The Very Model Physics Doctor of Philosophy

More processing! Today I thought I would share an excerpt from one of the songs in the “School Songs” file. It appears to be a parody of the “Major-General’s Song” from the 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. Platt gives us a glimpse of his sense of humor, while making fun of what it means to be an expert in physics.

I am the very model physics doctor of philosophy.

I don’t know much of X-rays, electronics or spectroscopy.

Though I’ve recently developed a lamentable proclivity

For positions and deuterons and radioactivity.

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,

I understand equations if they’re simple, not quadratical.

I can solve a wave equation but I realize my need is

For understanding simple laws like that of Archimedes.

I can rattle out Beethoven on a freshman lab sonometer,

But I always burn the coils of a d’Arsonval galvanometer.

In short, outside of X-rays, electronics or spectroscopy,

I am the very model physics doctor of philosophy.

Well, we know Platt was indeed a very intelligent physicist, contrary to the satirical lyrics. This serves as a reminder to not take life too seriously.

More next week!


A New Start

Week 2 was a blast! I have begun processing the Platt collection, and was able to go through 3 of the boxes. Many of the documents I looked at were photographs and slides showing the construction of Harvey Mudd College. It was a real treat seeing a plot of land transform into the college that stands today. It also really makes you think of how proud Joseph Platt must have felt seeing this as it was happening.

To accompany these photographs, I read through many letters of congratulations for Platt’s new appointment to Harvey Mudd. Although many of his colleagues from the University of Rochester were sad to see him leave their institution, they were confident in his abilities to bring his intellect, wisdom, and guitar skills to the West coast. The Board of Trustees at Harvey Mudd College felt the same way. A new and challenging opportunity for Platt, but he was up to the task. In his job acceptance letter, he writes ” I am convinced Harvey Mudd College will make a contribution far beyond its size to the life of the local and national community; in short, as we realize this vision Harvey Mudd College will continue and help to expand the tradition of the Claremont Colleges.”

First Building of Harvey Mudd College. Photo taken in April 1957.
Construction of Harvey Mudd College. Photo taken in April 1957.

What else does the collection have in store? We will find out more next week!


Let’s Begin!

Hello everyone, I am looking forward to processing the documents of the incredible Joseph B. Platt this semester. Before I begin, I wanted to share a little about myself. My name is Nicole Blue, and I am a Masters student at Claremont Graduate University. In December 2021, I graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Humanities and a minor in Music. Currently, I am in my second semester in the History and Archival Studies program, with a concentration in Museum Studies.

This week has been more of an introduction as I familiarize myself with the contents of this collection. Who was Joseph Platt? I began by surveying the boxes I will process this semester. While digging through the biography portion of the collection, I was struck by all of the contents. There are photographs from his travels to Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, details of his involvements in countless diverse organizations, songs and poetry, and stunning Christmas cards. I cannot wait to discover more about him.

A few boxes relating to the biography of Joseph Platt.

Not only was he incredibly accomplished, he was deeply admired and respected by his friends, family, colleagues, and community. He, along with his wife Jean, served with dignity, dedication, and love. This is mirrored through some of the ephemera I found while surveying the boxes. A binder, titled “Sticks in the Mudd” stood out, as it includes poems and dedications to both the Platts and Harvey Mudd College after 15 successful years. It also includes farewell poems to Joseph and Jean, due to Josephs departure from HMC in 1976 to go serve as the President of the Claremont University Center. I will include photographs below.

“Stick in the Mudds” 1973. A dedication to Joseph and Jean Platt by the original staff of Harvey Mudd College.
A toast to Joseph and Jean Platt, written on a piece of “toast” 1976.

More next week!