Century at Stanford

March/April 2007

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Century at Stanford

News Service

100 YEARS AGO(1907)

University Library officials solicited contributions for a Stanford Collection—the forerunner of today’s University Archives—that would illustrate the life of the University.

75 YEARS AGO(1931)

Ending years of contentious campus debate, trustees rejected a proposal to eliminate the Lower Division—Stanford’s freshman and sophomore years. As early as 1907, President David Starr Jordan broached the idea of abolishing the first two years so the institution could focus on advanced work. President Ray Lyman Wilbur took up the cause, announcing in 1927 his desire to phase out the Lower Division by 1934. Wilbur believed that the emerging junior college system could cover the first two years of “elementary” work and permit immature students to “blow off some of [the] animal spirits which have vibrated through college halls for years on end,” he wrote in his memoirs. Trustees authorized Wilbur to reduce enrollment in the Lower Division, but deferred a decision on its elimination. Lower Division registration, which stood at 1,617 in 1926–27, declined 31 percent during the next five years. Alumni, the athletics board and fraternities protested vehemently. Meanwhile, the Depression began taking its toll. Despite increases in the Upper Division and in graduate programs, total enrollment in 1931–32 dropped by 241 from the previous year. Alarmed by the financial repercussions, trustees in February 1932 embraced the Lower Division and announced an expansion of 100 slots in the fall.

University officials announced plans to devote 30 acres west of the Main Quad as a Science Quadrangle. The area had been growing gradually since construction in 1948 of the High Energy Physics Laboratory, with five buildings already completed. The focal point of the 14-building project would be the Physics Lecture Hall (Physics Tank), under construction on Lomita Drive. Officials said the $10 million Science Quad would encourage “cross-fertilization” of ideas among scientists of different fields. The Physics Tank was demolished in a 1997 redevelopment.

George Pólya, professor emeritus of mathematics, was elevated to honorary membership in the London Mathematical Society; in 1987, the organization established a prize in his memory.

25 YEARS AGO (1981)

Samuel I. and Cecile M. Barchas donated to the University Libraries their collection of books about the history of science and ideas. The Barchases had amassed 2,000 volumes, with a value of $5 million.

KAREN BARTHOLOMEW, ’71, writes this column on behalf of the Stanford Historical Society.  

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