“Our Lab, November 1914”

The week before commencement is one of my favorite times of the year. Things feel almost placid after the chaos of finals and I enjoy watching the preparations out on the quad and the anticipation of the summer. I took advantage of the quiet this afternoon to dig into a collection that I haven’t spent a lot of time with, the Julian and Juliette Huxley Papers. There are a staggering number of photos in this collection and there’s no obvious place to plunge in so I needed a moment when I wasn’t pressed by other business.

Happily, I was rewarded with one of the nicest pictures of early campus I’ve ever come across. It is this, labeled by Huxley “Our Lab, November 1914. Davies in background.”:

It looks like they may still be moving into the then-brand new Physics Building, which housed the Biology Department for many years. Heaven only knows what all that machinery is about. The highlight here, though, is one of my heroes, the great Joseph Davies, who I would have missed entirely if Huxley hadn’t pointed him out to me. It must be one of the earliest images of him at Rice. This is the sort of thing that makes my job deeply satisfying.

Bonus: I think he would have loved this wild little corner of campus. I certainly do.

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11 Responses to “Our Lab, November 1914”

  1. Grant Youngman (Baker, '67) says:

    Kempsmith Mfg is still in business as Kempsmith Machine Company in Milwaukee.

  2. grungy1973 says:

    That’s a lathe on the right, and my guess would be a Kempsmith horizontal milling machine still in the crate, on the left. What they have to do with biology, I don’t know.

  3. Jim Walzel says:

    Being class of ’59, I remember a lot of these “old timers”. Davies was one of those along with Hubert Bray (math), Tsanoff (philosophy), Niels Nielson (religion), and Heaps (physics). In Physics 100 Heaps always had these great demonstrations which we all referred to as “Heap’s magic show” It was fun and interesting.
    Jim Walzel ’59.

  4. This week reminds me of the mad dash to finish my wedding gown in between my last final and my wedding, which was a week after graduation. Not so usually for me, I pulled an all-nighter the night before. But I did finish the dress and make it through the late morning wedding.

  5. Michael Ross says:

    I wonder if the machining equipment was merely occupying space (perhaps temporarily?) in the lab … and the photo was meant to document the encroachment … perhaps with barely veiled snark?

    Pages 74-75 of the 1916-17 Rice General Announcements lists six different lathes in the machine shop as well as “the No. 1 Kempsmith universal milling machine, which is fitted with a good variety of cutters and a dividing head for gear cutting, differential indexing, spiral grooving, etc.”


    Similar listings continue — with increasing numbers of lathes — through the 1942-43 edition, which lists (on pp 171-2) 18 different lathes and “One Kempsmith machine is supplied with a universal milling attachment.”

    Where was the machine shop located in 1914 … and 1916 and later? Are there later, but still 19-teens or 20s, photos of Davies’ or Huxley’s lab … or the machine shop?

  6. Galloway Hudson '60 says:

    I was one year behind Jim Walzel and worked (even car pooled) with Jim at Shell Oil Co. It is amazing how many of the profs we had went back almost to the beginning. Jim named several, to which, I think, could be added Ryon (Civil Engineering), Waters (Electrical Engineering), and Williams (English). Most of them had PhDs, but some of those who did not called those who did “alphabet worshippers”.

    If I am not mistaken, Jim was later on a prime candidate to lead Enron, along with a chap named Ken Lay. We all know how that turned out.

  7. Those machine tools were no doubt on their way to Mr. Van Der Henst in the physics shop in the basement. In 1957 those of us starting our Phd projects in the nuclear lab had to learn to use the lathe and milling machine in the physics building basement. We were taught by Van Der Henst and his assistant. In those days we were expected to be able to build most of the apparatus we needed for our projects.

  8. marmer01 says:

    Jim Walzel, are you Bob Walzel, Sr’s brother? I am from Lake Jackson, where the Walzel name is well known and revered in musical circles. I went to school and played in band with all the Walzel kids. Small world.

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