The varied research interests of Charles Heiser

Charles B. Heiser, August 1988. (P0030550)
Charles B. Heiser, August 1988. (P0030550)

Charles Heiser was a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Botany Department from 1947-1986. He received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Washington University in St. Louis in 1944, and his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 1947. Heiser joined the faculty at Indiana University in 1947 and was honored as a Guggenheim Fellow in 1953 and an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in 1962.

During his professional career, Heiser served as president of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, vice president of the Society for the Study of Evolution and as a council member for the Society of Economic Botany. Heiser was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, a prestigious distinction given only to the top scholars in the field. Other awards include the New York Botanical Garden’s Henry Allan Gleason Award and the American Society of Plant Taxonomists Asa Gray Award.

How to write a letter of recommendation
How to write a letter of recommendation

As a well-respected authority in the field, Heiser established a network of colleagues. Many of the files in this collection contain 40-50 years of correspondence with these peers. This length of time provides ample opportunity to share personal life stories. While the pieces of communication relate in some way to a research project, several close friends sent research of a different kind. “Fun” articles like the one on National Pun Week or the how-to article on writing a recommendation letter can breathe life into a collection of papers.

Heiser spent many years as a consultant for Tabasco, the pepper sauce company, conducting research on the variety of pepper used to make the sauce. The company was disputing a copyright issue with a Canadian company that marketed a similar sauce with a similar name. Ultimately, the dispute came down to the naming conventions for the varieties of capsicum, since there is a species commonly referred to as Tabasco. Heiser also worked to determine which countries could not grow the variety of pepper, and therefore possibly establish a trademark for the region.

The collection is filled with information on the unexpected uses of the plants Heiser studied. Gourds, for example, were sometimes used as penis sheaths or musical instruments. Boats can be made from totora. Capsicum could be used as a weapon. Other unique items in the collection include a box of seeds–mostly from gourds. One small canister contains numerous seeds from a tobacco plant–originating in 1657!

For further information on Dr. Heiser and his papers, please see the finding aid!

IU Professor of Chemistry Had Personal Connection to Indiana Explosives Plant

IU Professor of Chemistry, Marvin Carmack, devoted most of his career to researching organosulfur chemistry, specifically Lithospermum Ruderale, the agent of fertility control used by the American Indians. But during World War II, Dr. Carmack worked on contract with the National Defense Research Committee on high explosives and later on anti-malarial agents. Much of his attention during this period was focused on developing more efficient production methods for cyclonite (also known as RDX — Research Department explosive), an explosive more powerful than TNT. Given its power, the U.S. government approved the use of RDX in mines and torpedoes in the early 1940s. This created high demand for the explosive — a demand that couldn’t be met by existing reserves of RDX. This shortage led to the construction of the Wabash River Ordnance Works in Vermillion County, Indiana (north of Terre Haute). The E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company ran the plant; Dr. Carmack also worked for du Pont later in his career. (The ordnance plant eventually became known as the Newport Chemical Depot and was used for chemical weapons storage for the rest of the twentieth century.)

Dr. Marvin Carmack (third from left) talks with other chemists after delivering a lecture at du Pont Laboratories (1952).
Dr. Marvin Carmack (third from left) talks with other chemists after delivering a lecture at du Pont Laboratories in 1952.

After his retirement, Dr. Carmack returned to researching RDX, this time focusing on George C. Hale, an Indiana University alumnus and scientist who was one of the first people to develop RDX during World War I. The fruits of that research turned into a lecture delivered to the American Chemical Society annual meeting in 1990. (All of Carmack’s research and drafts of his talk can be found in his papers.)

But professional research were not the extent of Dr. Carmack’s connections to RDX. They extended to the personal: Dr. Carmack, himself born and raised in Vermillion County, had ancestors who traveled to the area in 1830. The land his ancestors claimed eventually became the site of the Ordnance Plant one hundred years later. As Professor Carmack wrote to a friend in 1990, “Our family seemed to have a destiny with RDX!”

To read more about RDX or to learn about Dr. Carmack’s other research interests, correspondence, and teaching notes, visit the finding aid for the Marvin Carmack papers and contact the IU Archives for questions on access to the papers!

IU Professor of Zoology Conducted Research across the World

IU Professor David G. Frey’s papers recently opened to researchers at the IU Archives. Hired as Professor of Zoology in 1951, Dr. Frey taught in Bloomington until 1986. Dr. Frey was a specialist in limnology (acquatic ecology) and an authority on the Cladocera (water flea) . At IU, he established a laboratory containing over 10,000 specimens (now housed by the Smithsonian in the Museum of Natural History).

In addition to his teaching and research at IU, Dr. Frey was active in several national and international limnological organizations. Due to his involvement, which included serving as president of the American Society of Limnology and as executive vice president of the International Association of Limnology, he traveled extensively to attend conferences and to conduct research on lakes around the world.In all, he visited forty-four countries across six continents. (He never made it to Antarctica.)

Photographs and postcards from some of his travels are included in his collection at the Archives.

Hungary

Dr. Frey traveled to Hungary in 1967 to attend the first International Symposium on Paleolimnology. During the Symposium, the attendees visited Tihany, a village in Hungary on the northern shore of Lake Balaton.

Hungary 1
A view from Lake Balaton of the village, Tihany, and a Benedictine abbey (top of the photo).
A view of Lake Balaton in Hungary.
A view of Lake Balaton in Hungary.

USSR

In 1962, Professor Frey visited the USSR as part of the National Research Council exchange with the Soviet Academy. He spent most of his time in Borok, Russia, a small, protected area in the southwestern portion of the country. Heavily forested, Borok is home to a variety of birds, including a colony of grey herons, and raccoon dogs. Visits to the region are limited to fishermen, hunters, and scientists.

Main Street in Borok, Russia.
Main Street of the small community in Borok.
Borok, Russia.
Research pond at Borok.
Borok, Russia.
Road toward pond used for Dr. Frey’s research near Borok, Russia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Austria

In 1953, Dr. Frey won both a Fulbright and Guggenheim award giving him the opportunity to study lakes in Western Europe and Austria. (He won the Fulbright again in 1985 to teach in Ireland.)

Dr. Frey exiting an Amerika Haus, likely in Austria.
Dr. Frey exiting an Amerika Haus, likely in Austria.
Dr. David Frey working on research, likely in Austria.
Professor Frey working on research, likely in Austria.

 

A partial list of the countries where Frey conducted research includes: Czechoslovakia, Nepal, Malaysia, France, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Uganda.

To see the rest of the photographs or to learn more about Dr. Frey’s travels, contact the University Archives. The Frey Papers also contain his published articles and research notes.

Olympic Connection: Jesus Dapena

hj-profiles

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 Henry H. H. Remak Collection- Processing Blog #4

Recently, I heard an IU alumnus apply an appropriate description to Professor Remak. She called him a true “renaissance man,” and I hope that my blog posts thus far have shown this to be true. Having taught and, at various points, served in an administrative capacity at IU for just under sixty years, Remak contributed much to IU and the Bloomington community. While most who knew him will remember him best as a caring teacher and friend, Remak was also a dedicated and successful scholar on a variety of subjects.

Since a comprehensive list of his professional interests would be quite extensive I will only mention several of the most prominent to the collection: the modern German novella and novel; German writers Goethe, Fontane and Thomas Mann; Franco-German literary and cultural relations; European Romanticism; and comparative student movements and countercultures of the 1960s and 70s. The collection contains a particularly rich source of information pertaining to the last of these. In addition to publishing several articles about student movements/life in Western Europe and the U. S., Henry Remak also taught an honors course that focused not only on student unrest at the university level but also faculty unrest, which he refers to in his course description as a “much neglected problem.”

The collection contains several files on this topic with German, French and American newspaper clippings, many of which were sent to him by friends living or traveling in Western Europe. Also contained in the files are some interesting ephemera, such as a newsletter from the University of Hamburg which gives a detailed chronology of student protests that occurred between January and February of 1969. Another particularly rare document from an earlier time and a much earlier era of political and educational unrest is a letter written by Ludwig Borne to his friend, Jacob Mass, in 1835. Ludwig Borne, who must have interested Henry Remak for both his relevance to student movements and for the fact that he immigrated to France due to religious persecution, was among a group of German writers who inspired young German liberals, especially students, to protest the rigid authority and Romantic ideology prevalent at the time.

Letter from Ludwig Borne to Jacob Maas, 1835

Professor Remak’s interest in student movements from this time period carried over, in many ways, to his concern for the structure and organization of IU. More specifically, Remak remained constantly watchful of student and faculty welfare, as evidenced by his research, publications and lectures given on topics of concern or needed areas of improvement for the organization and structure of the university, and even the interaction between faculty, students and administrators.

I had meant to deviate from the theme of my previous posts on this collection, but I think I’ve simply reiterated my earlier realization. Even in his scholarly research, Professor Remak seemed bent on safeguarding his beloved university, students and friends.