Theophilus A. Wylie: Renaissance Man

t.aTheophilus A. Wylie is a prominent and fascinating character in the early history of Indiana University. Theophilus was the cousin of Andrew Wylie, the first president IU, and he first came to Indiana in 1836 as a professor. Over his many years here, Theophilus served the University in a great many capacities including professor, librarian, superintendent of buildings and grounds, interim president (twice), and finally, professor emeritus. He was a teacher, an orator, a pastor, a chemist, a physicist, a Greek scholar, a photographer, a tinkerer and inventor, an astronomer, an artist, and in many ways, a Renaissance man.

His many activities are recorded by his prolific note-keeping. The Theophilus A. Wylie papers in the Archives holds 18 of his diaries, 11 research notebooks, correspondence spanning 1830-1895, and several other writings and drawings. The collection is chock full of all kinds of information and his style of writing makes it all the more interesting! The margins of his notebooks are filled with doodles, phrases in Latin or Greek, scientific sketches, and complex equations. Sometimes these were simply quotations in their original language but other times, he used the languages to encode more private parts of his writing (often, his opinions of others).

Excerpt from T.A. Wylie’s diary with a portion written in Greek.

He often annotated his writings and drawings in later years, penciling in notes about his memories of the writing, when it took place, what had followed, etc. Here he notes that the stain on a diary is the result of an “ink upset Monday August 14, ’85.” Near the center of the page, he added legs to an inkblot that resembled a body.

t.a. ink

Like many in the Wylie family, Theophilus not only doodled in margins but also enjoyed sketching in his free moments:

Front Yard001

Scene in the front yard of the Wylie home, which is now Indiana University’s Wylie House Museum

t.a. courthouse

TAW sketch of the Monroe County Courthouse

There is SO MUCH to discover in the Theophilus A. Wylie papers! For more information about the man himself, the online finding aid has a wonderful biography. For more direct experience with his papers, contact the Archives! Or, at the time of this writing, the collection is being digitized in its entirety and some may already be accessed via the finding aid!

Life and Death and the Population Institute for Research and Training

The Population Institute for Research and Training (PIRT) was founded in 1986 on Indiana University’s campus to promote and facilitate the study of demography.  As such, PIRT’s research focused on major milestone events in life, none of which are more important than birth and death.  These two essential factors of population created two of the largest research areas for PIRT’s working papers series.

PIRT hosted a “Cause of Death” conference in 1993, which brought together scholars and researchers discussing the practical and social issues of mortality.  The conference and the papers associated with it inspired the coordination of a special Cause of Death issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, published in 1999. Articles addressed the causes of death across a variety of times and places; titles included:


The Development of Reporting Systems for Causes of Death in Denmark, HANS CHRISTIAN JOHANSEN
National Statistics on the Causes of Death in Nineteenth-Century Bavaria, MICHAEL STOLBERG
Premises, Premises: Comments on the Comparability of Classifications, STEPHEN J. KUNITZ
Medical Causes of Death in Preindustrial Europe: Some Historiographical Considerations, JON ARRIZABALAGA
Nosology, Mortality, and Disease Theory in the Eighteenth Century, MARGARET DELACY
The full text of the journal is available at

PIRT also coordinated the efforts of a Fertility Working Group, which researched birth in a variety of populations.  The group produced thirteen papers in conjunction with the Fertility Working Group Project, which was completed in 1984.  These papers examined several social factors to find their correlation with fertility.  A few of them include:

Female Employment and Fertility in Developed Countries, JAN F. BRAZZELL
Origin-Destination Comparisons of Migrant and Stayer Fertility Differentials: The Case of Brazil, HUGO M. HERVITZ
Urbanization and Rural-to-Urban Migration in Relation to Less Developed Country Fertility, GEORGE J. STOLNITZ
Nuptiality and Fertility in Less Developed Countries, ELYCE ROTELLA
Old Age Security and Fertility, DAVID WILDASIN

These papers and the entire working papers series produced by the Population Institute of Research and Training are now available for research in the University Archives along with other administrative records of the Institute. Contact the Archives for further information!

Olympic Connection: Jesus Dapena


With each Olympics, we are reminded of our own connections to Games and memorable events or openings we may have watched with terrific anticipation. Not only have there been Olympic athletes with ties to IU, but there are Hoosiers involved in other ways. Recently, IU’s Jesus Dapena retired from the Kinesthetics department and his papers were transferred to the University Archives. Over the years, his impressive work has contributed to Team USA in the Summer Olympics.

Dapena studies the biomechanics of human movement completing a variety of activities, from cello playing to hammer throwing. While sports had always been central to his work, Dapena’s studies became more focused when he received a 1982 commission as the biomechanics researcher in charge of the high jump and hammer throw events for two U.S. Olympic Committee projects. His involvement with the high jump in these projects (the Elite Athlete Project and the Scientific Support Services) has continued even into recent years.

Dapena’s interest in track and field events began when he was a high jumper a young man. As he worked on his technique and watched athletes attempt the new Fosbury Flop (debuted at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics), Dapena considered the physics involved. In the 1980s he turned his attention to high jumpers, and he and colleagues studied videos and animations of potential Olympic athletes. The researchers would then produce a full length report on the individual’s technique and give advice on how they might improve. Dapena says that high jumping is part genetics and part technique. Since parentage is not easily changed, he suggests that teaching athletes technique is the best way to improve their chances of winning.

To hear more about the high jump, the Fosbury flop, and Dapena’s work, check out his interview on NPR’s Science Friday during the 2012 Olympics.

The Mysterious Board of Aeons

A box recently arrived at the University Archives with this t-shirt inside:

Aeons Shirt Front      Aeons Shirt Back

As the shirt suggests, students here at IU generally do not know much about the Board of Aeons.  I did not know anything about the group myself when I began processing this collection since I’m new here and I was a little afraid to ask when I saw this shirt! After a little research and some work in the existing Aeons collection, I am ready to give you an explanation that will not be as dangerous as one from a wearer of this shirt.

The Board of Aeons has quite a long history at Indiana University.  The group was established in 1921 under President William Lowe Bryan.  With a name inspired by the mythical Aeons placed between heaven and earth, they were charged with serving as liaison between university administration and the student body.  Although the group has never been truly secret, it does keep a low profile so that they can continue their work effectively without undue influence. The Aeons conduct research and create resulting recommendations on campus matters at the request of the administration but their role as active members of the campus community also give them the opportunity to address issues as they see them on campus.  As a result, in the course of its history, the Aeons have had significant impact on policies relating to major issues such racism and discrimination both on campus and in the community. Known to few, the Aeons have been quietly affecting big changes on campus for over 90 years.

Interested in learning more about the Aeons? Contact the Archives!