Pioneering Johns Hopkins TV Program
To Make Brief Return Engagement
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 later this month, when the Johns Hopkins University will air four of the original episodes in successive weeks, beginning Friday, Oct. 31, with an episode entitled, Profile on Poe.
The programs will air on the ResearchChannel, which is available on cable and satellite, as well as a live Internet Webcast. All episodes will air at 8 p.m. EST.
Begun in Baltimore in 1948, the Johns Hopkins Science Review and related programs were produced by the Johns Hopkins University for a dozen years and more than 700 episodes aired live. The show first aired on the Dumont network and later on ABC. The weekly half-hour show was the first network program produced by a university and won numerous awards in its day for presenting educational content to the public in a smart, entertaining way.
"These programs are a rich legacy of the early days of television in America," said John Astin, the actor-director and Johns Hopkins graduate who was a student at Hopkins when the show was being produced and who appeared on several episodes as a student actor. For the return of these four episodes, Astin agreed to introduce each episode and to offer closing comments about the programs.
"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 discoveries.
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 N. Bryllion Fagin, who had authored a book on Poe. In his introduction of the show, Astin fondly recalls having taken courses with Professor Fagin, who died in 1972.
The other episodes to be re-aired are:
The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge, featuring the late, legendary Professor Abel Wolman discussing how apparently useless basic research later leads to amazing breakthroughs and developments, in an engaging explanation of the work of a university. It will air on Friday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. EST.
The Master Glass Blower is a show that looks at the now obsolete role of the glass blower in the research laboratory and features a master glass blower who worked on the staff of Johns Hopkins in the 1950s, custom crafting complicated apparatus for professors. It will air on Friday, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. EST.
A Visit to Our Studio takes viewers behind-the-scenes for a look at just what it took to produce a national live television show during the height of the show's popularity. It will air on Friday, Nov. 21, at 8 p.m. EST.
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. There was no videotape at the time. Not every Science Review episode was captured on film; of the hundreds that Johns Hopkins owns, many have been languishing in boxes for decades and are old and brittle.
Currently, the university is having all of the surviving films converted to videotape, in order to preserve the old programs. As the tapes are being made, a researcher is viewing the old shows — many for the first time since they originally aired — and putting descriptive information about each episode 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, and the library needs to raise at least $75,000 to complete the work. To find out how to watch ResearchChannel, please go to: http://www.researchchannel.org/general/ways.html.
To arrange an interview with John Astin, or for more information about the programs, please contact Glenn Small at 410-516-7160 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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