Johns Hopkins Magazine -- September 2000
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"Play It, Sam"
Sharks an unlikely cancer cure
An early timeout trainee
What about Adams?
Illuminating solutions
Not the Gospel truth
Earlier success for all

Play It, Sam

"Guido Veloce" wonders, in "Play It Again, Sam" (April, Essay), if people will ever quit messing with old movies and decides they won't. But please, don't mess up that line--it was actually, "Play it, Sam"; the "again" was a figment of someone's imagination.
Elizabeth M. Mazyck (MD 66)

Sharks an unlikely cancer cure

On a cold winter day when I was at graduate school in England a few years ago, the former warden of my college, Sir Richard Doll, asked if he and his guest could join me for lunch. I was honoured. Sir Richard, I had been told, is credited with discovering the link between smoking and cancer. We had an interesting and wide-ranging chat, which continued in the common room. Our final topic, before he had to go totter off in his tweed suit and wispy don hair to show the nice man from the large pharmaceutical company around, was sharks. I asked him if there was any truth to the claims made about shark cartilage as a 'cure' for cancer [ "Predators' Promise," June]. He gave me a short lecture on the pathology of cancer and then, after a pregnant pause, he said, "I should think it unlikely sharks are any better at stopping it than I am."
Christopher McCoy 93

An early timeout trainee

I read with interest Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson's article "It's All in the Upbringing," April, p. 62), which focused on the work of John B. Watson. Watson was certainly one of the great psychologists, founding behaviorism and advancing the idea that the child's environment plays a central role in what the child becomes. But in the interest of scholarship and a veridical history, it is important to note that Dr. Watson neither developed "timeout" as a basic animal behavior principle nor as a procedure for use in training children. The animal behavior principle of timeout came much later from B. F. Skinner's experimental analysis of behavior research program.

Arthur W. Staats, one of the pioneers of behavior modification, invented timeout as a procedure for training children, as he did the token reinforcement (token economy) system in the process of laying a foundation for the modern field of child behavior therapy as it has widely entered in educational and child-raising practices. It was 40-plus years after Watson left Hopkins that my sister and I were trained with the timeout procedure invented by my father in the late 1950s.

It is somewhat ironic that with this letter I subtract the invention of timeout from the extraordinarily full list of contributions of one of Johns Hopkins's professors (Watson). For as a Hopkins professor myself, I have written a unified theory of pain that employs a new generation of the behavioral approach and scientific method espoused by Watson more than 90 years ago.
Peter S. Staats, MD
Associate professor, Departments of Anesthesiology & Critical Care Medicine and Oncology

What about Adams?

I read with much interest "The Six Who Built Hopkins" (April, p. 56). I was astonished, however, to see that neither Herbert Baxter Adams nor, indeed, the History and Political Science Department that he did so much to shape from 1876 to 1900 was mentioned. From the outset, President Daniel Coit Gilman and the university trustees considered a flourishing history and social science department to be essential to the success of the new institution.
Raymond J. Cunningham (PhD 65)
Associate Professor Emeritus
Fordham University

Herbert Baxter Adams joined the university as a graduate student, or fellow, in 1876; he was appointed to the Hopkins faculty two years later. -SD

Illuminating solutions

"Spectral Illuminations" by Melissa Hendricks [April, p. 20] did not give Hopkins full credit. To make a successful ruling machine is to reach the pinnacle of achievement in conventional precision machining. In the 1950s, Dr. Strong, an experimental physicist at Hopkins, designed a ruling machine with dual lead screws. This significantly increased the machining problem but it eliminated the Rowland machine's skewing problem. As I recall, the plowed grooves were straight to within +- a millionth of an inch. The line spacing was a similar dimension and the grating surface was curved as in Rowland's design.

These machines were fabricated by Strong's machinist, Mr. Perry, a gentle soul whose picture appeared on the cover of the campus engineering magazine, the Vector, around 1957 or 1958.

It's been a long time. I should think that diffraction gratings fabricated by Hopkins today are made on the Strong machines.
B.C. Mitchell
Ellicott City, MD

Not the Gospel truth

While I very much enjoyed your brief article on William Foxwell Albright (April, p. 58), what struck me most about it was the claim (repeated in slightly different form in the article itself) that "the Bible, before William Foxwell Albright, was exempt from critical appraisal: it was simply Gospel." Perhaps my view of critical appraisal is too broad, but couldn't such 19th and early 20th century biblical scholars as Hermann Gunkel, W. Robertson Smith, Julius Wellhausen, and W. M. L. de Wette--and many more could be added to this list--all be "accused" of subjecting the Bible to critical appraisal?

Albright was indeed a great scholar and a luminary in the study of the ancient Near East, but such an evaluation does not need grand (and unsupported) assertions about a sui generis critical approach--it can rest as easily on the documented results of his keen intellect.
Chris Benda

Earlier success for all

Your article on Bob Slavin's successes in educational school reform ("How Do You Spell Success?" April) reminds me that these achievements have antecedents from the 1980s. I was a U.S. Department of Education official then helping to run a program that sought exemplary educational programs from schools nationwide in order to disseminate them. Mr. Slavin was instrumental in preparing and presenting several such quality programs at that time that were approved by a "tough" review panel. His research methodology, statistical support, and presentations were sound and compelling.
Seymour S. Rubak
Baltimore, Maryland