Campus & Community

This month in Harvard history

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September 1936 – During the first two weeks of September, Harvard convenes a Tercentenary Conference of Arts and Sciences. More than 10,000 faculty members at 54 institutions nationwide are invited; over 2,000 attend. Seventy-one scholars give papers in four areas: Arts and Letters, Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Social Sciences.

September 1939-Spring 1942 – The Stradivarius Quartet (violinists Wolfe Wolfinsohn and Bernard Robbins; violist Marcel Dick; and cellist Iwan d’Archambeau) serves as Harvard’s first resident string quartet.

September 1941 – The freshman Class numbers 1,125 – the largest to date. Total College enrollment is 3,554. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences enrolls 669 students, down 24.7 percent from the 1940 level. At the professional schools (e.g., Law, Education), enrollment has dropped about 40 percent.

Sept. 1, 1954 – An anonymous donor establishes the Faculty Prize of Harvard University Press. The award is “believed to be unique in the history of American universities and their presses and, in terms of money [$2,000], outstanding among prizes for manuscripts of book length.” (Quotation: “Harvard Alumni Bulletin, ” 3/20/54)

Sept. 6, 1956 – Sometime before 4:30 in the afternoon, fire breaks out in the tower of Memorial Hall as it is being restored. Although the Cambridge Fire Department sits right across the street and responds promptly, the fire spreads so rapidly that the tower and its four-face clock are a total loss. Water floods the basement offices of the Psychology Department, but Buildings and Grounds workers install pumps that hold the level to a few inches in the deepest recess (some six feet lower than the rest of the basement) and thus minimize damage. Well into the next morning, firemen are still pouring water on smoldering timbers. The Fire Department report suggests that a workman’s torch had probably ignited the blaze. A three-month study later sets recoverable losses at an estimated $366,674.82, with damage to the roof and tower structure accounting for $260,000 of the total.

September 1959 – In the basement of renovated Boylston Hall, the Listening Laboratory of the Modern Language Center goes into operation a week after the College opens for the fall, while final renovations continue elsewhere in the building.

– From the Harvard Historical Calendar, a database compiled by Marvin Hightower