Update: Mrs. Henderson and the Helium Cryostat

Remember Betty Henderson and her thoughtful gift to Rice, a Collins Helium Cryostat? I’ve recently managed to dig up a couple of things that may begin to shed a little more light on this. I was a bit surprised to find a photograph in the Woodson’s files of her with her husband, Frank. From what I can tell, he was a native of Oklahoma who got rich in the oil business.

I have no information about the dog.

Luckily, the picture is labeled with the exact date of the event–April 20, 1954–which was missing from the original article. I haven’t had time yet to go look at the microfilm of the Houston papers but I will soon.

Also, almost unbelievably, it turns out that the instrument itself is still sitting in the basement of the old Physics Building! The case is missing, but here are the guts:

And here’s the memorial plaque, also found in the basement, now residing in the Woodson. The fingers belong to Stan Dodds of the Physics Department, who helped me find this stuff.

But the smartest thing I did was go back and look at the old faculty research reports so we can see who used it for what. Rice began printing these reports, which were initially quite simple affairs, sometime after William Houston became president so I wasn’t sure that one would exist for this fairly early date. One did, though. Here’s the relevant entry for 1955:

And here’s a whole page worth from 1958:

A couple of things jump out at me. First, for several reasons that I won’t go into right now, I’m very interested that President Houston used this machine. And second, the common denominator in all this work (besides the instrument) is a then-brand new assistant professor named Bud Rohrshach. Who was also from Oklahoma.

I’m not finished here yet.

Bonus: Here’s link to Betty Henderson’s obituary. Wow.

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10 Responses to Update: Mrs. Henderson and the Helium Cryostat

  1. Richard A. Schafer says:

    Betty Henderson: Wow, indeed! That’s one of the most amazing obituary’s I’ve ever seen.

  2. Fascinating about Betty Henderson. Also the helium articles were interesting. I didn’t realise that they were studying superconductivity that far back. The books I was reading in the 70s made it sound like something new. Some really cool stuff, and sounds like Rice was in the forefront.

    Watch channel 2 news tonight, they gave quite a nice editorial on Rice’s 100th birthday.

  3. Pat Campbell says:

    I love that the picture is of Dr. Rohrschach teaching Physics 100 – Mechanics – in the Physics Lecture Hall. What year is the picture from?

  4. Bill Allison says:

    I still remember F = MA. It explains many useful things like why getting hit by bigger, faster football players hurts more than when they were smaller and slower. 🙂

  5. mjthannisch says:

    Thank you Almadenmike. I see now why I would have thought that, but most interesting.

  6. Doug Williams says:

    I know that’s an early picture of Dr. Rohrshach, but he doesn’t look right in a regular necktie. In the 1980s I don’t remember seeing him in any neckwear other than bowties. He was a great teacher and researcher.

  7. If I recall, Dr. Class talked about the cryostat for a minute or two at the UnConvention lecture for Physics & Astronomy back in April.

    Great write-up in that obit.

  8. almadenmike says:

    “What’s Marlene Dietrich got that I haven’t got?”

    Here’s the photo: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/objects/hitting-high-see-whats-marlene-dietrich-got-that-i-havent-got-mrs-frank-c

    Caption: Mrs. Frank C. Henderson hikes a shimmering evening gown to expose a length of leg on a table in the Metropolitan Opera House bar. Convulsed escort at right is Bob Reud.

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