The Johns Hopkins Science Review, a pioneering
educational television program that was a surprise hit in
the 1950s, is returning to television for the first time in
43 years. The university will air four of the original
episodes in successive weeks beginning Friday, Oct. 31,
with an episode titled "Profile on Poe."
The programs will air on the ResearchChannel, which is
available on cable and satellite, and as a live Internet
Webcast. All episodes will air at 8 p.m.
Begun in Baltimore in 1948, the Johns Hopkins Science
Review and related programs were produced by Johns Hopkins
for a dozen years, and more than 700 episodes aired live.
The first network program produced by a university, the
weekly half-hour show won numerous awards for presenting
educational content to the public in a smart, entertaining
"These programs are a rich legacy of the early days of
television in America," said actor-director John Astin, a
visiting professor in the Writing
Seminars who appeared in several episodes when he was a
student at Hopkins. For the return of the program, Astin
agreed to introduce each of the four episodes and to offer
closing comments. "This is just wonderful, wonderful
material," Astin said.
The brainchild of Lynn Poole, the first director of
public relations for Johns Hopkins, the weekly television
show was a testament to Poole's belief that educational
television need not be boring or dumbed down.
A visual person, Poole believed that if you talked
about something, you should be able to show it. In most
cases, Poole brought the actual research scientists before
the cameras to explain the latest breakthroughs and
In this electronically altered
photo, host John Astin introduces "The Master Glass
Blower," an episode in which he appeared as an
undergraduate at Johns Hopkins.
PHOTO BY JOHNS HOPKINS SCIENCE
In the episode on Edgar Allan Poe, viewers are treated
to a critical biography of the dark and brilliant writer,
as well as a survey of his work, complete with dramatic
readings. The episode was hosted by Professor N. Bryllion
Fagin, who had written a book on Poe. In his introduction
to the show, Astin fondly recalls having taken courses with
Fagin, who died in 1972.
The second episode, "The Usefulness of Useless
Knowledge," features the legendary Professor Abel Wolman
discussing how apparently useless basic research later
leads to amazing breakthroughs and developments. An
engaging explanation of the work of a university, it will
air at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7.
"The Master Glass Blower," which will be shown at 8
p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14, looks at the now obsolete role of
the glass blower in the research laboratory. It features a
master glass blower who worked on the staff of Johns
Hopkins in the 1950s, custom crafting complicated apparatus
"A Visit to Our Studio," produced during the height of
the show's popularity, takes viewers behind the scenes for
a look at what it took to produce a national live
television show. It can be seen at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov.
The programs being aired are videotaped copies of
original 16mm black-and-white films, which were made by
focusing a film camera on a small television screen as the
program went out live. Not every Science Review episode was
captured on film. Of the hundreds that Johns Hopkins does
own, many that have been languishing in boxes for decades
are old and brittle.
In order to preserve the programs, the university is
currently having the surviving films converted to
videotape. As the tapes are being made, a researcher is
viewing each of the shows--many being seen for the first
time since they originally aired--and putting descriptive
information into a database, which will later be made
available on the Internet. The work is being funded in part
by a $150,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant;
to complete the work, the library needs to raise at least
To find out how to watch Research Channel programs,