posted October 12, 2009

Book Chronicles History of the Natural and Applied Sciences at Hope

Hope College has published a book chronicling the history of its science programs in conjunction with the centennial of two of them.

The book "A Century of Science: Excellence at Hope College" was released at a banquet hosted by the natural and applied sciences division on Friday, Oct. 9, as part of the college's year-long commemoration of the creation of the college's departments of chemistry and physics as independent programs in 1909.

The book, however, tells the story of all of the college's programs in the natural and applied sciences, including not only chemistry and physics but also biology, computer science, engineering, the geological and environmental sciences, mathematics and nursing.  It also begins with the college's origins in the 1800s and the creation of Hope's first formal laboratory space in 1867.

In addition, the volume is appearing in tandem with a series of invited addresses taking place across the entire school year and designed to feature alumni of all of the programs.

"We're using the 100-year anniversary as an impetus to look at the entire program in the sciences," said Dr. Graham Peaslee, who is helping to coordinate the celebration and is a professor of chemistry and chairperson of the department as well as a professor of geology/environmental science.  "We want to make sure it's not just a celebration of chemistry or a celebration of physics."

The book has been edited and designed by award-winning local author Valerie Van Heest, whose extensive bibliography includes numerous books, articles and videos focused on history, Great Lakes shipwrecks in particular.

Lavishly illustrated, the volume traces the eras of Hope science by facility - from that 1867 laboratory, to the basement of Van Vleck Hall, to Van Raalte Hall, Lubbers Hall, VanderWerf Hall, the Peale Science Center and the A. Paul Schaap Science Center.

The text draws heavily on the work of Dr. Irwin Brink, who taught chemistry from 1957 until retiring in 1996 and had previously written a history of science at the college.  Additional sources include a history of the department of mathematics by Dr. Jay Folkert, who taught at Hope from 1946 until retiring in 1982, and a history of geology by department founder Dr. J. Cotter Tharin, who taught from 1967 until retiring in 1996.  An article about the founding and early years of Holland by local historian Paul Trap, reprinted from "Michigan History Magazine," serves as an introduction, putting the college and program into context.

In addition, current faculty have written about their programs and the future of the natural and applied sciences at Hope, with a foreword by Dr. Moses Lee, the division's dean.  An appendix lists all who have taught in the sciences.

The buildings help frame the story, but the book is really about the difference made by the dedicated professors whose work Hope's facilities support.  The first science instruction was by a theologian, the Rev. Cornelius Crispell, who was one of the college's original five professors and was appointed to teach mathematics, natural philosophy and astronomy, but Hope soon began hiring specialists.  The first faculty research space, in Van Raalte Hall (1903), was developed by biologist Samuel Mast - whose lasting impact on the campus also included designing Voorhees Hall.  Today's signature practice of involving students in research as a teaching tool, and obtaining outside funding to support it, was developed by chemist Dr. Gerrit Van Zyl, who taught at Hope from 1923 to 1964.

Copies of "A Century of Science: Excellence at Hope College" are available for $29.95 each from the office of the dean for the natural and applied sciences, located in room 2000 of the A. Paul Schaap Science Center, 35 E. 12th St.  Copies are also available through mail order by going to the dean's Web site, www.hope.edu/academic/natsci, or by calling (616) 395-7190 or e-mailing michner@hope.edu