Johns Hopkins Magazine -- February 2000
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Better to work within the system
Spoiling victory
Contrasting experiences
Original? Ha!
An earlier coed heard from
Terms of offense
Give Atanasoff his due
Others were ignored, too

Better to work within the system

Entering the University as a freshman woman in September 1971, I was not shocked or surprised by the urinals in the dorm bathrooms [ "Great Coedspectations," November]. I just laughed.

I never felt "beleaguered" or like "an oddball"; campus life did not seem "surreal"; I never found myself in a classroom seated as if on an "island" surrounded by empty seats. I do not recall being the recipient of what would be considered sexist remarks, even using today's politically correct standards.

I have no doubt that the Women's Center provided a comfortable home for many female undergraduates, and I respect those women who made this their mission. But I was not alone in avoiding the Center as a personal refusal to be typecast by gender.

I believe that inequities affecting any population within our community must be addressed. However, my sense is that more can be accomplished when working within a system, than hammering that system as an outsider.

I have watched Hopkins develop greater expertise in its marketing efforts over the past 25 years. I had the opportunity to witness these efforts firsthand last spring as a parent of an accepted applicant. I hope that the University's planned celebration of women at Hopkins is a marketing program that will welcome all undergraduates (female and male), and not a vocal few.
Abby Preschel Kalan '75

Spoiling victory

I love women. They are God's most delightful creatures. But lately I've become acutely aware of being one of the world's most endangered species, white male Homo sapiens.

["Great Coedspectations"] was nothing but gloating, sort of like the infantile antics of professional football players after [scoring a touchdown]. Women have won the battle, they've won the war, they've won the spoils.

What is going on now is nothing but rape and pillage.
Eugene Lyons '50

Contrasting experiences

As one of the early undergraduates at Hopkins, I was brought back to that time by Melissa Hendricks' article. I must say that even though I was the only woman in most of my math and physical sciences classes, I had very few unpleasant incidents relating to being female at Homewood, and these were initiated by male undergraduates. The faculty were helpful and respectful toward me (absent that biochemistry professor whom I likewise decline to name!).

My Homewood experiences stand in stark contrast to what I encountered at the School of Hygiene and Public Health, which had always been coed, as the article points out. Indeed, the peculiar prejudice of a certain department chairman played a major role in my leaving Hopkins without completing the PhD for which I had enrolled (I completed it at Stanford instead).

As for G. Wilson Shaffer's comment, I would like to see Dr. Shaffer care for a household, a hyperactive toddler, and a newborn suffering from hemolytic anemia all after being released from the hospital 72 hours after a Caeserean delivery.
Beverly E. Barton '76 (ScM'79)

Original? Ha!

Your cover for the November issue is very disappointing. Far from being original, it follows the popular trend in television commercials and movies that feature bathroom scenes and the activities therein. Give us pictures that make us proud of Johns Hopkins and you.
Joanne Smith T (MD '60)

An earlier coed heard from

I enjoyed "Great Coedspectations," however, I noted an error in which you stated that the "first undergraduate coeds arrived at Homewood in 1970." My class of 35 women arrived in 1933. At that time there were no facilities for us and we were not permitted to use Levering Hall. After pressure on the administration, a lounge and bathroom facilities were provided in Gilman Hall. Later on the cafeteria was opened to us.

Our class graduated in 1937 and a few women graduated in 1938. After a few male faculty members stated that the females in their class made them feel "uncomfortable," no further group of women was admitted until 1970.
Jessie German '37
Chevy Chase, MD

Terms of offense

I was offended by some of the chosen language [in "Great Coedspectations"]. The term "coed," when used to refer to a female student, is considered sexist and condescending. As a Hopkins undergraduate, I never thought of myself as a "coed," but as a student--regardless of my sex (and for the record, I never had to miss classes due to "pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause" as Mr. Shaffer feared).
Tamara Zuromskis '96

Give Atanasoff his due

I am writing to take issue with the article by Dale Keiger concerning John Mauchly [ "The Story That Doesn't Compute," November]. [Keiger] seems to trivialize the accomplishments of Dr. John Atanasoff based in part on the opinion of [author] Scott McCartney. What are completely left out are the achievements of Dr. Atanasoff.

Dr. Atanasoff's honors included the Navy's Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Computer Pioneer Medal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the Holley Medal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Distinguished Achievement Citation of Iowa State University. Furthermore, he received several honorary doctorates and was a member of the Iowa Inventors Hall of Fame.

Dr. Atanasoff's invention was the first machine to separate data processing from memory. As far as I know, there is no dispute about that. For computers to work today, this is a necessary prerequisite. What bothers me about the article is an implicit condescension toward Dr. Atanasoff by referring to him as merely an "engineer." He was certainly much more than that.
Allan Kroopnick
Pikesville, MD

Others were ignored, too

John Mauchly was only one of the great computer pioneers to be ignored by their universities and forgotten by history. Our favorite inventor of the "first" electronic digital computer is Howard Aiken, who was briefly a patient at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the early 1970s. His doctor, Phillip Tumulty, knew Aiken was a computer pioneer with a potentially deadly disease, and [Tumulty] asked us to show [Aiken] our early computer reporting system for Radiology to take his mind off his fate. The brief computer demonstration instantly relieved Aiken's back pain and we were privileged to have several lectures and some amazing predictions on computers, which looked accurately three decades into the future.

Aiken was the head of Harvard's Computer Lab, which was funded by Navy ballistics contracts during World War II. He gave his design for a digital computer to Monroe Calculator, which turned him down. IBM listened and his Mark 1 with 18K diodes blasted that company on a meteoric trajectory. Universities should name departments and buildings after founders of industries, but Aiken is forgotten at Harvard and a recent article about him in its magazine by a computer professor referred to him as a "cranky" pioneer.

Alan Turing, a mathematical genius, broke an "unbreakable" German code during World War II and is considered the intellectual father of the digital computer, but a British postal service electronics expert who worked for him designed the machine some consider the "first" computer.

These men were focused, practical, hard-working, brilliant, and resourceful, but they vanished in the wake of a tremendous growth industry. You did justice to the Hopkins pioneer. Now I wish someone would write a decent article on Aiken and one on how seats of learning--like Harvard, Penn, and Hopkins--could forget their superstars.
Paul Wheeler, MD
Johns Hopkins Hospital-Radiology