“Engineering at Rice Institute,” 1959

I’m lucky. I was on my knees back in the shelves looking for something and from that odd vantage point I noticed a small booklet I’d never seen before. It’s just fantastic. It’s dated December, 1959 and here’s what it looks like:

Engineering at Rice Institute December 1959

First off, right on the cover, I’m curious. What is that on top of (behind?) Abercrombie?

Next, I found this inside:

Engineering at Rice Institute 3I knew immediately I’d seen it before and I even knew where. I found it first in Jim Sims’s papers and speculated about it here in a post about the vanished parking lot. Now, very unexpectedly, the mystery is solved: “The behavior of long mortar-filled steel tubes under axial loading, lateral loading, and combined axial and lateral loading are being studied. Particular attention is directed to the behavior of short specimens subjected to axial compression. As an integral part of this investigation a very long compression member has been constructed and is being tested. This consists of two thin steel tubes arranged coaxially with the annulus filled with mortar slurry. The compound column was then strained by a hydraulic ram acting on a bridge strand cable passing through the inner tube. The overall length of the tube is 195 ft.” Got that? (I love “annulus,” by the way. It strikes me as quite an elegant usage. “Little ring” in Latin–the space between the inside tube and the outside tube.)

But best of all, this little book actually helps me with my real work. I’m working on a book about the transformation of Rice in the 1960s and this gives me a beautiful snapshot  of the state of our engineering school as it sat on the brink of tremendous change. Its introduction, written by President Houston, is short but revealing about how the Institute’s leadership thought about what they were trying to accomplish:

Engineering at Rice Institute 4This is good.

Bonus: I’ve had enough winter.


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5 Responses to “Engineering at Rice Institute,” 1959

  1. Matthew Noall says:

    The thing behind Abercrombie looks like a UHF antenna on top of a tower. There is an enclosed walkway allowing work to be done on the antenna elements. It might be a log periodic array but the photo seems to be a too grainy to tell (at least for me). I assume someone was doing some radio research work then

    • It does look like an antenna, but the spacing isn’t right for a yagi or a log periodic. The latter was invented in 1958, also making it less likely.

      I’d guess that it is a non-conductive frame for a folded dipole, because there seems to be some wire or something between the cross-members.

      There are also pulleys and lines dangling from each of the corners of the platform. One line would make sense for hauling stuff up. Four is odd.

  2. Karl Benson says:

    The introduction by President Houston indicates that the booklet was prepared for some visiting engineering professional group. Clearly, Rice engineers needed more time in those “non-technical” subjects of which Dr. Houston writes, particularly grammar: “The behavior of long mortar-filled steel tubes … are being studied.”??? Didn’t the engineers have a short-wave radio rig in those years? I seem to remember hearing something about it.

  3. Gene says:

    Annuli are often discussed by mechanical engineers in the analysis of pipe and pipe systems. In particular engineers designing pipe systems to be used in drilling and completing wells regularly use this terminology.

  4. Bonus: you came to my sandbox and didn’t come say hi? We’ve had enough winter here, and so apparently has Grounds. The bushes and ground cover in the new Lummis courtyard are now uncovered and the fountain is back on.

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