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October 18–22, 1926

An Institute of Physics was held to celebrate the dedication of the Henry M. Sanders Laboratory of Physics, Allen & Ewing, architects. The building was erected in large part with a bequest from Dr. Sanders, trustee of Vassar from 1895 until his death in 1921. The guest of honor, the Serbian-American physicist and inventor, Mihajlo I. Pupin, professor of electro-mechanics at Columbia University and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, spoke on “Physics and Its Place in Modern Scientific Idealism.”

In his remarks, Dr. Pupin spoke of the interactions of the sounds of bells and of music and the light of the stars with human consciousness, and in conclusion he invoked the “voice” of a young star, beyond the earth’s stellar system, as it might be detected by spectroscopic means:

“I am an astral baby now, and will be a baby still when, a million years hence, you will receive this message. Many billions of years will pass before the ardor of my youth has cooled down to the moderation of your central star, the sun. Heaven only knows when I shall be as old as your old Mother Earth. But when I reach that age I shall be a beautiful cosmic bell just like your earth and, responding to the clappers of the luminous stars, I shall add my voice to the celestial choir which is declaring the glory of God.”

The New York Times

Other institute participants were Columbia embryologist Thomas H. Morgan, Dr. Willis R. Whitney, founder of the General Electric Research Laboratory, Professor Henry Norris Russell, director of the Princeton Observatory, Nobel Prize physicist and president of Caltech, Robert A. Millikan and Professor of Physics Frederick A. Saunders of Harvard University.

Summarizing the institute, on October 20, in “Vassar and Science,” The New York Times concluded that the “provision which Vassar has made through the gift of Dr. Sanders is significant in the history of the education of women. Not that American colleges for women have not made noteworthy contributions to science in the past, and notably Vassar, but that this marks a definite effort to lead women toward the higher ranges of science where a few of their sisters now make researches along with their brothers, who, as Dr. Millikan, inquire into the ultimate sources of matter, or, as Dr. Pupil, seek to give physics its place in modern scientific idealism.”

The Years