Mrs. Henderson and the Helium Cryostat

I keep thinking that things will settle down any day now, but I finally have to admit that this is not going to happen any time soon. It’s just frantic.

So I was digging through some boxes today on some sort of mission and I happened upon this newspaper photo. Let me just say that I see hundreds if not thousands of newspaper photos every week and flip past them without much thought, but this one reached out and seized my attention:

This is not normal. The hat, the corsage . . . . they don’t fit with the helium cryostat. I dug around trying to find out what on earth this was all about and was rewarded with a small scrap of newsprint wedged in between two pieces of paper. No date, but it had to have been 1954:

Well. What to make of this. I’m not sure, but I can confidently tell you that Mrs. Frank Henderson was what is referred to as a “live wire.” The shelf-life of cafe society is short so it’s not so easy to track her down, but it’s clear that Betty Henderson was a spectacular individual–a rebel from proper Boston, an accomplished athlete and a bit of a provocateur. Here’s the New York Times announcement of her wedding to Frank Henderson, an Oklahoma oilman, in 1912. He was her third husband and he stuck—strong fellow.

I still have no real notion of how she got mixed up with low temperature physics at the Rice Institute, but I aim to find out.

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11 Responses to Mrs. Henderson and the Helium Cryostat

  1. rebbekenny says:

    That’s a $200,000+ donation in today’s dollars!

    Kenny Weiss

  2. One wonders if the Cryostat is still at Rice?
    And also what denomination married them? My parents married in 1953, in a Methodist Church, because Southern Baptist and Episcopal churches refused to marry them because my father was divorced.

  3. Bill Allison says:

    I notice the Hendersons show up in the Rice “Group Photograph” files.

  4. nburch2 says:

    Great story — looking forward to hearing more about Lady Betty.

  5. Kathy says:

    I need to remember that if I ever present any institution with a cryostat, I MUST wear a corsage!

  6. Frank Smith says:

    Melissa, I remember when Rice got the cryostat. Dr. Houston and Prof. Harold “Bud” Rorschach used it for superconductivity research. Bud’s widow told me today that Barry Dunning could probably tell you more. You probably know him – x 3544 & 4149. Good luck – Frank

    • Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

      It is good to hear Dr. Dunning is around. Is he still teaching? I had him for freshman physics in 1976-1977. Two things I remember clearly. His class (supposed to end at 11:50) always ran long, which made us late for lunch in the commons. When he lectured and wrote on the large sliding chalkboards in Physics Lec, if he noticed an error on the upper board, he would jump up on the chalk tray, erase the error with the heel of his hand, write the correction, and jump back down and continue where he had left off. All without skipping a beat. He lectured and wrote on the board faster than any other professor. It was also a challenge to keep up with the 4 colors of chalk he would use for clarity.

      • Robert Lawrence says:

        Dr. Dunning was great. I had him for freshman physics in ’96-’97. He was a master at working those chalkboards. I keep wondering if they’re still used in this high-tech age (although I can’t imagine Dunning using anything else). According to his profile on the Rice site, he’s still teaching freshman physics.

  7. Richard Miller (Hanszen '75 & '76) says:

    Actually I would consider the hat and corsage are perfectly normal for that period of time. Any well dressed lady would always have both a hat and a corsage when going out to any event and would wear it indoors (just as any adult male would have some form of hat when outdoors)

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