For close to a century, Caltech in Pasadena and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino have shared a close relationship, ever since Caltech’s George Ellery Hale encouraged railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington to transform his extensive collections into a research center. In the continual quest for knowledge and scientific advancement, recent years have seen collaborations between the two range from interdisciplinary research projects to establishing a visiting professorship.
Taking that spirit a step forward, Caltech and The Huntington have combined forces to launch a new research institute focused specifically on the history of science and technology. The Rogers Institute for the History of Science and Technology at Caltech and The Huntington is “positioned to become the pre-eminent institute of its kind in the western United States” and will extend “collaborative humanities research between a premier science and engineering university and a premier research library with extraordinary holdings in the field,” according to a release from The Huntington.
The collaboration was made possible by a three-year gift to the institutions by San Marino resident Stephen E. Rogers who saw an opportunity to further strengthen the relationship between the two and support innovative young researchers in the process.
As a member of The Huntington’s Board of Overseers and president of the Caltech Associates, a support group of the university, Rogers wished to shed light on San Marino and Pasadena being “the center of the universe for the history of science and technology” since The Huntington acquired the Burndy Library from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Combining that with the strength of Caltech’s research materials, rare books and wealth of ongoing research, Rogers saw a chance to bring both together in a powerful way.
“There’s an opportunity for young researchers to come in and do research in new avenues and new approaches to things, which I think will hopefully help people out,” Rogers told The Tribune.
The Burndy Library brought an immense depth and scope to The Huntington’s collection in science and technology when it came to The Huntington in 2006. With 67,000 rare books and manuscripts, the Burndy’s most notable holdings include the history of early mathematics and physics, with the largest collection of Isaac Newton papers outside England, the Grace K. Babson Collection, on deposit from Babson College.
“The Huntington is already an important center for the study of the history of science,” said Steve Hindle, W. M. Keck Foundation Director of Research at The Huntington, in the release. “This new institute is a collaboration that will strengthen existing activities, add new programs, recruit additional research fellows, and ultimately lead to the appointment of new faculty. I am delighted that it will emphasize support for younger scholars, in particular. The creation of the institute represents a significant step forward for this critical area of intellectual pursuit.”
The Huntington holds numerous treasures constituting the history of science and its collection is one of the largest and most important in North America. Its wide range of materials covers Western practice and theory across science, medicine, technology and a vast array of subdisciplines. Holdings include a 13th century “Almagest” manuscript (an astronomy treatise) by Ptolemy and the papers of Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), the astronomer noted for discovering the universe is in a process of expanding. Other works include the Carnegie Observatories’ Mount Wilson Observatory Collection, with more than 1,000 books covering the history of physics and astronomy, and directors’ papers and photographic archives.
For Rogers, he has faith in the people and administrative focus of both Caltech and The Huntington and looks forward to seeing what novel avenues of discovery the new institute will illuminate.
“All the planets and the stars are in alignment for this thing,” shared Rogers. “I’m just the guy who was handed the ball on the two-yard line and told to carry it into the end zone.”