Category: Student Life

Summer Time

Hey, it’s summer time! Which means people are taking summer classes, boat rides, visiting with friends and family, traveling, reading for fun, and possibly protesting. Students at MIT have taken part in all of these activities and they are documented in the Collection on Student Life at the MIT (MC618).

This post is concerned with a specific summer activity – summer reading! Summer is often a time to read for fun and to catch up on the books that have been added to your “to read” list throughout the academic year. This was the case for students back in the 1890s as well!

A recent accession of materials from the 1890s included a summer reading list, a Tech Theatricals program, Class Day Exercises program and calling cards, and a photograph of the class of 1896’s 40th reunion gathering in Swampscott, MA.

Class of 1896 materials from the Collection on Student Life at MIT, MC618, Box 12.

Class of 1896 materials from the Collection on Student Life at MIT, MC618, Box 12.

The Second Year Summer Reading suggestions one-sided sheet includes selections from 25 authors.  Below is a transcript of the sheet with images of some of the covers and selected links to the full texts. Many of these books are available for download through Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, or HathiTrust. Notes not original to the source material are in block quotes. So, let’s travel back in time to when these were the hot new titles to read during the summer!



[This is not a course of reading, but merely a list of books suggested as suitable for summer recreation. It will be noticed that Dickens, Thackeray, De Quincey, Tennyson, Macaulay, Hawthorne, and in a word the classics, are omitted as being so well known as not to need mention. The works of Frances Parkman are left out for this reason, although they are strongly recommended to the class, especially On the Oregon Trail, The Conspiracy of Pontiac, and Montcalm and Wolfe. The two qualities which have determined the admission of a book into this list are that it is in itself worth reading, and that it is likely, so far as can be judged, to prove interesting to the average student in this particular class. There has been besides some especial reason for the admission of each individual work, as that it is historically suggestive, is especially well written, or something of the sort. The aim has been to choose books from contemporary authors, as far as possible; and poetry has been passed by on the theory that the majority of the class would not care for it as summer entertainment. That the proportion of fiction is so large is due to the desire to make the list an attractive one, and to the fact that the books are intended for vacation reading.]


R.L. Stevenson :

The Black Arrow.


Kidnapped by R. L. Stevenson on the Internet Archive

Kidnapped by R. L. Stevenson on the Internet Archive

David Balfour.

The Merry Men.

S. J. Weyman :

The House of the Wolf.

A Gentleman of France.

Rudyard Kipling :

Life’s Handicap.

Soldiers Three.

Mary A. Wilkins :

A Humble Romance.

A Humble Romance and Other Stories on Internet Archive

A Humble Romance and Other Stories on Internet Archive

A New England Nun.

T.B. Aldrich :

Margery Daw and Other People.

After slipping on a lemon peel and breaking his leg, Flemming has been ordered to remain at his New York City home for three to four weeks, confined to a couch…

Charles Kingsley :

Westward Ho !

Arthur Sherburne Hardy :

Passe Rose.

Anthony Hope :

The Prisoner of Zenda.

Q. :

The Splendid Spur.

From The Splendid Spur intro: “A year or two ago it was observed that three writers were using the curiously popular signature “Q.” This was hardly less confusing than that one writer should use three signatures (Grant Allen, Arbuthnot Wilson, and Anon), but as none of the three was willing to try another letter, they had to leave it to the public (whose decision in such matters is final) to say who is Q to it. The public said, Let him wear this proud letter who can win it, and for the present at least it is in the possession of the author of “The Splendid Spur” and “The Blue Pavilions.” It would seem, too, as if it were his “to keep,” for “Q” is like the competition cups that are only yours for a season, unless you manage to carry them three times in succession. Mr. Quiller-Couch has been champion Q since 1890.”

The Blue Pavilions.

Thomas Nelson Page :

In Ole Virginia.

George Cable :

Old Creole Days.

“Ostensibly romantic in plot, the stories in Old Creole Days recount the adventures, love lives, and misfortunes of Creoles. Cable offers an enchanting portrait of an exotic, alluring New Orleans society, and yet his stories are more than paeans to a long-lost South. Beneath the surface lies a scathing social satire that explores the problems of the racially and culturally diverse antebellum New Orleans.” – Bond Thompson, Documenting the American South

Walter Besant :

The Chaplain of the Fleet.

Thomas Hardy :

Under the Greenwood Tree.

The Return of the Native.

Far From the Maddening Crowd.

One can just watch the movie today!

F. Marion Crawford :

A Roman Singer.


Sant’ Ilario.

William Black :

A Princess of Thule.

William Black’s Works book cover from Project Gutenberg

M.E.M. Davis :

In War Times at La Rose Blanche.


Charles Dudley Warner :

As We Were Saying.

George William Curtis :

From the Easy-Chair.

More Essays from the Easy-Chair.

R.L. Stevenson :

Travels with a Donkey.

An Inland Voyage.

Virginibus Puerisque.

“The essays promote a spirit of playfulness in defiance of both the hardships of human life and the restrictions imposed by bourgeois Philistinism. The volume did not sell well but had a good critical reception…” RLS website

Mrs. Anne [Thackeray] Ritchie :

Records of Tennyson, Ruskin and Browning.

Chapters from Some Unwritten Memoirs.

Mrs. A. Martin :

Home Life on an Ostrich Farm.

Home Life on an Ostrich Farm book cover from Project Gutenberg

Sir Walter Scott :


Francis Espinasse :

Literary Recollections.

Sarah Orne Jewett :


William Morris :

The Earthly Paradise [narrative poems].

The Land of the Glittering Plain [fantastic romance].

The Glittering Plain cover, Wikimedia Commons

Summary from Wikipedia: “The Story of the Glittering Plain (full title: The Story of the Glittering Plain which has been also called the Land of Living Men or the Acre of the Undying) is an 1891 fantasy novel by William Morris, perhaps the first modern fantasy writer to unite an imaginary world with the element of the supernatural, and thus the precursor of much of present-day fantasy literature. It is also important for its exploration of the socialist themes that interested Morris.”

Available for download via Project Gutenberg

-Greta Kuriger Suiter


Hidden Libraries Tour

On Thursday, March 15, four “hidden” libraries were toured by MIT students and MIT Libraries staff. The tours were organized by Herng Yi Cheng ’18 and consisted of visits to the Anime Club, the Science Fiction Society, the Lecture Series Committee, and the WMBR radio station. The tours provided a fascinating look into some of the student / volunteer run libraries around campus.

First stop was the Anime Club.

MIT Anime Club member and shelves

MIT Anime Club member and shelves

  • Located 4th floor of student center (W20) between the Chocolate Club and the Assassins Guild
  • Formed in 1993
  • 5 officers, 20-35 members
  • Member fee $5, open to MIT and public
  • Collects DVDs, has 2100 manga, 500+ magazines, organized by title
  • In addition to the library they host weekly showings
  • Catalog online – – created by student in 1998
  • In the collection there are many original Japanese manga, one popular use is to assist in learning Japanese
  • They try to buy direct from Japan to support creators

Next we visited the Science Fiction Society (the world’s largest public open-shelf collection of science fiction).

MIT Science Fiction Society stacks and map of stacks

MIT Science Fiction Society stacks and map of stacks

  • Online –
  • In the beginning they tried to collect ALL science fiction and fantasy publications
  • Estimate ~40 to 60 thousand books and ~35 thousand individual titles
  • Buy ~50 books per month – emphasis on keeping up with series already own
  • Books are sorted by size
  • They believe the library is “not really public if people can’t access” the collection physically, so keeping books off-site is not ideal
  • In addition to books, also have bound magazines

Bound copies of Weird Tales at the MIT Science Fiction Society library

  • “keyholders” = librarians and there are 30-40
  • Over 100 members total – open to anyone to join

MIT Archives note: In 1981 the SFS transferred 1 box of material to the Archives. It is collection AC331 and it consists of minutes of the organization from 1949 to 1960, correspondence with speakers and others interested in science fiction, and photographs.

Folded movie posters stored alphabetically in filing cabinets; 35mm movie trailers, at the MIT Lecture Series Committee library

Folded movie posters stored alphabetically in filing cabinets and 35mm movie trailers at the MIT Lecture Series Committee library

The next library got us away from libraries of books and moved us into the world of audio and visual material. The Lecture Series Committee (LSC) began in 1944 as a student group dedicated to hosting lectures for the MIT community. Today it is a group that brings movies to campus, sometimes with speakers. The LSC collection consists of movie posters and 35mm movie trailers.

  • Online –
  • They do have archives of administrative material that they would like to see digitized, but at the least could use better storage
CD stacks at the WMBR library

CD stacks at the WMBR library

The final stop on the tour was at the WMBR (Walker Memorial Basement Radio) on-campus radio station.

  • Began in 1958 all student run
  • 1960 became a broadcasting station
  • The original broadcast board is in the MIT Museum
  • The Late Risers’ Club – longest running series, started in 1977
  • Today run by the Technology Broadcast Corporation
  • To stay on MIT campus needs 50% student participation
  • We talked to the record librarian who has been there since 1980
  • Originally records were arranged by the Dewey Decimal System – didn’t really work
  • Today arranged alphabetically with colored stickers on the spines to indicate genres
  • Each genre has own library director
  • No catalog – “the collection is the catalog”
  • Estimated ~500,000 items
  • In the library there are 2 listening stations
  • Most music is sent to station by record labels
  • Today music is sent digitally, but that doesn’t allow the flexibility the DJs need, so CDs are burned and added to the library

-Greta Kuriger Suiter

Rsvp, thank the hosts & don’t be dull

In the September 18, 2017 MIT News Office obituary, Paul E. Gray is described as “a devoted leader at MIT” who “with his wife, Priscilla King Gray, at his side … helped guide MIT through the social change … that marked the second half of the 20th century.” The News Office notes that when Paul Gray came to MIT as an undergraduate in the early 1950s, “women made up less than 2 percent of each MIT class, and the percentage of underrepresented minorities was similarly low. As president, Dr. Gray supported affirmative action policies in admissions and hiring at MIT. The Grays embraced MIT’s increasing diversity and Dr. Gray’s work to create a sense of community based in courtesy and respect is reflected in records in the IASC.

In a letter dated March 29, 1971, Gray, then dean of the School of Engineering, pushed back at rudeness of the all-male secret society Osiris, that had held a meeting at the Gray’s house the week before.

Gray wrote:

The responsibility for hosting a meeting of the group, and for preparing and serving the meal that goes with it, is no mean task. It represents, for most honorary or past-active-members and their wives, who agree to have these meetings in their homes, a significant concern and a major effort. Such effort often seems quite worthwhile if the wife involved, who carries most of the burden, is left with the feeling that her efforts have been appreciated. There is absolutely nothing like words of personal thanks, offered at the time, to accomplish this. For this reason, I would like to suggest that the leadership [return to the practice of] asking the wife to come into the room at the beginning of the meeting and expressing, on behalf of all present, thanks for the hospitality and the meal.

Founded by members of the Class of 1904, Osiris had the purpose of promoting contact among members who were often student leaders, alumni members, administrators, and faculty through regular meetings often at homes of faculty like Dr. Gray. Once or twice a year, Osiris held secret initiation meetings for new members. The fifteen active senior class members selected their successors and a member of the administration or faculty or an alumnus to be an honorary member. The honorary members included each president of the Institute. Gray, Class of 1954, was never a student or alumni member, but was inducted as an honorary member from the administration on November 2nd, 1965.

Between Dr. Gray’s induction and December 1967, the Grays had hosted two Osiris dinner meetings in their home that strained their patience and resources. At each dinner, fewer members attended than were expected. 50 to 20 men might attend an Osiris dinner, but apparently reservations or Rsvp were not always required. In a letter to an Osiris officer, Gray described the “strain” on the hosts and “the added disappointment, at least in our two experiences, of preparing a dinner for 50 percent more people than actually showed up, to say nothing of the considerable expense associated with such a discrepancy.”  Prior to the 1971 dinner meeting described above, Gray asked an Osiris leader to “let us know … how many to expect. Our experience in the past in this regard has not been very good, and we have often gone into the evening of the meeting with little idea at all about how many to expect. Such uncertainty does not do much for domestic tranquility.” In addition to inconsiderate and ungrateful behavior, Gray’s frustration with Osiris, recorded in a file memorandum, included “conversation that tended to be highly parochial, relatively ill informed in terms of factual background, and dull.”

The exact date that Osiris ceased to exist is not found in the records. By the early 1970s, all-male, exclusive, secret, honorary groups, like Osiris, were perhaps seen as relics of different time at MIT. According, a February 18, 1955 article in the The Tech, MIT students voted against such groups in 1940, but the referendum was voided by the student Institute Committee, which very likely would have included some Osiris members. Always gracious hosts, even to the Osiris men who did not always say thanks, Paul and Priscilla Gray’s legacy is a more diverse, open and hopefully, courteous MIT culture.

-Myles Crowley


Office of the President and Chancellor, Records of the Chancellor, AC-0397, box 135, folder 7
Osiris records, AC-0301, box 1

Time Travel at MIT

Twelve years ago, this week, MIT held a Time Traveler Convention at the East Campus courtyard in hopes of answering the question of whether time travel is possible. It was inspired by Dorothy Gambrell’s Cat and Girl, which posited “Technically, you would only need one time traveler convention.” The convention included speeches by MIT faculty members Edward Farhi, Alan Guth, Erik Demaine. Though widely publicized, no time travelers revealed themselves at the event. You can learn more about the convention in The Tech, Time Travelers Event Attracts News Media; Dr. Who Still Missing,” by viewing the convention’s website, which is still available online, or by traveling back to May 7, 2005, 8:00 EDT, should the technology become available.

However, MIT’s connection to time travel does not end there – the Institute Archives and Special Collections (IASC) holds some materials that might be of interest to potential travelers. Professor Rainer Weiss’ personal archives (MC 517), contains materials documenting the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which has gone on to observe ripples in spacetime. Our collections of theses and publications also holds a few items that discuss the possibility of time travel.

Photograph of "Prologue: A Novel" and "The Accidental Time Machine" books

Time Travel fiction in the IASC

Publications from the Center for Theoretical Physics include Time Travel? (QC1.C46 no. 2101) and An Obstacle to Building a Time Machine (QC1.C46 no.2009). Among the theses is “Three Lessons in Causality: What String Theory Has to Say About Naked Singularities, Time Travel and Horizon Complementarity,” (Thesis Phy 2004 PhD) available by request in the reading room or in DSpace.

If facts aren’t your thing, the IASC also holds two works of fiction in their collections. Prologue: A Novel, by Greg Ahlgren (PS3601.H53 P76 2011) and The Accidental Time Machine, by Joe W. Haldeman (PS3558.A353 A65 2008) are both available for use in our reading room.

– Chris Tanguay

Harold “Ric” Ricards, Jr. (1941) student papers

New accession!

MIT Chemical Engineering building (circa 1939-1941), exterior and interior, MC618 Box 14

MIT Chemical Engineering building (circa 1939-1941), exterior and interior, MC618 Box 14

Graduate student papers and photographs related to Harold Andrew “Ric” Ricards (1941) time at MIT. One folder includes: campus map, class schedules, John Hopkins undergraduate transcript, MIT scholarship letter, MIT housing letter, The Southern Club of Boston dance calendar, 30 photographs on photo album paper, copy of excerpt from the History and Genealogy of the Ricards Family describing Ricards time at MIT, obituary. Most of the material dates from 1939 to 1941. It was donated by Ricards’s daughter, she wrote and added some captions to the photographs.

Photographs of Harold A. "Ric" Ricards, Jr. and classmate Joe Finger, circa 1941. They wrote a joint thesis on olefin recovery, these photos show their pilot plant and how they pretended to destroy it after graduation, MC618 Box 14

Photographs of Harold A. “Ric” Ricards, Jr. and classmate Joe Finger, circa 1941. They wrote a joint thesis on olefin recovery, these photos show their pilot plant and how they pretended to destroy it after graduation, MC618 Box 14

Material was added to MC618 Collection on Student Life at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Series 2 of this collection contains student papers organized by year the student graduated.

Screenshot of ArchivesSpace staff view of content list for MC618

ArchivesSpace staff view of content list for MC618

-Greta Kuriger Suiter










Kiyo Makino, MIT Class of 1905

At the turn of the 20th century Japan was in the midst of a period of accelerated industrialization. The Edo Period and rule of the Tokugawa shogunate was over and with it the sakoku isolationist policies that characterized the era. The Meiji period, which began in 1868, marked an embrace of western ideas and technology with goals of combining modern technological advancements with traditional Japanese values. An increased emphasis was placed on education: primary education became compulsory and the imperial government had begun sending students to the United States and other western countries to study there and bring western knowledge back to Japan.

It was during this period that Kiyo Makino, inspired by her love of the natural sciences, traveled to America to study. She arrived in Boston in 1899 and in 1903 enrolled as a special student in Biology (course 7) at MIT. And with the sources available in the archives, we have been able to identify her as the first woman international student at the institute.

During the early 1900s there were several Japanese women in the Boston area studying a variety of subjects from English and literature to gymnastics. Most of them were sponsored by the imperial government, but Makino was an independent student and had come here completely of her own volition (and funding). She was teaching chemistry at St. Margaret’s School, an Anglican missionary school in Tokyo, when she heard about a scholarship at Radcliffe College that she would have been able to take advantage of. According to a November 1899 article in the Cambridge Tribune, she was determined to come to America despite not having had any further news about the scholarship and so “with little money, therefore, and with no knowledge of the English language, she set out.”

After making her way to the Boston area via Seattle she soon made friends with people involved in the humanitarian and settlement movements who arranged for her to learn English at Northfield. It was through them that she found a home at the Elizabeth Peabody House where, according to a November 1901 article in the Boston Daily Globe, she was a “great favorite among the children of the neighborhood.” Located in Boston’s West End, this settlement house was focused primarily on children’s issues and early childhood education and provided a number of services for the largely immigrant community it served. Through these same connections she was able to get a job at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston doing translation work for the Japanese Department. And she worked in this position from 1901 until she left to return to Japan in 1905.

There was a considerable amount of interest in Makino and the other Japanese women who were studying in the Boston area at the same time. Articles about Makino and her peers appeared in area newspapers like the Cambridge Tribune and the Boston Globe and the stories were reprinted in local newspapers around the country — places like Racine, Wisconsin; Defiance, Ohio; and Jasper, Indiana. The women were interviewed about their educational goals, their career plans after they returned home, details about Japan, and what they thought of life in America. And when Makino and Mitsu Okada, a compatriot who had been a student at Wellesley College, left Boston together in 1905 to journey back to Japan their travel plans were announced in The Advance, a Chicago publication.

The Institute lost touch with Makino, not uncommon with early international alumni, and  we have no information about her after 1915. The latest information that we have is from her submission to the Ten Year Book of the Class of 1905. After returning to Japan, Makino resumed teaching at St. Margaret’s School. In this note to the class secretary she also described her favorite subjects to teach and study: botany, zoology, and physiology and mentioned the “little book” she wrote in 1906, ‘Physiology for Women’. She was assumed deceased by the Alumni Association in 1955 and it is difficult to speculate what may have happened to her. We do know that at least for a while she was able to realize her goal of educating the women of Japan. She said in an interview with the Boston Globe, “it was because I noticed that the people in special charge of the home education, which is most important, were women, that I especially desired to teach our women, who are to be the mothers of the future, and will inculcate the religion of the future.”

-Katherine Crowe

Ygnacio Bonillas: Mexican Politician, Diplomat, and MIT Class of 1884

“Technology Alumnus Causes Revolution”

That was the title of a July 1920 article in Technology Review detailing MIT class of 1884 alumnus Ygnacio Bonillas’ involvement in the latest chapter of the Mexican Revolution. President Venustiano Carranza’s term as the “First Chief” of Mexico was coming to an end and he had in March of that year called Bonillas back from abroad to represent Carranza’s National Civic Party in the election. From 1917 until 1920 Bonillas had served as Mexican Ambassador to the United States and his status as a relatively unknown civilian candidate did not serve him well in the political climate that he returned to in Mexico. Many accused him of being a puppet of Carranza — a pawn in a suspected scheme crafted by Don Venustiano to follow the example of Porfirio Diaz and alter the laws to allow for his own reelection. This, and other grievances among the populace, eventually led to a return to the pattern of violent conflict for control of the country which ended with General Alvaro Obregon, Bonillas’ opponent in the election and former supporter of Carranza, as president of Mexico and Carranza as dead.

After the turmoil had ended Bonillas “[retired] from Mexican political life, returned to Tucson and Nogales where, the Arizona Daily Star says, he ‘maintained extensive mining activities’ and was connected with the ‘Nogales, Sonora, water works.'” (Technology Review, March 1944) Before his involvement in the Mexican Revolution, Bonillas had studied Mining Engineering (course 3) at MIT from 1880-1882. He described his time at MIT as his “constant support” and in the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Book for the class of 1884 said, “Were I a young man again, trying to equip for the battle of life, I should certainly pursue the same course, as I know of no better institution of learning for a technical education that will give positive results than our dear old M.I.T.” After leaving the Institute he worked through the turn of the century as a Mining Engineer and Surveyor in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico for the Department of Fomento (Public Works). He was also head of the Nogales Water Company in Arizona and Compañia Proveedora de Agua in Mexico. By 1909 Bonillas had served in several local government positions including Mayor of Magdalena, Governor (Prefect) of the District of Magdalena, and two terms as Mayor of Nogales. And from 1911 through 1913 he was a member of the XXIII legislature of the State of Sonora.

Ygnacio Bonillas, circa 1884 and circa 1909.

Ygnacio Bonillas, circa 1884 and circa 1909. Class of ’84, MIT 25th Anniversary Book. Courtesy of MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections.

When Carranza formed his Constitutionalist Army and led a revolt against President Huerta in 1913, Bonillas was involved from the infancy of the campaign. He was later described as “one of the few men who are reputed to have the entire confidence of General Carranza.” (Technology Review, February 1917) And from October 1913 until February 1917 Bonillas played a significant role in Carranza’s cabinet as the Minister of Communications and Public Works.

Tensions between the United States and Mexico peaked in 1916 with the Mexican Expedition. After Francisco “Pancho” Villa, prominent Mexican revolutionary general, and his troops crossed the border and attacked Columbus, New Mexico, the US Army retaliated by sending troops into Mexico with the goal of apprehending Pancho Villa. Brigadier General Pershing and his men were stopped by the Carrancistas and after military movements had reached an tipping point, diplomatic means were employed to resolve the situation. The Mexican-American Joint Commission, of which Bonillas was a member, was formed to negotiate the withdrawal of US troops and avoid further escalating the conflict. Shortly after this Bonillas became Mexican Ambassador to the United States.

When Bonillas’ candidacy for president began in 1920 he was a relatively unknown figure in Mexico. As V. Blasco Ibanez described it in his May 1920 article in the New York Times, “Ten months ago the Mexicans were unaware of the existance of Bonillas. A few knew that a gentleman by that name lived in the capital of the United States, and they even suspected that he had done great things for Mexico, although they were not quite sure what these things were.” Eventually the political struggle between Bonillas — backed by the Carranza regime — and General Obregon and his supporters became a violent one. In May 1920 Carranza was forced to flee Mexico City, along with Bonillas and the ‘official family’, and the subsequent ambush by Obregon’s forces resulted in Carranza’s death.

After several arrests, an official investigation into the incident, and the transition of power from Provisional President Adolfo de la Huerta to General Obregon, Bonillas was able to return quietly to his life in Sonora and Arizona. And return to his original profession in mining engineering and position as President and General Manager of the Compañia Proveedora de Agua in Nogales until his death in 1944.

-Katherine Crowe