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12/22/2010 08:00:00

Caltech Archives Passes Milestone

In December, the Caltech Archives' Oral Histories Online project passed a major milestone, adding the 100th—and, subsequently, the 101st and 102nd—interviews to a (now-digital) archive begun more than 30 years ago for the purpose of recording the personal memoirs of the distinguished scientists, teachers, and administrators of the Institute.

Reaching 100 before the end of 2010 was the result of a concerted effort by the Archives' staff, which posted seven new interviews in November and December alone—this after a two-year period in which just one oral history was published to the site. "We wanted to hit 100 this year!" says Shelley Erwin, head of the Archives. "This was also the 100th year of this campus, so the number was in our minds." 

The new collection of interviews range from an interview with former president David Baltimore to one with Jenijoy La Belle, professor of English, emeritus. La Belle, notes Erwin, "was hired as Caltech's first tenure-track woman professor and was honored by being our 100th online oral history. Number 101 was Dr. Richard Bing, a medical doctor, a pioneering cardiologist, and an associate in chemistry here, who passed away in November at the age of 101." 

The other newly added interviews are with John D. Roberts, Institute Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, and former provost; Lee F. Browne, lecturer and director of minority recruitment from the late 1960s to the 1980s; Harold Zirin, professor of astrophysics, emeritus, and head of the Big Bear Solar Observatory, formerly run by Caltech; and Carolyn Ash, former director of the SURF program.

"It's a good mix of people and illustrates well how we try to cover a range of viewpoints and experiences of Caltech in the Oral History Project," Erwin says.

Written by Kathy Svitil