Becoming Caltech: Building a Research Community, 1910–1930

🖼️ Heidi Aspaturian, Loma Karklins, Elisa Piccio, and Peter Sachs Collopy, Caltech, February 10, 2020

In the 1910s and 1920s, Caltech dramatically reinvented itself, transforming from a manual arts academy to an engineering school, then expanding into a research institute. The school began building its current campus, recruited renowned faculty, constructed sophisticated laboratories, trained students to become leading researchers, and established new relationships with industry and government. On February 10, 1920, the Institute’s trustees acknowledged this transformation by changing the institution’s name from Throop College of Technology to California Institute of Technology.

A century later, the Caltech Archives presents the exhibition “Becoming Caltech: Building a Research Community, 1910–1930.” It tells the story of Caltech’s early growth through historical documents, objects, photographs, and film, organized into three sections. “Becoming” traces Caltech’s evolution through the reformation instigated by George Ellery Hale and catalyzed by World War I. “Building Research” chronicles both the history of science, engineering, and the humanities at Caltech—ranging from the core activities of the 1910s (electrical engineering, chemistry, and physics) to the new fields of the 1920s (genetics, seismology, and aeronautics)—and the architecture and construction of the buildings which housed this research. “Community” explores the lives and culture of the students, faculty, and staff who made up the Institute, including athletics, clubs, the Athenaeum, and the big T that students carved out of the forest on the side of Mt. Wilson.

Subjects: Caltech, education, engineering, laboratories, science, technology, universities, visual culture
Category: exhibits