Category: I Spy…

I Spy … Food in the Archives!

Emily L. Wick Memorial Sandwich, circa 1973.

Emily L. Wick Memorial Sandwich, circa 1973. MC-0696, b.8. Courtesy of MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections.

Made of styrofoam and paper, the Emily L. Wick Memorial Sandwich is welcome in the archives. The ‘sandwich’ was given to Emily Wick by the MIT Women’s Forum when she left MIT in 1973 to become Dean of Faculty at Mount Holyoke College. Wick had co-founded the Women’s Forum in 1971 with other MIT women faculty, and the ‘sandwich’ must have been a treasured keepsake because Professor Wick held on to it over the years. It came to the IASC with her papers shortly after her death in 2013.

In 1946, Emily Wick joined the MIT community as a PhD candidate in the chemistry department. She received her degree in 1951.

After working several years for A.D. Little, Wick returned to MIT as assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science in 1959. She was appointed associate dean of students in 1965, and in 1968 she became the first woman to reach the rank of tenured faculty at the Institute.

Emily Wick’s papers are one of a growing number of collections of MIT women faculty papers housed at the IASC. The Women in Science and Engineering@MIT archival initiative is in the early stages of seeking out and acquiring documentation, tangible and digital, about the contributions of women across the Institute throughout its history.

To learn more about Professor Wick, her research in food technology, and her tremendous impact on supporting women at MIT,  you can read a transcript of a 1992 interview done by the Margaret MacVicar Memorial AMITA (Association of MIT Alumnae) Oral History Project or read her obituary. The Emily Wick papers (MC-0696) are not processed, but are open for research use and well worth exploring.

– Nora Murphy





I Spy… Yosemite Valley

In the late summer of 1871 MIT President John Runkle visited Yosemite Valley as part of a longer trip throughout the western United States. On September 7, upon departing the Valley, he wrote to his wife, Catherine, about his experiences.

Runkle spent several days hiking in the vicinity of his hotel to some of the nearby natural wonders, including Mirror Lake, Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil Falls. John Muir, who had been away from the Valley when Runkle arrived, returned to meet him and encouraged Runkle to delay his departure. Runkle wrote to his wife, “I could not resist the temptation to spend a few days with an educated man full of burning enthusiasm about the whole of the region, & knowing every foot of the ground, all the trees & flowers and all else that a visitor could desire to know.”

Runkle and Muir spent five days hiking and camping in what Runkle described as “the most beautiful scenery imaginable.” Runkle was very impressed with Muir and especially his studies of the glacier system in Yosemite Valley. He offered Muir a teaching position at MIT, but Muir declined, preferring to remain in his beloved outdoors. Runkle should not have been surprised, describing Muir to his wife,  “He is the most genuine lover of nature I have ever met, & his vivid descriptions, given with his Scotch accent, are almost as grand & brilliant as the nature which surrounds him.”

It is evident that Muir and Runkle corresponded a number of times, but in addition to the above letter, I came across only one other extant letter, from Muir to Runkle, in the papers of John Runkle.

Muir wrote to Runkle in the early Spring of 1872, chiding him for not writing, and describing a ‘quakestorm’ that was occuring in the Valley. His words are poetic as he describes the earthquake. “Since the quakestorm I have thought of my mountain mother as wearing common bones & flesh – a marsupial with many a Yosemite pouch. Who wouldn’t believe Darwin when Yosemite shakes herself like a water spaniel & when her huge domes dance & drift loose & free as foam bells at the foot of a waterfall.”

Excerpt of letter from John Muir to John D. Runkle, April 3, 1872. "Overland. Our glacier study has been expanding all winter. It threatens to cover all the continents & much of the sea. The great earthquake has solved a minor question of debris slopes wh hitherto baffled all my efforts. It was not the mere existence of such slopes as that back of Hutchings hotel, but their synchronism that puzzled me. In my investigations of these slopes about Yosemite, I have decided that not only had the principal mass of each slope fallen at one time, but that the different slopes had been made at one time, & while the ground was heaving thumping, shuddering in its first stupendous passion, & before a single bowlder reached the bottom of the valley the application of this new force flashed upon me, & I shouted, “I have it”

Letter from John Muir to John D. Runkle, April 3, 1872. MC-0008, box 1, folder 1872, April-June. Courtesy MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections.

I came across this correspondence while searching for materials to use in the Environment and History class earlier this semester. Perfect for Earth Day!

– Nora Murphy