The young man who actually weighed the coin I talked about yesterday was William Moore Craig, who served as an instructor in Rice’s Chemistry Department for only two years, from 1923 to 1925. He grew up in central Texas and graduated from Southwestern in Georgetown in 1906 and then again with an MA in 1907. After teaching for a bit he returned to school, this time entering the University of Texas for a MS in Chemistry. After service in World War I Craig went off to Harvard and began working with Professor T.W. Richards on the atomic weight of gallium, interrupting his studies when he came to teach at Rice in 1923. Craig was lured away in 1926 by some classmates from UT who were among the very first faculty members at the new Texas Technological College in Lubbock and he remained at Tech (with a break to finish his doctorate) until he retired in 1958.
Almost unbelievably, I managed to find a photo of the Rice Chemistry department in 1924. I’m fairly sure that Craig is the fellow in the middle of the front row with the bow tie:
So why am I bothering with this guy who taught here for a little while ninety years ago? It’s because he left something big behind.
It was William Moore Craig, working with architect William Ward Watkin, who designed the chemical and alchemical symbols that adorn the Chemistry Building:
I was surprised to find a reference in Bud Morehead’s Walking Tour of Rice University to a letter from Craig explaining the origins of those symbols so I went and dug around in Morehead’s papers and sure enough, there it was. It’s too long to post each page here so I’m putting it up as a pdf for anyone who is interested in this sort of thing.
And I’m sure none of you will be surprised to hear that Craig and Watkin collaborated again, carving many of the same symbols on the Chemistry Building that Watkin later designed for Texas Tech.
Bonus: The woman standing next to the presumed Mr. Craig in the 1924 photo is Vera Prasilova Scott, the wife of Rice Chemistry Professor Arthur Scott. I know I’ve mentioned her somewhere before but I never tire of her exquisite photographs of Houston’s elite in the 1920s and early ’30s. Here’s a short video about her and her work from Woodson staffer Dara Flynn and Paul Hester: