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Indiana University Bloomington

News & Activities » Special alumni panel celebrating 50th anniversary

Jane Maienschein
Ph.D., Indiana University, Department of HPSC, 1978

I went to IU in 1972, which seemed like the golden years with great faculty members and some wonderful fellow students during my years there.  Bloomington was a wonderful place to study, with the golden leaves and Goodbody Hall, and with my father's Ph.D. dissertation sitting in the library luring me to add mine alongside his (since the alphabetical arrangement by authors' names allowed nuclear physics and hps to co-locate). 

My first semester, the chair asked which I was going to minor in:  History or Philosophy.  I said "no thank you, I choose Biology."  When politely told that I had to choose either History or Philosophy, I explained that my undergraduate degree in History, the Arts, and Letters had given me plenty of both and not enough of life sciences.  Sam Westfall kindly called me into his office and explained that the faculty felt it was their responsibility to prepare us for jobs and that meant either History or Philosophy.  When I explained that I was willing to take my chances, Noretta and Fred backed me.  I minored in Biology, and had a wonderful time studying with leading scientists including Rudy Raff, Bob Briggs, Rollin Richmond, and others. 

What is instructive here is that I have ended up (after a 20 year detour into a Philosophy Department, despite my history emphasis) in a School of Life Sciences.  In fact, we now have a group of 15 in our "Human Dimensions of Biology" faculty group, which includes 10 trained in HPS.  There is life outside of H or P and with S.  And this life is good. 

In fact, most of my fellow students wandered into directions and collaborations other than the ones our faculty mentors imagined.  I think this is because IU prepared us to be "light on our feet" and to ask questions, challenge assumptions, and develop scholarship in innovative and exciting directions.  Maybe all that time amidst the trees and peacefulness of Bloomington with others fascinated by science gave us the insulation to believe that anything is possible.  Because it really is.  And you can see this in all the different directions IU graduates have gone.

My friend Maggie Osler died the week before the anniversary meeting, and she was sorry not to be able to attend.  She loved IU, and she was proud that the most recent 3 presidents and 2 secretaries of the History of Science Society were all IU grads.  She once suggested that it was the "Shoo Fly Pie" from Ladyman's Café downtown that affected the way we think.