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Cambridge Is Center of Widely Scattered Research Empire Departments of Astronomy, Art, Botany, Biology Have Distant Outposts

By Walde PROFFITT Jr.

The mention of "Harvard" raises mental pictures of Widener, the seven Houses with their individualistic towers, and University Hall fronted by its statute of The Reader. Most Cantabridgians are familiar with the Business School just across the Charles, the Medical School in Boston; and a few old-timers are dimly aware of the whereabouts of the Astronomical Observatory or of the Blue Hills Meteorological Station.

But the University is not bounded by the Boston area, or by Massachusetts or even by the American continent. On Harvard's Empire the sun never sets. Without exception the University's distant outposts are centers of advanced research. They are truly on "the frontiers of learning"; and though each is highly important in the field of knowledge to which it is devoted, none is generally familiar to the majority of undergraduates and not even the wizards of the University News Office can recite the entire list without reference to a catalogue.

Probably the best known of the University's distant possessions is famous not for its connection with Harvard, but because of the important events which transpired there in August, 1944. Dumbarton Oaks, scene of the conference at which the foreign secretaries of the United States, Great Britain and Russia determined the basic structure of the then unborn United Nations Organization, was given to Harvard by the Honorable and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss. One of the largest Georgian estates in the District of Columbia, Dumbarton Oaks, built in 1800, possesses an orangery, a brook with miniature water falls, a yew walk, swimming pool, tennis courts and an old fashioned water wheel. The American Guide Series describes the house as having the "regal air of an 18th Century chateau."

Mr. Bliss, the former Ambassador to Argentina, and his wife spent many years, assembling a collection of Byzantine, and early Medieval art which is one of the finest in America. It includes the two most important Byzantine sculptures in the United States. In 1941, this collection, together with an extensive art library, was given to the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Since that time the Dumbarton Oaks collection has been supervised by the Fogg Art Museum, which has undertaken an ambitious program for synthezing Byzantine art and architecture. The plan has been to make Dumbarton Oaks a "top story on the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences." Each year a number of Senior research scholars are invited to study and live at Dumbarton Oaks, where they investigate the chronology and local stylistic development of art works which are scattered over all the provinces of the former Roman Empire. The individual efforts of this group of experts are directed towards a common goal of broad historical scope. Their work has already added considerably to the world's knowledge of art.

Star Gazers Map Skies

The Astronomy Department is the only one in the University which can claim as many as three more or less distant possessions. Nearest of these is Oak Ridge Observatory, established in 1932 in the midst of 40 acres of heavily wooded land in Harvard township, 25 miles Northeast of Cambridge. Oak Ridge's facilities, many of which were moved from Cambridge when the northward spread of the city rendered the old location not sufficiently free from dust and artificial lights to permit optimum conditions for astronomical observation, includes a 16 inch doublet, a 24 inch refleflctor, and a 61 inch telescope with spectroscopic equipment. Oak Ridge is now the Department's headquarters for systematic photographing of the Northern sky.

The Boyden Station in South Africa, corresponding center for southern photography, is at Harvard Kopje in Orange Free State. Its white stucco buildings, located on a high plateau 14 miles from Bloemfontein, contain six telescopes which cover all of the southern sky and 30 degrees of the northern. The site first chosen for the Southern observatory, Arepuipa, Peru, was in operation from 1890 to 1926 at which time the expensive transfer of equipment was made to the new location.

World's Highest Station

Third outpost of the Astronomy Department is the lofty Climax, Colorado, Solar Station which is engaged in compiling observational data in an effort to explain the mysterious goings-on involved in a Solar eclipse. The Climax Station, jointly operated since May by Harvard and the University of Colorado, is equipped with a Lyot-type coronograph, a special telescope which completely eliminates or greatly reduces all deficiencies of ordinary telescopes for Coronal photography. The Lyot coronograph, installed at Climax in 1940, was the first in the Western Hemisphere and the third in the world. Located just below the timber line on the edge of a community of houses maintained by the Climax Molybdenum Company for mine employees, the observatory is directly on the Continental Divide and the peak of the observatory roof, which has a unique conical shape to prevent snow gathering, forms the water shed between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

The Solar Station's elevation of 11520 feet, above the level at which flyers use oxygen, makes it the highest permanent astronomical observatory in the world. This lofty location is a result of the stringent conditions imposed by solar photography which requires a clear, dry, rarefied atmosphere. Weather at the station is very severe with snow from October to June; and snow storms, fierce winds and freezing temperatures can be expected almost any day of the year. The summer is so short that there is a local joke about the miner who missed the entire summer by working "both days" of it.

Cuban Plantation

The University's most distant holding in the Western Hemisphere, the Atkins Institution of the Arnold Arboretum at Soledad, Cuba, was established in 1900 as the result of a gift from Edwin F. Atkins, owner of large estates in Cuba, who amassed a fortune as a sugar planter. Soledad, only Botanical Garden in tropical America not government supported, is under the direction of Dr. Arthur G. Kevorkin, who returns to Cambridge four months each Fall to give a course in tropical Botany. Extensive research is conducted in economic Botany, the year around Cuban climate being particularly adapted to such experiments since the time for securing the result of cross-polination is reduced by half.

The 221 acres of the Atkins Foundation include a palm garden, marsh plants, cactus garden, orchids, bamboo and over 9,000 species of other plants. Roads, paths, bridges and dams on the stream flowing through the area have been constructed. Dr. Kevorkin and his superintendent are the only Americans now working at Soledad; the rest of the employees are Cubans. The Atkins Foundation was the first to introduce teak to Cuba and has succeeded in producing better strains of sugar cane through selection and breeding. A terrific hurricane in 1935 wreaked great damage to the trees in the Soledad Gardens but foresight in planting duplicate trees prevented excessive losses.

Extensive Forestlands

The Botany Department, which controls Soledad, also supervises the nearer but much larger Harvard Forest, whose 2300 acres have been under intensive management longer than any other similar tract in the United States. Here instructors and students work together under actual forest conditions at all seasons of the year. The area around Petersham, Massachusetts, where the forest is located, has varied and interesting conditions of forest cover, soil, and topography Containing a great number of trees species--the beech, birches and maples of the northern zone and the oak, hickory, and chestnut of the central zone, this is an ideal location for Harvard's graduate school of Forestry. Silviculture studies in progress at Petersham are aimed at profitable methods or scientific care of handling a forest as a perpetual crop. The natural sciences, chemistry and physics are combined in the study of tree growth and soils, tree breeding, forest protection and forest economics. Two buildings were completed here in 1941--the Fisher Museum of Forestry, which contains models showing the history of the local forest and the application of Silviculture; and Shaler Hall, containing offices, a library and living quarters. Both buildings, erected in red brick, have all the eye-catching appeal of Harvard Hall.

A considerable part of the forest area is set aside for the demonstration of representative cases in forest history or conditions of local silviculture; and another part of over 900 acres is operated as a wild life sanctuary in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation. Like Soledad, Petersham too, suffered hurricane damage. In 1938 three-quarters of the mercantile timber in the forest was destroyed; so the next 20 years work will be confined to young or middle aged timber stands and to the improvement of ultimate production. Among the interesting discoveries which have been made at Petersham is the fact that destructive fires in our forests occurred long before the white man came to America to strew his matches and cigarette butts over the country side.

Final position on the list of Harvard's territorial outposts is accorded the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology, not because it is necessarily less important than the others, but because it is operated in cooperation with a Connecticut university of somewhat dubious repute. Its two laboratories, containing living quarters for anthropoid apes and monkeys, are situated on a tract of nearly 200 acres about 15 miles from Jacksonville, Florida. The facilities of the Laboratory, manned by graduate students of Harvard and Yale, are devoted to the breeding and study of anthropoid apes and other primate species. Rumor has if that on several occasions the workers have announced the discovery of a new speies of anthropoid, only to realize later that the peculiar primate was a misplaced Eli.

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