Author Archives: bahdea

Banning Information in 18th Century France

In honor of Banned Books Week and the upcoming 300th birthday of Denis Diderot, the OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center would like to recognize the Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers in the McDonald Rare Book Collection. This famous encyclopedia was a beacon of free thought that helped fuel the French Enlightenment and revolutionize social and political order in the Western world. Authorities saw it as a dangerous work-it was banned in France, and the Catholic Church placed it on the Index librorum prohibitorum, or Index of Prohibited Books.

From the entry on Anatomy

The Encyclopédie began as a humble project. In 1743, French publisher Andre Le Breton asked encyclopedist John Mills to complete a French translation of Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopaedia. When Mills failed to complete the project, it was transferred to Jean Paul de Gua de Malves who proved similarly ineffective and was summarily fired. In a desperate attempt to save the project, Breton assigned two of de Malves’ employees, Denis Diderot and Jean-Baptiste le Rond d’Alembert, to the task.

From the entry on Horseback Riding

Diderot and d’Alembert, both French intellectuals at the vanguard of the Enlightenment, took to their task with zeal. Rather than simply translate Chambers’ work, they set out to bring together the entire range of human knowledge in one great collection. Beginning in 1747, the two men commissioned more than one hundred scientists, doctors, writers, scholars, and craftsmen to write for their Encyclopédie including the likes of Francois-Marie Arouet (better known as Voltaire) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. They divided their work into three categories: history, philosophy, and poetry and assigned subjects within industry, political theory, theology, agriculture, and the arts and sciences to these three groupings.

From the entry on Glassblowing

The first volume was published in 1751 and succeeded in appalling France’s political and religious elite. The Encyclopédie made little distinction between Christianity and other religions, provided extensive writings on the work of craftsmen and day laborers, espoused the discoveries of the Scientific Revolution, and in some cases openly supported radical political theories and challenged the source of power of the ruling class. Unlike the Church and aristocracy, the French intellectual community received the Encyclopédie with enthusiasm. The popularity of the work grew quickly and the number of subscribers increased with each volume published.

Not to be challenged, ranking members of the Church began a campaign of harassment against Diderot, d’Alembert, and their contributors. In 1752 King Louis XV placed a ban on the enterprise but revoked it three months later.  The attacks continued, however, and many of the individuals writing for the Encyclopédie resigned. Even d’Alembert was forced to abandon the project when he was threatened with imprisonment. In 1759, with only seven volumes published, Louis XV placed a permanent ban on the Encyclopédie. Undeterred, Diderot and ordered the creation of several companion volumes of illustrations (which were exempt from the ban) while he and his remaining contributors continued to write new entries in secret.

From the entry on Mineralogy

In addition to the threats from French officials, Diderot also found himself on the brink of poverty. He was ultimately forced to sell his personal library to Catherine II of Russia who allowed him to keep the volumes at his home in France and paid him a stipend to serve as her librarian. Supported by the generosity of the Russian Empress, Diderot was able to continue his work. In 1765, volumes 1 through 17 were published by a printer in Switzerland and disseminated across France and throughout Western Europe. Much to Diderot’s despair, it was discovered that the printer had removed many controversial articles from the final version. Despite this, the Encyclopédie was well received and marked a historic victory for free thought.

From the entry on Art

Diderot continued his work on the Encyclopédie until 1772. Twenty-five years of difficult and sometimes dangerous work culminated in the publication of approximately 4200 sets, each comprised of twenty-eight volumes containing nearly 72,000 articles and more than 3,000 illustrations. Diderot’s work persists today in libraries and museums around the world and has gained even greater exposure through the advent of the Internet.

–Contributed by Trevor Sandgathe, images selected by Mike Mehringer

From the entry on Natural History

F. A. Gilfillan, Renaissance Man of OAC

Gilfillan at Hamilton Air Force Base

Francois Archibald Gilfillan enjoys a place in OSU history as one of the institution’s celebrated personalities. A unique individual, Gilfillan was a college dropout, a high school teacher, a member of the Army’s Chemical Warfare Service, and the recipient of a doctoral degree from Yale—all before his thirtieth birthday.

Gilfillan’s OAC diploma

Army discharge papers, 1918

In 1927, after a brief stint at the Calco Chemical Company and the University of Florida, Gilfillan found himself teaching Pharmacy at Oregon Agricultural College, his undergraduate alma mater. It was at OAC (now Oregon State University) that he shook his small-town Texas roots and established himself as an urbane Renaissance man at the cultural center of a small Oregon farming community.

Gilfillan family in 1942, when Gifillan was Acting President of OSC

Today, “Doc” (as he was known to family and friends) is often remembered for his extracurricular activities. He collected rare books and fine British silver, was a devotee of traditional Japanese gardening, a mountaineer, an obsessive genealogist, a ranking Mason, and a polyglot. Gilfillan also cultivated relationships with other intellectuals including documentary photographer Margaret Bourke-White and Russian author Antonina Riasanovsky. Naturally, his hobbies drew attention from his students and the greater community and resulted in a certain cult of personality that persists in OSU’s institutional memory nearly fifty years after his retirement.

Despite his compelling personal interests, it is Gilfillan’s efforts as a proponent of science education in Oregon that are his true legacy. In 1939, he was promoted to Dean of the School of Science and began a campaign to improve science education in Oregon’s high schools and universities. To this end, he became active in groups dedicated to furthering the cause of science education. He acted as Secretary for the Oregon Academy of Science where he worked with the American Association for the Advancement of Science to oversee small grants to fund high school lab experiments; he became Vice President of Scientists of Tomorrow which encouraged science learning in the U.S.;  and oversaw the Junior Engineers and Scientists Summer Institute (JESSI) at OSU. He also participated in a National Teacher Training program, served as the Commissioner on Higher Education for the Northwest Association of Secondary and Higher Schools and acted as one of the five original incorporators of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).

JESSI class, 1956

Gilfillan’s legacy is a quiet one but has far-reaching consequences for Oregonians. Scientists of Tomorrow and National Teacher Training provided educational opportunities for thousands of Oregon students and teachers, descendants of the JESSI program still operate at OSU today, and OMSI has become one of the leading educational attractions in the state.

Christmas card created by Gilfillan, 1938: The Journal of Alchemistic Happiness!

Christmas card created by Gilfillan, 1956

The F.A. Gilfillan Papers are a tremendous resource for scholars interested in the history of Oregon State University, science research and education in Oregon, and the role of land grant colleges in all levels of education.

Gilfillan, 1960

Friday Feature: SCARC’s Summer Projects

This summer, SCARC tackled a massive project to shelf-read and clean selected rare book collections. Over time, some books were put back on the shelf in the wrong order after they circulated to the Reading Room.

Team Awesome

The shelf read involved checking the position of each book against a master call number list, gathering information about bookplates and donors within the books, and rearranging if needed to make sure books were in the correct order.

Mike in the rare books stacks

These collections were also long overdue for a thorough dusting. We used hake brushes and other soft tools to brush each individual book. “Herbie” (Hoover) the HEPA vac, fitted with a micro tool suction head, was used for some particularly dusty items and was our trusty servant throughout the cleaning.

Herbie the HEPA vacuum

Name brainstorm for the vacuum

Students carefully removed books, dusted their fore edges and gutters, removed acidic remnants like old library circulation cards and other inserts, and vacuumed shelves.

Mike grins as he finishes cleaning the last book!

We started these projects near the end of June, and finished in the first week of September! It was a long and tedious set of projects, but “Team Awesome” maintained a cheery and determined attitude through the whole thing. An important part of SCARC’s charge is stewardship and preservation. Thanks to the hard work of these amazing students and volunteers, we will be able to protect and care for these books for many years to come.

We asked Mike, Hope, and Cheryl:

Aside from clothes and faces covered in  book dust, red rot, ear damage, dirty hands, and hours standing, what was your favorite part of the project?

Dirty Mike’s Cleaning Service

Mike: “Pulling all the extra pieces of paper from the books feels like I’m pulling out a splinter from under a fingernail. It’s like they are breathing a sigh of relief! Handling books that are older than my great-great-great-great grandparents feels like stepping into a time machine. When I open them up I can read the words and the ideas of someone who lived in such a different time and era, and that’s beyond amazing. It’s like time-travel!

Hope and her amazing apron

Hope:”Finding cool stuff in some of the books was definitely a fun part. Especially letters from authors and such, or beautifully handwritten notes or indexes. The hand-colored plates were gorgeous, too. But I also really liked being able to touch so many old books, because I really love old books. It was also satisfying to clean certain kinds, like the ones with gilded pages. You could really see the difference. Also, I loved my apron and I loved being a book coddler. And finally, I can’t help but mention that I managed to re-listen to Harry Potter books 2-5 while working in the stacks. Harry Potter and antique books, two of my favorite things!”

Cheryl in her apron

Cheryl: The special surprise of finding a handwritten letter was delicious! Translating and researching the letter found in a book from author/scientist Louis Agassiz to one of his pupils was a treat…I felt like an amateur detective at times. I really enjoyed the illustrations of various plants and animals in the “Transactions of the Linnean Society” volumes – I gleaned some great future tattoo ideas from some of the drawings! I also appreciated the exposure to so many different kinds of books. I kept reminding myself, someone held/read/loved this book hundreds of years ago! I’m proud to have been a part of this project.

Stack of library circulation cards removed from rare books

Thank you for such a great job, Team Awesome!

Thanks, Team!

Friday Feature: Nuclear History Research Guide

The Special Collections and Archives Research Center is pleased to share the first of our new research guides, which details our significant collection strengths in nuclear history and atomic energy.

The guide includes subtopics on:

The guide will expand as we begin processing on a few new accessions in SCARC, including further records of the Radiation Center, the papers of Radiation Center director Chih Wang, and a very special new collection arriving in the fall. Watch this space for updates, and for new research guides on other subject strengths. In the meantime, check out interesting selections from the atomic energy and nuclear history collections on SCARC’s Pinterest page.

Friday Feature: finding aid for Charter Heslep Papers, newsman & Atomic Energy Commission member

The OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center is pleased to announce the release of a complete finding aid for the papers of Charter Heslep, a newsman and member of the Atomic Energy Commission.

Charter Heslep, in profession and personality, is best examined through his complex and sometimes contradictory relationship with information. As a broadcast journalist, censor, ghostwriter, and government employee–Heslep was a conduit through which information flowed and, in some cases, was dammed. He began his career as a newsman in 1929 at the Washington Daily News and in 1941 was appointed night news editor for NBC. During World War II, Heslep served as chief radio censor for the Broadcasting Division of the Office of Censorship where he oversaw the filtering of wartime news as it passed to the public. After the war’s end, Heslep returned to commercial broadcasting, this time at the Mutual Broadcasting Company. In 1949, he joined the Atomic Energy Commission as Assistant to the Director where was asked to apply his talents to the problem of nuclear energy. In his position at the AEC, Charter facilitated information sharing among research and policy organizations, wrote speeches for public officials including Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and assisted in communicating the role of atomic energy—both peaceful and military—to the American public.

Among his many duties at the AEC, Heslep was charged with overseeing the broadcasting of several nuclear weapons tests. Many of the materials in the Heslep Papers—including correspondence, photographs, and ephemera—date from these assignments. Most notably, a series of letters between Heslep and his wife between 1950 and 1957 describe his participation in Operations Tumbler-Snapper, Upshot-Knothole, and Redwing—early nuclear tests staged at the Nevada Test Site and the Pacific Proving Grounds.

It is in this correspondence that Heslep’s talents as a storyteller shine through. His letters, written in a tone approaching wonderment, detail the almost unsettling cleanliness of Camp Mercury, the strange sites of the Marshall Islands, the complexities of broadcasting across the Nevada desert, and the tenseness of a nuclear bomb test. Letters to his children express a similar exuberance at an impromptu military airshow seen from the USS McKinley or the hermit crab races held by bored sailors on Kwajalein. Moreover, his accounts of life and work among scientists and military brass are punctuated by moments of real excitement. In May 1956, he began a series of letters chronicling the USS McKinley’s search for the pilot of a lost observer plane. He wrote,

Tonight, as never before in my life, I have an idea how big an ocean is, especially the Pacific Ocean. Because, somewhere in the thousands of square miles of dark blue water, a man may be fighting for his life.

Only days later, he witnessed the first airdrop of a thermonuclear weapon, describing it “as if a red hot Washington Monument was being thrust upward into an already fiery sky.”

The personal nature of his family correspondence is complimented by examples of Heslep’s professional interactions with the public. Included in the collection are speeches he authored on behalf of the AEC such as “Radio’s Role in Defense” and “Some Aspects of the Impact of the Nuclear Age in the United States.”  Others like “Ghosting: A Necessity, Not a Sin” defend Heslep’s own work and the sometimes circuitous route information takes.

The Charter Heslep Papers are an incredible resource for scholars interested in nuclear history and policy, history of journalism, the work of the Atomic Energy Commission, and the history of information sharing between the U.S. government and the American public.

Additional related materials can be found on our web site  in the History of Atomic Energy Collection, the Barton C. Hacker Papers, the Barton C. and Sally L. Hacker Nuclear Affairs Collection, and the Linus and Ava Helen Pauling Papers.

Friday Feature: The Ernst J. Dornfeld Papers, A Labor of Love

At first blush, the Ernst J. Dornfeld Papers appear to be the output of a career entomologist. The stacks of maps charting butterfly movement, the encapsulated wings, and the thousands of butterfly photographs all point to the work of a rank-and-file lepidopterist.

Encapsulated butterfly wings

But something doesn’t add up. Dornfeld’s Ph.D., minted at the University of Wisconsin, reads “Zoology” and his curriculum vitae is littered with references to cytochemistry and histology. Upon digging into the Dornfeld Papers, one will unearth lecture notes on cytology and histology, images of cellular mitosis, and a thick bundle of reprints with titles like “Structural and functional reconstitution of ultra-centrifuged rat adrenal cells in autoplastic grafts.” Dornfeld, as it turns out, led a double life.

Ernst’s fascination with butterflies developed during childhood and carried into his early scientific career. However, after taking a position at Oregon State University in 1938, he immersed himself in his teaching and cell biology work. He became interested in embryology and cytochemistry, began publishing his work on reproductive cells, and threw himself into his teaching duties. Consequently, his interest in lepidopterology faded into the background.

In the late 1950s, Dornfeld returned to his lapsed hobby with renewed vigor. He crisscrossed Oregon on scouting trips with his son, developed contacts with other lepidopterists, and amassed an astounding collection of specimens from the Pacific Northwest. He also redirected some of his teaching and writing efforts to butterfly work, publishing papers and giving talks on local butterfly biology and ecology. Moonlighting as a lepidopterist afforded Dornfeld the opportunity to work directly with other enthusiasts. His correspondence with colleagues includes discussions of new species, plans for collecting trips, and arrangements for specimen trading, all of it written in the intense tones of obsession.

Following his retirement from OSU in 1976, Dornfeld began developing a comprehensive guide to Oregon lepidoptera. In 1980, he completed Butterflies of Oregon, the definitive work on the subject. He also put in long volunteer hours cataloging the OSU Systematic Entomology Laboratory’s specimen collection—shaping it into a valuable teaching tool. To this end, he even contributed his own collection, the result of hundreds of hours in the field.
The Dornfeld Papers have been placed in the Special Collections & Archives Research Center for all the usual reasons. The collection is a rich resource for entomologists, ecologists, and historians of science. It’s also a part of OSU’s history—something we’re dedicated to preserving. But it takes only a few minutes with this collection to realize it’s more than the sum total of its research value. The Ernst J. Dornfeld Papers are a tribute to a labor of love.

The Ernst J. Dornfeld Papers and other related questions are available for access 8:30AM-5:00PM Monday through Friday at the Special Collection & Archives Research Center. For questions about the Dornfeld Papers or other holdings, please contact us at

Friday Feature: Sir Hugh Plat’s The Jewel House of Art and Nature

The Special Collections and Archives Research Center recently acquired an edition of Sir Hugh Plat’s The Jewel House of Art and Nature, published in London in 1653.

This collection of “diverse new and conceited Experiments” compiles recipes, household hints, and practical directions on an impressive variety of useful topics, including: “how to write a letter secretly,” “how to walk safely upon a high scaffold with danger of falling,” “to dry gun-powder without danger of fire,” “to help a Chimnie that is on fire presently,” “to prevent drunkenesse,” and “to help Venison that is tainted.” Mixed in among these trinkets are short treatises on “the Art of Memory,” “the Art of Molding and Casting,” a philosophical treatise on soil and marl, and even alchemical experiments. Intended to appeal to an audience as diverse as its contents, the book contains advices useful to travelers, farmers, housewives, soldiers, cooks, merchants, apothecaries, builders, distillers, and brewers, or indeed anyone who had “either wit, or will, to apply them.”

Plat frequently credits the source of his knowledge on these topics. Usually personal acquaintances, these range from seamen who shared various pieces of useful knowledge learned overseas, to clerics and barbers, to laborers and tradesmen.

Plat’s eclectic compilation provides a fascinating glimpse of the daily needs, desires, and concerns of people living and working in the mid-seventeenth century. It has an important place in the history of science, as it reflects what Deborah Harkness has called “vernacular science”—developments in engineering, chemistry, nutrition, medicine, botany, agricultural science, and physics as achieved by the common people as they  experimented and progressed within these areas. The Jewel House of Art and Nature joins other examples of this democratic genre in our rare book collections dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries.

Friday Feature: new finding aid for John Lattin Papers

The Special Collections & Archives Research Center is pleased to announce that the Guide to the John D. Lattin Papers is now publicly available online.

The collection represents the work of entomologist John Lattin during his four-decade career at OSU and includes extensive professional correspondence, research projects, publications, Entomology Department materials, biographical and employment records, and more.

John Lattin joined the staff of the Oregon State University Entomology Department in 1955. During his time at OSU, Dr. Lattin specialized in Hemiptera or “true bugs” and conducted research on the reaction of insect populations to evolving environmental conditions such as climate change, the appearance of invasive species, logging, and the introduction of pesticides. Much of this research was focused on Pacific Northwest forests and conducted in the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest.

Lattin also served as the curator of the University’s entomology museum, a role that required him to manage and grow the university’s insect collections through cooperation with other universities, laboratories, and private collectors. In service of his students and colleagues, Lattin immersed himself in an international insect specimen trading network made up of museum curators, researchers, and hobbyists. His own field work gave him the opportunity to collect species of insects unique to the Pacific Northwest and trade them for exotic specimens from around the globe. Lattin’s correspondence is filled with records of his efforts in procuring samples for OSU and disseminating specimens from Oregon. Lattin’s research and collecting efforts took him all over the United States and abroad to the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the United Kingdom.

In a survey conducted in the mid-1970s, the OSU entomological collection was ranked in the top 25 collections of its kind out of almost 600 collections across the United States and Canada.  It grew to more than 2.5 million specimens under his guidance and was both a source of professional pride for Lattin and a valuable teaching tool for entomology, zoology, and biology students.

Jack Lattin’s instincts as a collector were not confined to insect collecting. Lattin began cultivating a personal collection of rare books on the history of entomology in the early 1950s. Though his collection was originally intended for personal research use, it became a crucial teaching tool when he began teaching an Historical Entomology class in 1955. Over the next forty years, his collection would grow to encompass hundreds of books, all carefully chosen from his worldwide network of rare book dealers specializing in entomology.

When Jack Lattin donated his entire research library to the OSU Libraries in the 1990s, the rare books of his collection were absorbed by Special Collections, where they established a strong foundation in historical entomology. Today, the collection is valued not only for its entomological content, but also as a rich source of examples in the history of printing. From gorgeous hand-colored engravings in the 18th century to fine chromolithographs in the 19th and 20th centuries, the collection showcases the change in scientific illustration techniques over time.

Related materials include the Entomology Department Records (RG 027), and the papers of Norman Anderson, Ralph Berry, Ernst Dornfeld, Louis Gentner, Paul Oman, Paul Ritchter, and Herman Scullen.

Friday Feature: E. Dale Trout Papers

SCARC is pleased to announce a newly-released finding aid for the E. Dale Trout Papers.

This collection highlights the work of Dr. Edrie Dale Trout (1901-1977), a leader in the fields of radiology and radiation safety and the founder of OSU’s X-Ray Science and Engineering Laboratory. E. Dale Trout, a native of Indiana and a Franklin College graduate, began work at the Victor X-Ray Corporation in 1928 after a brief stint as a high school science teacher. Victor X-Ray later merged with General Electric and, during World War II, Trout managed GE’s Industrial Technical Department developing technologies for the war effort.  Following his retirement from GE in 1962, Trout accepted a position as Professor of Radiological Physics at Oregon State University. At OSU, he worked with his colleagues to establish the Radiation Center and founded the X-Ray Science and Engineering Laboratory in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Radiological Health. He served as Director of the laboratory until his retirement in 1976. With the help of John P. Kelley, his Assistant Director, Trout developed x-ray training courses for undergraduate and graduate students, conducted extensive testing of various x-ray instruments, and contributed to ongoing radiation safety research. A prolific researcher, Trout published more than 100 papers over the course of his life, many of which he co-authored with Kelley.

The E. Dale Trout Papers include extensive correspondence assembled by both Trout and John Kelley, administrative records relating to the X-Ray Science and Engineering Laboratory, x-ray course instruction materials, many of his published papers and seminars, materials dating from his position as Vice President of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement, and a significant body of collected research materials. The Papers belie Trout’s deep interest in the future of radiology and his drive to inspire, train, and ensure the safety of future generations of researchers.

This collection offers a rich look at the history of radiology as it developed through the second half of the 20th century. It details the advancement of radiological techniques, practices, and instrumentation and provides a unique understanding of the contributions by corporate, academic, and government entities to the field. The work of E. Dale Trout and John P. Kelley also serves as a wonderful record of the development of radiology instruction and the growth of the OSU Radiation Center, one of the top ranked institutional programs of its kind in the country.

The Trout Papers joins a growing body of work relating to radiation research and policy held at the OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center. Related materials include the Barton C. Hacker Papers, the Barton C. and Sally L. Hacker Nuclear Affairs Collection, the OSU Radiation Center Records, the History of Atomic Energy Collection, and the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers.