrin, the Russian police announced that the discovery had been triggered "by a Harvard professor."

Owen Gingerich, Ph.D. '62
Professor of astronomy and the history of science emeritus
Cambridge

 

WHO'S A COMMUNIST?

It's disappointing that after we took in the Cubans; let them by-pass immigration quotas the rest of the world, from Irish to Afghani, have to live with; gave them free medical care and job and housing assistance that ordinary Americans never got; even let them become citizens, they now want to freeload on the efforts the U.S. makes to get back American property seized by Castro by including Cuban property seized by Castro ("Your Friend, Fidel," July-August, page 35, and letters responding to it, September-October, page 4).

Every country expropriates the property of its own citizens with impunity. Haven't you heard of death tax, civil forfeiture, and eminent domain? For example, if a family of 10 has owned a hard-scrabble farm since Revolutionary times, steadily resisting offers of a million dollars to sell to the adjacent ski resorts, when the widowed parent dies they have to pay 39 percent of the market value minus the exclusion, which is more than all of them put together have ever earned. They have to sell, and the million less the tax is not enough to buy homes for all 10, let alone send the children to Harvard or buy health insurance.

This redistribution of land from the poor to the rich is done to force less productive land into development, which produces bigger income, more jobs, and more taxes, assumed by politicians to make the country--or at least the government--stronger; in other words, for the exact reason Castro gives land from the rich to the poor.

Maybe we should cast out the mote in our own eye before accusing other countries of dictatorial communism.

Stephanie Muñoz
Los Altos Hills, Calif.

 

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM THEIR FRIENDS

Geoffrey Fowler's article on the "anti-thesis" ("The Undergraduate," July-August, page 87) was wonderful. My best friend came across it serendipitously and read it when we were in the midst of an incredible amount of emotion surrounding our own graduation from Stanford. She immediately called me to say, "Meg, you have to read this." I must admit I did indeed get shivers at the description of the group effort and friendship that brought Fowler's thesis together at last.

We were both touched by the fact that now that college is tangibly complete, that kind of community is a memory--and something we miss terribly. He wrote of the help and support and love he got from others so beautifully that even across the country at a very different university, we were so incredibly moved.

Megan Tompkins
Stanford

 

FIGHTING ABOUT RIGHTS

In "What I Read at War" (July-August, page 58), Chris Hedges writes that "I have heard Israeli settlers on the West Bank, for example, argue that Palestinian towns--towns that have been Muslim since the seventh century--belong to them because it says so in the Bible," and describes this claim as "sophistry" and "a dubious account of ancient history." One wonders, first, why claims based on the Bible are "sophistry" while claims based on the history of the Arab conquest of Palestine are manifestly valid. Second, Hedges's statement of the Palestinian claim is itself dubious ancient history. At the time of the Arab conquest the majority of the population of Palestine was Christian, and it is universally believed by historians that it took centuries (with a reversal of the trend during the Crusader period) for the majority to become Muslim. Nothing, of course, is at stake here for the actual claims of the Palestinians today: their national cause is purportedly unified by land and blood, not faith. If history matters, and most human beings think it does, then it matters that that history should be retold as accurately as possible. The lists of historical rights and wrongs in national conflicts are always lengthy, and wearying. But the alternative to arguing, and fighting, about the rights of the first possessor is to preserve forever by brute force the claims of the last possessor--a maxim even more despairing of any hope of justice on this earth.

Michael S. Kochin '89
Lecturer, Department of Political Science
Tel Aviv University

 

"What I Read at War" is the best-written, most moving, most disturbing article on war that I have read in many years. It should be required reading for all our elected representatives in Washington, as well as for secretaries of defense and state. Thank you for printing it.

George H. Wolfson '37
East Hampton, Conn.

 

ERRATA

The Editors regret three errors in the September-October issue.

* In Edward Tenner's article about shoes, "Lasting Impressions," six lines of text disappeared between pages 39 and 40 as a result of a production error by our printer. (N.B. Tenner is the author of Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences.) The text should have read:

"....The resulting United Shoe Machinery Company, incorporated in 1899, had a virtual monopoly of the technology for the leading types of American shoe production. Winslow ran the company, and the retired McKay's interest in it was one of America's great fortunes.

"Reformers soon assailed the Shoe Trust. A shoe manufacturer might still, with some difficulty, get every necessary machine from some other supplier, but few independent domestic makers were left."

* An in-house change in text caused a news item about Owen J. Gingerich ("Brevia," page 83) to lose its last three words, leaving readers in doubt about the nature of his expertise. He is an expert on the "work of Copernicus" (see "Hot Copernicus," above).

* Finally, a typographical mistake not caught in proofreading caused the middle initial of Walter C. Klein '39 to be misstated in the list of Hiram S. Hunn Memorial Schools and Scholarships Award winners (page 90). We apologize for this gaffe.

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