Your Archival Horoscope: Taurus

Letterhead with abstract bull head logo from the Madrid office of Taurus publishing office
Letterhead with abstract bull head logo from the Madrid office of Taurus publishing office.

This month’s dip into the distinctive collections of the MIT Libraries brings us to a Spanish language publisher called Taurus. Correspondence between Taurus director Jesús Aguirre and Roman Jakobson are found in MC-0072 Roman Jakobson papers. Taurus was interested in publishing Jakobson’s The Poetry of Grammar and the Grammar of Poetry, but was not able to as a Spanish language edition was already being published by Fondo de Cultura Economica of Mexico.

Letter dated 15 May 1973 from Pamela Chester, assistant to Roman Jakobson, to Taurus Ediciones publishing office stating that Fondo de Cultura Economica of Mexico is scheduled to publish the Spanish language edition of his studies in poetics.
Letter dated 15 May 1973 from Pamela Chester, assistant to Roman Jakobson, to Taurus Ediciones publishing office stating that Fondo de Cultura Economica of Mexico is scheduled to publish the Spanish language edition of his studies in poetics. Roman Jakobson Papers, MC 72, box 49. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute Archives and Special Collections, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Horoscope: Now is an excellent time to make summer travel plans (Madrid, Mexico, or anywhere else!) or brush up on a foreign language.

Jakobson, a prolific writer and linguist was influential in expanding the field of linguistics to include “phonetics, semantics, poetics, Slavic studies, language acquisition and pathology, and mythology.”1

Taurus was founded in 1954 by Francisco Pérez González, Rafael Gutiérrez Girardot and Miguel Sánchez López. Jesús Aguirre was director from 1954 to 1977. Today Taurus is an editorial stamp of Penguin Random House Publishing Group.

Books published by Taurus are found in the MIT Libraries collections, including the below book about Pablo Neruda.

Cover of Pablo Neruda biography published by Taurus -
Pablo Neruda biography published by Taurus –

Other posts in this series include:

Your Archival Horoscope: Aries

Your Archival Horoscope: Pisces

Your Archival Horoscope: Aquarius

Your Archival Horoscope: Introduction

1 = Roman Jakobson resource record


Stormy Weather

In light of the weather as of late, a sketch by Norbert Wiener depicting the weather he was experiencing in Cambridge, England. This illustration was included in a letter he wrote to his mother on December 15, 1914.

Figure with umbrella in the rain. Written caption states "A picture of Cambridge weather"
“A picture of Cambridge weather” sketch by Norbert Wiener in a letter to his mother, December 15, 1914. (MC-0022, box 1)

This sketch, as well as a range of correspondence dating from 1898 to August 1948, was digitized as part of the The Cybernetics Thought Collective: A History of Science and Technology Portal Project. Digitized materials from the Norbert Wiener papers (MC-0022), can be found online as part of the Cybernetics Thought Collection (Digital Surrogates).

Chris Tanguay

Touch This Page!

During April 4-5, Touch This Page! A Symposium on Ability, Access, and the Archive was held at Northeastern and Harvard. Multiple members of the IASC attended and Emilie Hardman, interim head of IASC, presented at the symposium.

The day-and-a-half Touch This Page symposium addressed many topics over the duration, from the history of creating accessible materials, to the creation of 3-D surrogates of Boston Line Type (a raised typeface that was a precursor to Braille), to rethinking ways of describing materials for those that may not be able to interact with books or texts in person, to the ways in which the brain “reads.”

In learning more about the history of accessibility, I realized that the IASC has a small example of Boston Line Type within its collections. This form of raised lettering could be read using either sight or touch.

Front page of "The Weekly News" a current events magazine for the blind distributed by the National Braille Press. From the Jonathan Allen papers (MC-0557, box 71)
Front page of “The Weekly News” a current events magazine for the blind distributed by the National Braille Press. Both Boston Line Type and Braille are displayed. Jonathan Allen papers (MC-0557, box 71)

This copy of The Weekly News is located in the papers of Jonathan Allen (MC-0557). Allen, 1934-2000, was a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was director of MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics, 1981-2000, and a principal investigator in the Circuits and Systems and the Speech Communications research groups in the laboratory. His research centered on speech processing, computational linguistics, computer architecture, and VLSI circuit design.

Detail of a plate of braille type.
Raised Braille type printed on a sheet of metal. Jonathan Allen papers (MC-0557, box 71)

One of the projects worked on by Allen was the creation of automatic transcription of text to Braille. At MIT, the program DOTSYS (begun by Robert Mann) translated the text, while the MIT Braillemboss machine was created to print out the Braille text in raised dots.

Chris Tanguay

Your Archival Horoscope: Aries

Searching the collections for Aries related material, I came across the folder “Rhines, Peter, correspondence, computations, comments on the Aries Observations” in the Mid-Ocean Dynamics Experiment (MODE) records, AC-0042.

Hmmmm, what were these “Aries Observations”? Apparently, nothing to do with stars, but rather with the deep blue, and specifically a boat named Aries.

According to J.C. Swallow who published comments about the Aries observations in 1971, they are, “A series of current measurements made using neutrally buoyant floats, mainly from the research vessel Aries, in the western North Atlantic Ocean in 1959-60, revealing unexpectedly strong variable currents in the deep water.” The Aries current measurements in the western North Atlantic, 1971.*

In the MODE records, we find Peter Rhines’s comment to Swallow’s comments also written in 1971 when Rhines was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Meteorology at MIT. The opening lines read,

“Dr. Swallow’s observations of the vertical profile of currents show how different a view of the deep ocean is now emerging. The tendency of currents to increase with depth below the permanent thermocline is so striking that it seems timely to point out that just this possibility was suggested recently by linearized theory (Rhines, 1970).”

"A Comment on the Aries Observations" by Peter Rhines in Mid-Ocean Dynamics Experiment records, AC-0042, box 2, folder 76. MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections.

“A Comment on the Aries Observations” by Peter Rhines in Mid-Ocean Dynamics Experiment records, AC-0042, box 2, folder 76. MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections.

A full description of the collection is available on EMMAS (the new! MIT Archives and Special Collections public discovery interface). Below is a little more context from that description about the collection:

The records of the Mid-Ocean Dynamics Experiment (MODE), 1970-1976, document the development, organization, progress, and results of a large-scale, intensive and logistically complicated oceanography program. Robert Heinmiller, a research associate at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and later coordinator of the succeeding POLYMODE project, collected the MODE records from the working files of Nick P. Fofonoff of WHOI, Executive Officer Dennis Moore, Curt Collins of the National Science Foundation, and Carl Wunsch of MIT.

Horoscope: Scientific inquiry may confirm your hunches about what lies beneath the surface.

Other posts in this series include:

Your Archival Horoscope: Pisces

Your Archival Horoscope: Aquarius

Your Archival Horoscope: Introduction

*Swallow, J. C. “The Aries Current Measurements in the Western North Atlantic.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, vol. 270, no. 1206, 1971, pp. 451–460. JSTOR,

Remembering the Victims of Slavery

In 2007 the United Nations General Assembly declared March 25 the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to be observed annually.

MIT began exploring its connections with slavery in the fall of 2017, at the behest of President Rafael Reif. The MIT and Slavery Undergraduate Research Project is shaped by the research work of undergraduate students whose work will be published on the Project website soon.

Information about early findings of the students during the 2017-1918 academic year is available on the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences news site.

– Nora Murphy

IASC Web Archiving Metadata Application Profile v.1 Released

I’ve been developing an application profile to provide guidelines for applying standards-based metadata to the web archives that MIT IASC is collecting primarily using Archive-It. We are hoping that, by following a set of standards, this metadata will be crosswalk-able between systems (such as Archive-It and ArchivesSpace) and lower some of the duplicate efforts in each place. Implementing this profile in the description of the web archives also allows us to open the collections for public access, which of course is always one of the Archives’ main goals!

The profile is available here on GitHub. Feel free to leave a comment on this post or in the issues there if you feel there’s room for improvement!

This profile drew heavily on the University of Virginia Library Web Archiving Metadata Application Profile and the OCLC “Decriptive Metadata for Web Archiving” report. Thanks to Elizabeth England, Eric Hanson, and Amy Wickner for feedback and suggestions.

— Joe Carrano

Make Way For DUKWs

If you’ve been in the Boston area long enough, you are probably familiar with the >Duck Boats. You might have seen them rolling through Back Bay or floating down the Charles River. But, what is now a popular tourist activity was once a military innovation that, according to General Eisenhower, played a decisive role in the Allied victory in World War II — and was developed by MIT alumnus Palmer Cosslett Putnam, class of 1923.

DUKWs (colloquially known as “Ducks”) are six-wheeled amphibious trucks used during WWII and the Korean War to ferry supplies, ammunition, and troops from supply ships just offshore to the fighting units on the beach. In the spring of 1942, while working as an engineer for the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), Putnam developed the idea of converting a standard army truck into an amphibious vehicle that could transition between using wheels when on land and a propeller when in the water. Roderick and Olin J. Stephens, a yachting team who had won the 1937 America’s Cup, helped with designs and General Motors was contracted to produce the DUKWs.

Initially, Army brass were skeptical of the amphibious vehicle. Even after a heroic demonstration of the DUKW’s abilities in which they were used to rescue the crew of a Coast Guard ship off the shore of Provincetown, Massachusetts, top Army officials remained unconvinced. It wasn’t until Lieutenant General George S. “Old Blood-and-Guts” Patton used the DUKWs during the invasion of Sicily that more widespread implementation began. After their successful use in Sicily, DUKWs were utilized in almost every Allied invasion for the rest of the war.

Details of the work of Putnam and his colleagues in the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) remained classified for many years. However, in 1947 Putnam received recognition for his work with the OSRD and was presented with the Medal for Merit for “his wartime work on ordnance devices.” In his position as special assistant to the director of the OSRD, Vannevar Bush, Putnam invented 10 original weapons and directed the development of 22 others.

For more information about the story of the development of the DUKW and its evolution into a tourist attraction, check out this article published in Smithsonian Magazine, 2002: “Odd DUKW: On land and in the water, World War II’s amphibian workhorse showed the skeptics a thing or two now it shows tourists the sights.”

Palmer Cosslett Putnam, MIT class of 1923Palmer Putnam’s work for the OSRD during WWII was only one point in a varied and interesting career. He received the BS and MS degrees, both in Geology and Geological Engineering (course 12), from MIT in 1923 and 1924. After leaving MIT he completed his education at Technische Hochschule in Munich, Germany, and at Yale University. He began his career conducting geological investigations in the ‘African Congo’ for the Belgian government. During this time he also explored volcanoes in Central America1 and was the co-discoverer of a specific reagent for gold. From 1930 to 1933, he served as president of G. P. Putnam’s Sons, Publishers. In the late 1930s, he designed an experimental wind turbine that was constructed on the summit of Grandpa’s Knob in Vermont and described by Putnam as “the greatest windmill ever conceived and erected by man.” The purpose of this project was to test the feasibility of utilizing wind energy in New England and was “the first attempt to generate alternating current by means of the wind with regulation satisfactory for inter-connection with a public utility distribution system.”2 Putnam also worked briefly as an engineer for GE, Co. and in the late 1940s was an Apprentice Carpenter with the Southwest Boat Corporation in Southwest Harbor, Maine.

Additional information about Putnam’s wind turbine project in Vermont is in the 1941 MIT Report of the President (page 101). There was also an article in the December 1940 issue of Technology Review, vol. 43, “The Trend of Affairs: On Grandpa’s Knob” (page 60).

You can also find information about Putnam and his work in several collections in the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections, including the MIT Office of the President, records of Karl Taylor Compton and James Rhyne Killian (AC-0004), the Vannevar Bush papers (MC-0078), and the Joseph S. Newell papers (MC-0053). Both Putnam’s graduate and undergraduate theses are available in the MIT Libraries: “A reconnaissance among some volcanoes” and “Determinative tables for minerals: a scheme for the determination of minerals by a recognition of distinguishing chemical elements.”

– Katherine Crowe

  1. Palmer Cosslett Putnam, “The Existence of a Once Homogeneous Magma-Mass Underlying Central America,” Journal of Geology 34, no. 8 (1926): 807–23.
  2. A Great History of the Great Class of 1923, T171.M4258 1923, page 284.