CWRU Links


SCIENCE. In America during the 1800s science grew from the level of dilettantes to large-scale research performed by university-trained professionals. Financial support for science matured as well, outgrowing the individual's pocketbook to tap the coffers of government, corporations, and public and private institutions. In the 20th century, science and TECHNOLOGY produced a powerful combination of knowledge about the world and the ways to manipulate it for personal and public benefit. This knowledge permeated the culture and changed the way that human society thought about itself and about its relationship to the surrounding natural environment. The power of science and technology to affect society resulted in a continued and growing public interest in scientific topics. The pattern of scientific work in Cleveland in the early days of its history was largely that of amateur naturalists, actually a group of young men from the city's well-to-do leadership, headed by WILLIAM CASE. During the 1830s, William and several friends gathered a collection of birds, fish, and botanical and geological samples, including specimens of flora and fauna from around the Cleveland area. These natural curiosities were kept in a small house named the "ARK" because of its assorted contents, which was located on PUBLIC SQUARE next to the Case residence. The "Arkites" met on a regular basis to present formal and informal papers on various scientific topics. As the members of the group grew older, however, the meetings grew less frequent and eventually stopped.

With the 1832 opening of the Ohio Canal, Cleveland became a commercial "boom town" that offered great opportunities to professionals in all fields. One of these was JARED P. KIRTLAND, a doctor trained at Yale, who had moved to Ohio at the age of 30 in 1823 to practice medicine. By 1843 he was on the faculty of the medical school of Western Reserve College located in Cleveland and took an active ry, tin stimulating the development of intellectual interests in the city. In 1845 Kirtland led a group of professional men, many of whom taught science and medicine at local colleges and medical schools, in forming the CLEVELAND ACADEMY OF NATURAL SCIENCES, which was first housed in the medical school of Western Reserve College. Kirtland's national reputation brought the annual meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science to the city in the summer of 1853, where the issues regarding the role of amateurs in professional scientific work were first raised. While many members of the Academy were amateur naturalists, not many papers read at the meeting were in the field of natural history, reflecting the evolution of American science toward the physical sciences. Also, several of the papers presented by local amateurs were not well received by the visiting professionals and eventually were deleted from the published proceedings. A version of the proceedings of this meeting of the AAAS was published in Cleveland in Annals of Science, a short-lived (185354) journal edited by Hamilton Smith, a Yale graduate, astronomer, and Cleveland resident.

While the Cleveland Academy of Natural Sciences (renamed the Kirtland Society for its founder) focused on natural history and involved various medical school teachers in Cleveland, Elias Loomis, professor of natural philosophy at Western Reserve College in Hudson established the first permanent observatory west of the Allegheny Mountains in the late 1830s, which still exists on the grounds of the old college campus in Hudson. After the Civil War, scientific activity in Cleveland increasingly became concerned with the physical sciences of astronomy and physics. The two founders of WARNER & SWASEY, a new machine-tool company which moved to Cleveland from Chicago in 1881, were deeply interested in astronomical telescopes, and during the 1880s and 1890s built the largest such telescopes in the world. Cleveland became the source for the world's finest astronomical instruments, such as those provided for the Lick Observatory of the Univ. of California, the U.S. Naval Observatory, and the Yerkes Observatory of the Univ. of Chicago, among others.

Cleveland's first scientific and technical college, the Case School of Applied Science, opened in 1880 on Public Square. College-level technical schools such as Case were started throughout the U.S. in the years after the Civil War. The U.S. was quickly becoming a world leader in technology and MICHELSON-MORLEY EXPERIMENTS, a national historic chemical landmark, only the 4th location to be so designated in the country.) Another prominent physical scientist at Case was DAYTON C. MILLER. Miller conducted many experiments in acoustics, establishing that tradition in experimental and theoretical work in the Case physics department. In 1896 he was one of the first Americans to follow up on the x-ray work of Wilhelm Roentgen in Germany. Miller took some of the first x-ray pictures in America at Case and published early accounts of his experiments.

While the faculty at Case continued to research the physical world, science in the early 20th century was finding a new home in municipal government. Cleveland's sanitation, water, and public health departments were involved in numerous studies of the environmental changes brought on by urban growth. In the first years of the new century, Mayor TOM L. JOHNSON led an administration that aggressively sought solutions to the problems of a tainted water supply, typhoid fever outbreaks, and smoke pollution. The city's water department, which built the first pumping station and reservoir in the 1850s, had grown into a large, technological system, supplying water to Cleveland and the SUBURBS. After studies and tests done by city workers in conjunction with physicians showed the connection between water pollution and typhoid fever, chlorination of the water was begun in 1911 and the typhoid threat was eliminated (See WATER SYSTEM). One of the earliest scientific studies of the polluted air of a major industrial city was done by CHARLES F. MABERY, a chemist working at the Case School in 1895. Cleveland, plagued with coal-smoke pollution, joined the "smoke abatement" movement of the early 20th century by hiring smoke inspectors, who became experts on its physical and chemical properties in their attempt to combat the dirty skies of the city. The natural sciences received public attention in 1920 when the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY was founded. The museum thrived and continues to serve the Greater Cleveland area with a program of exhibits and school-group and public programming.

In the 1920s, an extensive research program in human anatomy, eugenics, and children's-health statistics was conducted by Cleveland physicians CARL HAMANN, ROGER PERKINS, and THOMAS WINGATE TODD. Perkins headed the city's Division of Health and assisted Hamann, who brought Todd to the city from England, in planning and executing a long-term investigation into public health through the study of anatomy, using cadavers obtained legally from the city's workhouse and morgue. In the late 1920s, Todd was selected to head the BRUSH FOUNDATION, created by CHARLES FRANCIS BRUSH, electrical-industry pioneer in Cleveland and member of Cleveland's wealthy business community. Brush had lost his only son and his son's daughter to blood poisoning. In his sorrow, the elder Brush created the Brush Foundation to promote research to improve the overall genetic stock of the human race. This research program involved the systematic compilation and study of vast amounts of medical data on a select group of 1,000 school-age children in the Cleveland area. The data collected on these children included regular full-length x-rays of the whole body, and precise x-rays of facial and dental structure as they aged. Between 192942, over 22,000 physical exams and over 90,000 psychological exams were conducted, and more then 250,000 x-rays were made. Although the study concentrated on 1,000 of the children, the total number of subjects by the end of the project was more than 5,000. After Todd died in 1938, the study was continued on a much-reduced scale until World War II shortages brought it to a close. After the war, other researchers questioned the radiation damage to the subjects from such extensive and regular exposure to x-rays, but recent studies do not show any increase in cancer rates or other diseases among this group. The records from this study remain intact at CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIV.

The Case School of Applied Science, renamed Case Institute of Technology, continued to be the focus of scientific work in the city, especially in the 1950s and early 1960s. Under the direction of Case astronomer JASON J. NASSAU, working at the Warner & Swasey Observatory, it developed techniques for obtaining spectrographic information on large numbers of stars at one time and for identifying a type of star called a "Red Giant" because of its size and spectral color.

In the 1960s, important work in particle physics was done at Case Tech by Frederick Reines, who had worked at Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear bomb during World War II. Reines developed an extensive program of research in atomic particles, developing underground observation chambers in Cleveland's salt mines under Lake Erie to shield experiments from cosmic rays emanating from outer space. Reines and his team also studied cosmic rays themselves from high-altitude balloons in Texas. Working with a team of researchers deep in a gold mine in South Africa, Reines and Thomas Jenkins (also of Case) were the first to detect the presence of the elementary subatomic particle, the neutrino, from a source in nature in 1965. Theoretically, the neutrino, found until that time only in manmade nuclear experiments, should be observable as part of the natural radiation streaming down onto the earth from outer space. Engineering science at Case also focused on materials research, polymer science, electronics, and systems analysis in the 1960s. With the formation of Case Western Reserve Univ. in 1967, Case's science and engineering departments became linked to the biochemical and medical researches at Western Reserve Univ., creating a large biomedical engineering research institution. Government-operated research also has been conducted in Cleveland since World War II at the NASA LEWIS RESEARCH CENTER, which remains a national center for research into propulsion systems for space exploration.

Anthropological research received worldwide acclaim in the 1970s with the work of Donald C. Johanson at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, who discovered the remarkably complete skeletal remains of a fema, tin Africa, which he dated back more than 3.5 million years. This early human, named "LUCY" by Johanson and his team of researchers, represented a major find in anthropology, pushing the beginnings of mankind back farther than formerly imagined. The announcement of Lucy's discovery generated a great amount of public interest in Johanson's work, demonstrating the growing public intrigue with the latest scientific findings as society becomes increasingly more dependent on research in science and engineering.

Edward J. Pershey

Western Reserve Historical Society