Dean's Corner, March 1928


Dean O. J. Ferguson

 As I write, I am on my way back from my occasional inspection trip, and inasmuch as our seniors and juniors are soon to take their annual pilgrimage, I will comment very briefly upon the meaning of these trips.

Asked why you go upon these inspection journeys, your replies would be varied.   "It is required for graduation." "We can prospect for a Job." "It will help us to understand our technical studies” "We'll see some of the big things being done." "We'll have a good time." Et cetera, ad infinitum.

Have I omitted any of your most likely replies? Perhaps I have, but they would be very closely related to the ones I have put down.

Now, let me ask you if you know why I go? How does my trip compare with yours? Should my objectives and purposes differ from yours, little or widely? Does my trip contain for me the same values which yours does for you?

Let me give you one broad heading which will include all of your reasons and mine, together. We go in order to establish contact with modern life and civilization, for the purpose of enabling us more fully to orient ourselves thereto. This end must be accomplished before we can become a productive part of our community. Regardless of whether or not we wish to travel old trails or break new ones, we must start with a knowledge of roads already traveled, and a sense of direction.

In what way do our trips contribute to this?

A certain railroad time-table lies before me. On a page margin appears the sequential epigram, "Travel is Education. Education is Knowledge. Knowledge is Power." It would take only a minimum of philosophy to punch several mortal wounds into the body of this logos, but, fortunately, no belief or thesis has to lie perfect in order to produce some good results, else thinking woulld perish from the earth.

But, repeating, wherein does a bit of travel add to your power?

One answer i.s that it doesn't—always; and the danger in any case is that it may not. It may promote clarity of conception if I revise the question. Let it read: Whcn does travel give power?

I will put my answer in a nutshell.

Power is gained when you see completely through the body of the machine, the bridge, the painting, at which you gaze, and discern more or less distinctly the mind which produced it: when you perceive tin effects of the work upon the minds and lives of other men.

The only force a man has which gives him his great advantage over other living things, and affords to him his power, is a productive mind. By this agent he car extend the effective length of his arm, increase the range of his vision, add strength to his muscle, make more delicate his hearing, project his voice beyond the horizon, travel with seven-league boots. Of some of these I may write more at a later time. We are more or less familiar with them all.

But the trained and active mind is capable of meeting and communicating with other minds. The physical agencies named above aid toward that end, and though they "serve the comfort and convenience of man," they also promote a more complete understanding of man by man. What else is the object of the telephone, television, the airplane? Less evident and less direct, of course, is the similar mission of the great steam turbine, or the sky-scraper. But they all have their responsible places and their honorable interpretations.  They are a part of modern, man-made civilization, and as such become a part of this powerful, far-seeing, modern man.

In this interpretation you have unlimited choice, You may confine yourself to economic aspects. Spiritual, mental or moral values may hold your attention. Technique and scientific foundations may occupy your mind. It is not necessary that all aspects be sought out. This is sometimes beyond one's inclinations or even one's powers.  But, whatever your choice of viewpoint, get the vision, and the perspective.   And remember that the more completely you apprehend these several views, the more markedly will your powers be augmented.

During my recent visit to New York City, I had the pleasure of calling upon Prof. William L. DeBanfre, who is located with the International Combustion Engineering Corporation at 280 Madison Avenue. While carrying on his research work, he is overseeing the construction of an experimental laboratory on the New Jersey side of the river, where he will later maintain a second office. After a brief visit, I quite effectively broke up his organization for a half-hour by stepping into the next room. Of the eleven men working there, nine are Nebraskans. They are F. W. Davis, M.Sc., M.E., Jan.. '27: W. H. Foxwell, Mech. '21; D. D. Lynch, Mech. '25; T. A. Filipi, Mech. '26; E. 0, Morton, Mech. '27; H. P. Nielsen, Mech. '24; R. FNielsen, Ph.D., '27; G. R. Horacek, Mech. '27, and E. L. Jones, Mech. Jan., '27. It was very refreshing to get into such an "atmosphere".

Other Nebraskans whom I met while east are G. W. Elmen, A.M. '04; A. R. Swoboda, E.E. '07; P. H. Pierce, Elec. Feb., '11; M. B. Long, A.B. '17—-all with the Bell Laboratories; A. M. Candy, Elec. '09, with Westinghouse E. & M. Company, and H. E. Edgerton, Elec. '25, now assisting and studying for his doctorate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Polytechnic Institute at Zurich, Switzerland, has a clock that is wound hy a mechanism set in motion every time the temperature changes two degrees.