In 1895, shortly after the University of Washington moved to its present campus, the Board of Regents resolved that "each member of the Faculty endeavor to themselves perform some original work such as inventing, discovery or writing, in their respective departments." This book is the first part of a two-part series celebrating the 100th anniversary of that resolution, paying tribute to the pathbreaking research achievements of the faculty of the University of Washington resulting from that call to action. It is the outcome of a year-long project undertaken by the UW Office of Research with the support of the Office of University Relations.
The volume traverses many distinct eras in time, and accordingly, each vignette must be considered in the context of its day. The UW has changed dramatically since its founding in 1861. At that time, Washington was still a Territory; the campus was in downtown Seattle; and there were few public schools to prepare students for University study. At first, financial and human resources at the Territorial University were extremely limited.
Toward the turn of the century, expansion in the state economy and population was occurring in the face of the gold rush, spurring a period of rapid growth at the UW as it moved to the site of the present campus. Programs were expanded to meet the challenge of the mining frontier and to support economic development. The gold rush in Alaska created expectations that Washington State held similar resources waiting to be developed. The UW School of Mines was established; and programs were added in engineering, pharmacy, and law, among others.
At the same time, the state population was increasing rapidly, going from 518,000 in 1900 to 1.4 million in 1914. The secondary school system in the state expanded to accommodate that growth, going from 19 accredited high schools in 1902 to 126 such schools in 1915. And the economy boomed. The output of manufacturing in Seattle, for example, more than doubled in the space of ten years, from 1904 to 1914. As lumber and fishing industries were on the rise, UW programs in forestry, fisheries, and Asian studies grew to support economic development of the region.
The vignettes presented in this volume reflect the pattern of development of the University over the years. Researchers of the pre-World War I era were captivated by the rich natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest; its largely unstudied flora and fauna provided an endless source of research projects. Moreover, faculty researchers were motivated by the many opportunities to help develop the region's natural resources for the benefit of the local economy. Accordingly, UW research from this early period focused on the biology, botany, geology, and ethnography of the region.
The growth of the institution was punctuated twice in its history by war, a time of disruption and sacrifice on the campus. Each time, UW faculty and students shifted gears. During World War I, University faculty supported the country by gathering 1,000 lbs of digitalis for the army medical operations, and gathering and processing sphagnum moss for surgical dressings, among other activities.
Again, World War II brought a major disruption to campus life. In 1943, the UW created the Applied Physics Laboratory, which developed an improved proximity fuse for the Navy's torpedoes.
But it was after World War II that the University's research enterprise expanded significantly.
During the late 1940s, programs in medicine and dentistry, and the UW hospital, were initiated. In 1946 the UW expended $660,000 on grant and contract research. Ten years later, that figure had risen to $5.75 million; and by 1960 it was nearly $14 million annually. The figure approached $500 million in 1995.
It is understandable, then, that the majority of the vignettes presented in this volume cover the post-World War II years. The collection is presented chronologically, but may be browsed in any order. Within these pages, readers will find accounts of important research discoveries that have advanced the frontiers of science--and more. They will witness how these advances have touched the lives of thousands of people in the region and beyond. They will see, for example, how the interdisciplinary collaboration of Professor Belding Scribner in medicine and Professor Les Babb of Chemical Engineering brought the life-saving miracle of kidney dialysis to thousands of patients; how the work of UW professor Benjamin Hall on basic yeast genetics translated into the first genetically-engineered hepatitis vaccine; how, during the 1970s, engineering faculty and students teamed up to solve a critical problem with the heat insulation on the Space Shuttle; and how a wind tunnel constructed on the UW campus in the 1930s has contributed for over six decades to the development of the nation's multiengine military and commercial aircraft.
These are but a few of the many stories to tell about the accomplishments of our faculty and students--a fitting tribute to the vision of the Board of Regents of 1895.
Richard L. McCormick