The following is the text that John Dodge read into the video camera and was played at the class of '55 Reunion on September 17, 2005.
Remarks for '55
Your graduating class numbered 107, of whom 59 (55 %) of the class took either chemistry or physics or both. It's likely that about half of the alumni(ae) present on this occasion were in my classes. Of special interest is the number of girls taking both chemistry and physics: there were 5, or 4.6% of your class. (Carol Jean Hardy, Margaret McKinley, Carolyn Newton, Katherine Parsons and Carolyn Thrasher). By contrast, '47 (the first class I taught in Irondequoit): 1 girl out of 94, or 1.0%; in '59 (the last year in which I was the only physics teacher): 14 of 227, or 6.2%. The slow but steady increase was a good omen of the increase of interest of women in the physical sciences. At present, women have gone much farther; for example, earlier this year, a woman was inaugurated as President of MIT.
I have been steeped in physics for nearly all my career (even including my active duty years in the Army antiaircraft) and I must beg for your indulgence as I rattle on.
Had you come to IHS three years later, you would have been in the midst of a revolution concerning the teaching of the physical sciences and mathematics in the high schools. The lasting effects still can be seen. You might have noticed this when your children took physical science and/or mathematics in their high school years.
After World War II dissatisfaction with high school physics among college teachers and a few high school teachers (including me!) was increasing until it reached a climax at about the time when you were in your early college years.
MIT designates as Institute Professors those with long experience and excellent work, and are now paid to do whatever they like. Institute Professor Gerald Zacharias wanted to improve high school physics, and was instrumental in forming the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) to undertake the work. By the beginning of the school year '57-'58 enough of the new course had been completed to make it worthwhile to field test it, and several high schools whose physics teachers were on the Committee were selected.
In the fall of '57, the U.S. got a bad jolt when Russia put two Sputniks in orbit around the earth and indicated that it was far ahead of the U.S. in the space age. The National Science Foundation came into being, and among other things, much money was made available for the improvement of science and math courses in high schools. Since the PSSC was already underway and would be ready to field test the complete course at the beginning of the next school year, it was given a large grant from the National Science Foundation. Three six-week Institutes were formed for the training the new pilot teachers who would begin teaching the new course in September '58 in the pilot schools all over the U.S.
At that time, I entered the scene taking first the PSSC Institute at Bowdoin College in Maine, and then pilot teaching the new PSSC Physics course in two classes of 25 students each. (I also taught two NY Regents classes of 25 students each; Students had the option of choosing between Regents and PSSC, with a little advice.)
The Optical Society of Rochester, a large organization, was interested in education, and arranged to have an open meeting in which Dr. Zacharias would give them a talk about the PSSC and its work. The meeting was large, for in addition to members, a number of school administrators and teachers were present. I was notified that Dr "Zach" would visit IHS before the big meeting, at about 3 PM. The school is dismissed at that time, so I invited members of the PSSC classes to come in and talk with him; about fifteen students showed up, a comfortable number.
Zach has a strong personality, and he vigorously defended the course after a few negative remarks by the students. After several misunderstood matters were cleared up, the discussions went well, and Zach was happy when he went on his way.
At the evening meeting he gave an excellent review of the aims and means of PSSC Physics. He then went on to say that he had visited IHS earlier, and praised the school in such flowery terms that I wanted to crawl under my seat. A member of the Irondequoit School Board had also been present, and later made the same remark - but then added "...but it sounded good!" Irondequoit High School was in the spotlight from then on.
The PSSC was hugely successful in its early editions, to the consternation of the publishers of physics texts earlier than the PSSC text. As time went on they began to adjust their own texts to resemble the new material introduced by the PSSC. By the time that the Seventh Edition of PSSC Physics was on the market, a number of the earlier physics texts were satisfactorily modernized, and PSSC Physics was discontinued. The personnel remaining were reorganized as the Physical Science Group.
One of the subjects not covered previously in high school physics was that of wave motion, and its effects in light and sound. Early on, lab equipment was scarce, and I built a ripple tank for our use. Since I had only one tank to begin with, I used an uncommon arrangement: I set the tank on the floor at the center of the classroom and placed an arc lamp directed straight upward on the floor below the tank. The light from the arc passed up through the glass bottom of the tank and the layer of water on it to hit the ceiling of the room. All students could see without too much neck strain.
One day I wished to show what happens when two sets of circular waves run into each other. I used the wave generator I now show you. Notice that the small electric motor has a shaft protruding from both sides. Mounted on the protrusions are small cylinders of plastic. However, the holes for the shaft are off-center, so the horizontal rods resting on them move up and down slightly when the motor runs. The vertical rods then move up and down, as do the beads in contact with the water. Each bead sends off its own circular waves, which then intersect.
On this occasion, I happened to notice that the carbons of the arc had burned back too far, and were about to quit. I reached down to adjust them properly; when I looked up again, I was dumfounded to see that there was an honest-to-goodness fish swimming about! It seemed to like having its back scratched, for it swam back and forth under the beads. This unexpected event was the work of a girl student. She had brought the guppy in a test tube of water concealed in her purse, and waited until the moment when my attention was directed to the arc lamp to empty the contents of the test tube into the tank.
This was a busy time for many of our faculty, because IHS became a pilot school for other courses as well: chemistry, biology, earth science and various math courses. I had to introduce Advanced Placement Physics into our curriculum Sept. '59, and later to serve as an author and a pilot teacher for the new course Introductory Physical Science developed by the Physical Science Group. This last course was one designed to serve as a preliminary in the junior high schools for PSSC Physics.
At the end of school year '65-'66, I resigned my position in Irondequoit, and joined the Physical Science Group, working full time for three years and half-time for another five years. This work involved helping to lay the foundation for new courses, to make revisions from time to time of PSSC Physics (editions 3 thru 7), Introductory Physical Science (editions 1 thru 5), to engage in field work visiting schools using our programs and to participate in workshops used for the instruction of teachers new to our courses.
Occasionally an acquaintance, a friend, or even a stranger will ask after seeing that there are four authors: What part of the book did you write? I answer: None of us has ever been the sole author of any part of the book. If a new book is to be written, there is a general meeting of all authors who discuss the matter until there is a general agreement on what sort of things should be included in the new book. The material to be in the book is now divided up among the authors, each of whom will then prepare a rough draft of the section of the new work assigned to him. Dr. Haber-Schaim, an early member of the PSSC, is the Senior Author, whose word is final.
The rough drafts are duplicated, and distributed to other members, so that each author has copies of all the rough drafts to study. After all have studied, a general conference is held to agree on a single rough draft of each section. This final draft for each section is once again prepared and circulated; there is a last chance to make minor changes and then the draft is ready for publication. Thus each member of the team has a part to play in all sections of the book.
Sometimes a new piece of equipment is required. Much of Dr. Haber-Schaim's basement is organized as a working shop, and when the desired new equipment is not too complex or too large it can be constructed right there. Fortunately, I already had experience with hand and machine tools.
In '74 I moved to DeLand, FL and again in '81 to Pensacola, where I entered Azalea Trace, a life care facility, but I still remained a co-author of PSSC Physics, and of Introductory Physical Science. On reaching Pensacola, I offered my services to the Education Department of Escambia County in assisting teachers of physics as a volunteer. I was told that Pine Forest High School had not been teaching physics at all, and this meant that their students could not be designated as State Scholars because they had no physics credit. Since State Scholars could get some financial assistance, it was necessary to take some action.
Action began when an excellent math teacher of twenty years experience offered to try her hand at teaching physics. A severe drawback was the fact that the only course in physics that she ever had was a freshman course, which she took twenty-four years ago. I came along at just the right time! I had all the time in the world to assist her. I did so for three years, standing at the back of her class and chiming in whenever I found it necessary, at the end of which she was able to stand on her own feet.
During the first year, I sensed that there were a few students who would benefit from a second course in physics. I offered to teach the College Board's Advanced Placement Physics B course, if there were any demand for it. My offer was taken up with alacrity, and I began teaching at the beginning of the following year, in Pine Forest High School. Later I added Woodham High School, and finally I added the international Baccalaureate students in Pensacola High School. I taught the course for fifteen years, but had to quit at the end of the school year in May 1996 because my hearing was too poor to conduct classes any longer. Even then, I was able to train another first-rate math teacher to teach AP Physics as well, taking three years as I did with the first math teacher.
I should like to close this talk by saying that volunteering has made the autumn years of my life most agreeable. I have spent time teaching a subject I love, to late adolescents with minds good enough to assimilate and appreciate that which they have received. With the small number of students and none of the additional duties a full-time teacher has, it has been possible to really treat them as individuals, a thing difficult to do if their number is a hundred or more.
I wish you all good luck in finding good ways to spend your own last years, and now say Good Bye. JD