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About the stages in the evolution of the Whole-Essay-System and sabbaticals.

While working on the doctoral degree at Tufts University in the Boston area of Massachusetts, the writer began the practice of typing post-card-lenth letters to the editor of the Christian Science Monitor. When the bottom of the post card approached, the letter was concluded, and the post card was mailed. There was no editing done. About half of the letters were published.

While teaching physics at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa the writer began a similar practice of writing monthly invited opinion pieces, which were much longer, and were virtually always published with a picture of the writer. Thus began the practice of writing essays of about one page in length.

On the occassion of the writer's first academic sabbatical the officially proposed sabbatical had three foci:

(1) Writing about the crisis in physics education, as the writer had begun what turned out to be a period of about fifteen years serving on the National Council of the American Association of Physics Teachers; and the profession faced some poorly understood challenges in teaching physics effectively for the full range of kinds of students who should have been learning physics well --- but were not.

(2) Driving to the campuses of some small colleges and universities within an easy driving distance from Cedar Rapids, Iowa --- to visit with the physicists there and often with the dean and/or president of the insitution --- about the teaching of physics there.

(3) Creating some computer software to make it practical to use an IBM 1130 computer for data analysis in conjunction with physics laboratory instruction. This was in the days of computer punch cards, and formatting data onto such cards was an inhibition to computer usage. The writer was a professor of physics and the first director of the college's new computer center, which cost $64,000, filled a room, had 10K of core memory, and 0.5 Megabytes of disk memory on one disk. Programing was via punched cards.

The writer started writing the first written essays which are now available at this web site --- in fulfillment of the first part of the formal proposal for the writer's first academic sabbatical. The essays reflect the writer's concerns related to the challenges that were then present in the teaching of physics. The college had rejected the writer's recommendation that the college hire a particularly strong candidate as a physics professor. The candidate came with the strong recommendation of a well known national physicist --- who had served as the National Chair of the Council of the American Association of Physics Teachers, had been the editor it the AAPT's American Journal of Physics, and had received a high national award for service to the physics teaching profession. The college forcefully rejected the candidate as unqualified to teach physics at the college. She was an attractive and well qualified female --- seeking entry into the male dominated physics profession. (She first taught at a highly respected eastern private liberal arts college.) At that time about 3% of college and university professors were females. The first 241 of the essays available on this web site were first published locally under the title "Attractive Scientists" --- in her honor. Read the first essay at a730911.htm, and also read at a7312222.htm and a9304010.htm for some further interesting details.

Thirty years later --- new successful male physics professors at the college have succeeded in turning that undergraduate physics department into what seems to be the world's most active undergraduate center of physics research --- focusing upon determing the atomic structures of various kind of glass; and upon musical accoustics. About $3,000,000 of external funding has provided the research equipment which is used by the undergraduate physics students! Approximately half of the undergraduate physics majors are women; and research efforts in the physics, chemistry and biology departments are coordinated. The students travel around the world to give professional reports on the results of their undergraduate physics research, and they publish their results in the appropriate internatioonal research journal. Students have come from around the world to study physics and do research in the Coe College Physics Department. The Coe College undergraduate physics department hosted an annual International Glass Research Annual Conference on campus one year. Read about their work at the web site Coe Physics Department and Physics web page and about Coe College in general.

The writer's subsequent sabbaticals continued to focus on the challenges of distributing the writer's views and perspectivs within a profession that excluded the feminine perspectives from its ranks. One sabbatical focused upon trying to find a way to publish such material within the "normal" channels. During another sabbatical the writer arranged for simultaneous invitations to serve as a visiting professor within the University of Iowa's Physics Department, with Dr. James Van Allen as its famous chairman; and within the University's Graduate Department of Science Education --- to watch the kinds of interactions between the two departments within the one building "Van Allen Hall", with an office in each turf. On Dr. Van Allen's invitation the writer met with the physics deparment faculty when it met to consider departmental business. This led to two times teaching the summer Modern Astronomy Course which Dr. Van Allen had often taught; and to participating as a member of the Graduate School of Science Education staff for a NSF Funded program for science teachers in public and private schools. It also led to the writer working full time during two summers on helping to formulate computer-assisted-instruction in the learning of physics; seeking to transcend the common and firmly held misconceptions regarding physical interactions between objects as governed by Newton's Laws of Motion.

For a few weeks during the above sabbatical at the University of Iowa, the writer joined about thirty other physics professors and high school teachers in the first extensive visit by American Physics professors and teachers --- to some high level Russian and Chinese physics departments --- to learn how they were addressing the challenges in teaching physics. One finding was that the undergraduate students in Russia and China were using experimental equipment better than the equipment used by undergraduates in the best universities in the U.S.A.

A later sabbatical focused upon trying to facilitate the compaction of the texts of essays and computer programs upon 3.5 inch High Density Disks of about 1 Megabyte-Capacity each so that an early stand-alone-version of the Essays-System could more readily be shared on a few such computer disks. A compaction factor of about six was achieved, but was not extensively used in any practical way. This compaction factor was about twice that generally available at the time. The modern explosion of computer memory space available has made that compaction process non-essential.

Subsequently the focus shifted to making the Essay System available on the Coe College campus network of computers and so avilable to students. The writer's Modern Astronomy Class students were encouraged to access the essays, print a copy on paper, and turn it in with comments by the students --- for extra credit. A fairly large fraction of the students did so. A few of those students became paid assistants in the process of transfering essays from paper copies to magnetic media; and in editing essays which had been composed onto magnetic media.

A freshman student involved in the above process suggested (after taking an exploratory term course on creating web sites) that she and the writer create a web site to make the essays available on the world-wide-web. Working together during the following three academic years and summers, the current web site began its years of evolution. She continued to work on the project following graduation --- communicating the results of her work over the world-wide-web.

The writer of these essays presented an early on-disk version of the "Essays System" at the "Einstein Meets Magrite" international multi-disciplinary science-conference in Brussels, Belgium at noon on June 1st, 1995. For program listing see: Einstein-Meets-Magrit Conference. There were about six hundred people from about a dozen academic disciplines and fourty-six countries in attendance! About half of us presented papers.

During 2007 essays continue to be written during most days. Efforts continue to be made to make the essays more accessible and to help visitors become aware of what web pages the visitors as a whole are accessing.

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