A Century of Innovation

Winter 2014

Roads to Recovery

Three men working on a construction project.
Faculty commonly served as consultants for campus building projects in the first decades of the Engineering School, so it was no surprise when President Joseph Ames tapped Civil Engineering chair J. Trueman Thompson ’17, a national authority on highway transportation, to oversee construction of a new campus road system during the 1930s.

The Hopkins roads project, relying on relief labor, was funded by the Civil Works Authority, which required that 75 percent of the money be spent for labor and 25 percent for materials, reversing the usual proportions for such a project. “That winter, one of the coldest in years, was a nightmare,” recalled Thompson. “The soil froze to unheard-of depths, and stayed frozen. Rules forbade the use of power excavators, and it was quite a sight to see as many as a thousand men picking and shoveling at an icy crust over a foot thick. Fortunately, we had a small contingency fund of University money, which bought us enough dynamite to shoot the crust loose so that the men could heave the chunks into trucks.”

Let’s Drink to Health!

While kings, warriors, and artists may change the world, Abel Wolman ’13 (A&S), ’15, changed the world through water.

In the early 1900s, waterborne diseases frequently sickened and killed people around the world. The cause: bad water. The solution, many scientists believed, was chlorine. But how much?

While at the Maryland State Department of Health, Wolman collaborated with chemist Linn H. Enslow to develop a foolproof method for determining the appropriate dose of chlorine for any water source. The formula, still used today around the world, ensures safe drinking water for millions.

Wolman spent the next seven decades immersed in work, first with the state and then the University, where he served as chairman of the Department of Sanitary Engineering for 25 years. He also designed water systems in Baltimore, Detroit, Seattle, Portland, and other cities in the U.S. and advised the governments of Sri Lanka, Brazil, Israel, and more than 40 others.

Catalyst for Progress

Paul Emmet (left) and Emmet Pauling (right)
THE PAULING CONNECTION: Growing up in Oregon,Paul Emmett (left) developed a friendship with scientist Linus Pauling (right) that would last a lifetime. During their graduate studies at CalTech, Emmett and Pauling lived together for a year and even shared a bed, which they used sequentially: Emmett would sleep until about 3 am, then wake up and give his spot to the late-retiring Pauling. Over the decades, the two scientists stayed close, even as Pauling was awarded not one but two Nobel Prizes (for chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962). In the mid-1970s, Emmett married Pauling’s sister Pauline, a lively woman who cared for Emmett until his death in 1985 at age 85.

How can ammonia be taken out of the air and turned into fertilizer for plants? This was the question that consumed Paul Emmett in the late 1920s. Emmett’s investigations over the next several years led to the development of the Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) Method, a technique still used around the world today, which allows scientists to calculate the surface area of a material from the amount of gas it absorbs.

Not long after this breakthrough, which earned him a Nobel Prize nomination, Emmett was invited to join the Hopkins faculty in 1937 to organize the chemical engineering department and continue his research on adsorption. He would remain associated with Hopkins engineering for much of the next three decades, doing work that would earn him honor as the “father of catalysis.”

In August 1943, with the U.S. embroiled in World War II, Emmett joined the Manhattan Project under Harold Urey. Emmett’s lab, the first of five labs to work on the atomic bomb, focused on converting uranium into a corrosive gas. After the scientists found that their methods required a material that would not be corroded by the gas, one of Emmett’s scientists came up with a suitable substance—which eventually became the forerunner to today’s Teflon.

Straight to the Heart of Saving Lives

Guy Knickerbocker (left) with William Kouwenhoven
Guy Knickerbocker (left) with William Kouwenhoven, who served as dean of Engineering from 1938 to 1953.

In the early 1900s, danger lurked for electrical utility linemen: Those who received even small jolts of electricity were suddenly dying from ventricular fibrillation (VF)—and no one knew why.

So Consolidated Edison of New York turned to Johns Hopkins in 1925 to find answers. Over the next three decades, electrical engineering professor (and future dean) William B. Kouwenhoven and his Hopkins colleagues made discoveries that ultimately led to the lifesaving development of cardiopulmonary resuscitation—and earned Kouwenhoven acclaim as “the father of CPR.”

By the late 1950s, Kouwenhoven and a Hopkins team had pioneered a prototype for a closed chest defibrillator, which was mounted on a cart and weighed 200 pounds. It was first used successfully on a patient on March 17, 1957. The device had its drawbacks, however: A heart attack victim who was not close to a hospital had little chance of survival.

In 1958, Hopkins’ G. Guy Knickerbocker ’54, PhD ’70, noticed that placing defibrillator paddles on a dog’s chest caused a rise in blood pressure. He and Kouwenhoven, together with Hopkins’ James Jude, began experimenting with different hand positioning and rhythms. The trio found that external massage could restore 40 percent of the normal blood circulation—and could be continued for more than 30 minutes. From May 1959 to February 1960, some 20 Hopkins patients in cardiac arrest were administered CPR. All 20 were resuscitated.

Older & Wiser

Before Keefer Stull ’49 stepped foot in a Johns Hopkins engineering classroom, he had walked the streets of a just-liberated Paris and trudged through frozen conditions near the Rhine River in the Battle of the Bulge.

Not your typical undergraduate, but the mid-to-late 1940s were different times. Stull and millions of other young men spent what would have been their college-age years serving in the military during World War II. Hundreds later came to Johns Hopkins courtesy of the GI Bill, which provided federal aid, including tuition assistance, to help veterans adjust to civilian life.

At the start of the 1946–47 academic year, enrollment in the School of Engineering rose to 730, of whom 531 were veterans. The numbers of enrolled veterans increased steadily over the next several years.

Stull joined Johns Hopkins in 1947, at the age of 23, after a stint in postwar Germany where, among other things, he inventoried looted equipment. He had arrived in Europe in the fall of 1944. Blind in one eye, he served in the 102nd Infantry Division as a radio operator and repairman.

At Hopkins, he worked in Ferdinand Hamburger’s lab, mostly doing repair work. Stull said he focused on his studies and spent the majority of his free time with faculty and other vets. “I already knew more than the faculty could teach me, so I spent a lot of my time teaching undergraduates and the guys from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute,” says Stull ’49, who later went to work for Westinghouse in its Aerospace division, where he helped develop pulse Doppler radar for fighter planes.

While returning veterans depended on the GI Bill to fund their studies, other men in the decades before and after the war looked to the state for help. By the 1950s, one in three students at the School of Engineering was attending college through a Maryland State Senatorial Scholarship—funding provided through a legislative appropriation that dated all the way back to the School’s founding. Any student from Maryland could apply. As a result, most Hopkins engineering students during the School’s first 50 years hailed from within the state, and these scholarships had a great influence on their decision to study engineering and attend Johns Hopkins.

The Poly Pipeline

Hackerman Polytechnic Scholar Simms
Hackerman Polytechnic Scholar Simms ’10, MS ’11

It was 1957, and Bill Bowles ’60, then a high school senior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, was struggling with integral calculus. Principal Wilmer DeHuff called him to the office. “Bowles,” he said, “I know you’re applying for second-year standing at Hopkins, and you’ve got everything good except integral calculus. I’m gonna take a chance on you.”

With those words, DeHuff launched Bowles directly into his sophomore year in the Engineering School that fall. About half a dozen other “Poly Boys” followed the same path that year, as did hundreds more before and after. In this “pipeline,” engineering schools like Stanford and MIT, as well as Hopkins, took the principal’s word that graduates of Poly’s “A” course—its most advanced curriculum—were prepared for second-year undergraduate work.

The relationship between Hopkins Engineering and Poly remains strong today. In 2005, Baltimore philanthropist Willard Hackerman ’38 established the Hackerman Polytechnic Scholarships, a program that awards full scholarships annually to talented Poly grads. In addition, the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search (dubbed the “Junior Nobel”) fosters frequent collaboration between Poly students and Whiting School faculty, producing three Poly finalists in the last 10 years. And the Baltimore Scholars Program offers full-tuition scholarships to graduates of Baltimore City public high schools who meet Hopkins criteria. Since that program’s 2004 inception, 119 students have enrolled—including 65 students from Poly.