Looking at the photos of the Biology expeditions in George Wheeler’s scrapbook, I was powerfully struck by the sense of fun that they radiate. These were people having a great time. One set of images depicts students, almost certainly in the basic biology course, hunting for specimens on and around the Rice campus under the guidance of their teachers. Huxley left Rice at the end of the school year in 1916 and was replaced by the geneticist Edgar Altenburg, who joined H.J. Muller in the department that fall. I believe these pictures were taken either then or in the spring semester of 1917. It was clearly an adventure.
A second set of pictures, though, is even more palpably joyful. In the letter that came with his scrapbook, Wheeler wrote: “During my senior year Davies and I bought a second-hand canoe (for $10) and made several trips down Buffalo Bayou and up the San Jacinto River.” This second group of images captures some of those trips, and they are an utter delight. These are the members and staff of the biology department and a couple of their more advanced students, including Wheeler. It’s so easy to imagine what pure pleasure this must have been–camping out, on a mission to find out what lives around here, in the company of smart, funny people, seeing things you hadn’t seen before. You can almost hear them: “Look what I found!” This is, in fact, now that I think about it, the entire point of the university.
In this first one below, Wheeler is on the far left (with the crew cut–military-related I would imagine). That’s Davies with the huge grin next to him. I’m not sure who the fellow in the middle is, but Altenburg and Herman Muller are on the right. (There is much to say about them–they were life-long friends and collaborators, and Muller won the Nobel Prize for his work on genetic mutations–but I’ll save that for another time.)
This one below is just crazy. I wonder who got to put on the suit.
Bonus: What do you suppose they did during the evenings?