Talk:James Bryant Conant

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Featured article James Bryant Conant is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
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June 9, 2012 Good article nominee Listed
July 19, 2012 WikiProject A-class review Approved
January 18, 2013 Featured article candidate Promoted
Current status: Featured article
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Letter left to be opened by Harvard president of 'next century'[edit]

Conant left a letter in the 1951 with explicit instructions that it was to be opened only by the next inaugrated president of the next century. Drew Gilpin Faust opened that letter recently and spoke of it in her inauguration 10/12/07. It was exceedingly interesting hearing her read exceprts (the most ironic bit being the opening 'my dear sir'). Someone with a better knowledge of the contents of this letter would do a great service to this entry by adding a section on this both here and in Pres. Faust's entry.

Finishing school?[edit]

This article notes that Harvard was "until then widely perceived as a 'finishing school' for members of the New England upper class." There is little doubt that President Conant brought Harvard into the twentieth century and firmly established is reputation for academic excellence. But to dismiss the oldest institution for higher learning in America as a finishing school seems a bit much to me. Was that written by a Yalie? lol MarmadukePercy (talk) 03:12, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

National Educational Planner?[edit]

I thought Conant also earned certain fame as the head of a commission on higher education in the US that sought to establish a system of public higher education that would be accessible to all and that our community colleges in particular owe their inspiration to him and his colleagues in this endeavor.Tom Cod (talk) 17:17, 3 June 2009 (UTC)

Controversies[edit]

Conant was not Hitler friendly. His reply to Ernst F S Hanfstaengl was "We are unwilling to accept a gift from one who has been so closely associated with the leadership of a political party which has inflicted damage on the universities of Germany through measures which have struck at principles we believe to be fundamental to universities throughout the world". He also received the Jewish Veterans' Award for American Leadership in 1940. Source: NAS biography.

If he was neither a nazi sympathizer as claimed nor anti-semitic then what is the evidence for the racist slur?

Chrysippo (talk) 12:29, 7 June 2010 (UTC)

Although perhaps not controversial in his lifetime, it ought to be mentioned somewhere that Conant spent World War I making mustard gas for the Chemical Warfare Service. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 76.241.78.34 (talk) 02:12, 1 January 2012 (UTC)

William Kirk McEwen[edit]

Very minor note, but providing some links here to back-up the edit made here that identified W. McEwen as William Kirk McEwen (1910-1986). This is based on this record from Harvard of McEwen's PhD thesis, another double one, with the second thesis being 'A Further Study of Extremely Weak Acids'. McEwen's obituary is here (University of California: In Memoriam, 1989). He went on to become a professor of biochemistry and ophthalmology. Carcharoth (talk) 03:16, 24 December 2012 (UTC)

Additional notes[edit]

Carrying over here some of the remaining quibbles from the FAC, to be dealt with as and when needed, if at all (some are not from the FAC and are new). The first four are gleaned from my recent closer reading of the Bartlett (1983) source:

  • Bartlett lists over 50 honorary degrees that Conant was awarded between 1933 and 1966. That number (derived from counting the list Bartlett gives) might be worth mentioning.
  • It might be worth including that his appointment as President of Harvard was unexpected. According to Bartlett (and others) he was not considered in the running until a year or so beforehand, and then impressed those handling the appointment with his vision and clear ideas on education (paraphrasing from memory).
  • There is a hint of some personal details with the story of him taking up mountaineering in his 40s. Some little personal bits like that might help in what is in places a rather weighty biography.
  • The bit about Conant not becoming President of the NAS is told slightly differently in Bartlett. The account there says that Conant was nominated, but that the Academy were looking for a full-time president and turned to Bronk. Traditionally, the election was an unopposed one, and Vannevar Bush phoned Conant (who was a friend of Bronk), and Conant withdrew rather than contest the election.
    • That is not factually incorrect, but is too charitable. I relied on Hershberg's account, for which I found corroboration elsewhere. Hawkeye7 (talk) 23:41, 24 December 2012 (UTC)
  • Some of the dates of his roles and positions (most seem to be listed in the ACAP source) could be added here and there.
  • Better pictures for his Harvard period could be looked for (the current one is from 1947, so the chronology is slightly out there). Are there any pictures from his early Harvard years?
    • If you find something, I will use it. Hawkeye7 (talk) 23:41, 24 December 2012 (UTC)
      • OK. I did look, and there are some nice images available online at the Harvard archives (the OASIS catalogue), but none look to be available under a free license. I also found a cartoon at the Library of Congress on the WW2 rubber shortage, and a nice picture of Conant with Churchill, but again nothing freely licensed. If I can work up a suitable link to take people to the Harvard archive pictures, I'll put that in the external links. Carcharoth (talk) 01:21, 26 December 2012 (UTC)
        • I have huge problems with that in Australia, due to the government policy favouring free licences, which cannot be used on Wikipedia. Hawkeye7 (talk) 02:48, 26 December 2012 (UTC)
  • Finally, I think his being elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society should get a mention.
    • The links for this (the one left at the FAC doesn't really work) are: Fellow details for Conant (code NA670) and Proposal for Foreign Membership for Conant (reference number EC/1941/22). The year was 1941. The only place I can think to put it is at the beginning of the sentence "during his long career", with some tweaks as it is not an award, more an honour accorded to him. Carcharoth (talk) 01:21, 26 December 2012 (UTC)
      • Added it to the article. Hawkeye7 (talk) 02:48, 26 December 2012 (UTC)

That's about it. I may work on some of the above, but leaving these notes here for now. Carcharoth (talk) 21:26, 24 December 2012 (UTC)

Conant's antisemitism[edit]

I restored quote by historians aptly summarizing Conant's attitudes and giving a way explain his actions on Jewish quotas. Please don't remove. Discuss here. Mhym (talk) 14:28, 25 December 2012 (UTC)

There is nothing wrong with the quote, which I personally believe to be true. The problem is FAC's requirement that articles be correctly sourced. My JSTOR account does not give me access to this journal, so I cannot look it up myself. You need to cough up the correct page number. I will fix the reference from there. Otherwise, we will be back to poorly sourced material will be removed. Hawkeye7 (talk) 19:26, 25 December 2012 (UTC)
Ah, yes, ok. Here is the full version of the quote:
Conant's pro-quote position in the early 1920s, his preference for more students from small towns and cities and the South and West, and his cool response to the plight of the Jewish academic refugees from Hitler suggest that he shared the mild antisemitism common to his social group and time. But his commitment to meritocracy made him more ready to accept able Jews as students and faculty.
Here is the GoogleBooks link. I will try to fix the ref, but please feel free to correct/expand it if necessary for FA status. Mhym (talk) 21:52, 25 December 2012 (UTC)
I have corrected the formatting. Thanks for your help! Hawkeye7 (talk) 22:17, 25 December 2012 (UTC)

Named for Conant[edit]

Putting here (for increased visibility) some material that had been commented outin the article itself:

James B. Conant Middle School is a former school named after the man in Neenah, Wisconsin, though it has since become the "Conant" building, in addition to the Neil Armstrong building and a large building connecting the two known simply as "The Link." James B. Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, Illinois was named after Conant, as was James B. Conant Elementary School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

In addition to this, there are several awards, professorships and scholarships named for Conant. One seems to be a fairly prestigious US education award, so I created the article James Bryant Conant Award, which might warrant some sort of mention (some sources also say Conant was a co-founder of the Education Commission of the States, the organisation that administers that award). Carcharoth (talk) 02:45, 26 December 2012 (UTC)

I remember now. I had no source for James B. Conant Middle School, so I commented it out. Hawkeye7 (talk) 06:31, 26 December 2012 (UTC)

I snooped the pages of the schools and you can tell this is true with the buildings and all. Also, I found an earlier web refernce to James B. Conant Junior High. Just can't find an article on how the school was built/evolved.TCO (talk) 15:21, 2 March 2013 (UTC)

digression[edit]

This sentence "After serving in World War II, Alexis was refused admittance to Harvard Medical School on the grounds that, as the only black student, he would have no one to room with." should be clipped from the article. It is interesting but not really connected to the incident or to Conant. and it takes focus from Conant to Alexis. Just in terms of tight thematic writing, is not good. But also may be a little coatracky.

Actually, I really wonder how important the overall incident (whole para) was in Conant's life. Not trying to sugar coat the fellow, but it really doesn't seem that signigicant especially given the era. If it did not get much press at the time, but has become a trope of later scholarship/criticism, would be good to just indicate that (Recent scholars such as Smith and jones...bla bla bla...)

TCO (talk) 15:02, 2 March 2013 (UTC)

Legacy section[edit]

I think we need a small legacy section. There are several sourceable things that use his name:

  • The Hoffman Estates high school.
  • Carch's award.
  • The ACS award: [1]

TCO (talk) 15:40, 2 March 2013 (UTC)

Related Wiki person?[edit]

Any relation? Kenneth John Conant

TCO (talk) 15:43, 2 March 2013 (UTC)

This says only distant relative: [2] TCO (talk) 17:24, 2 March 2013 (UTC)

Copy edit[edit]

-"research investigated" = he researched (research cannot investigate)

-elucidate= "explain" (WP:MOS: straining for formality)

Wording agreed with WP:CHEMISTRY Hawkeye7 (talk) 18:41, 26 March 2013 (UTC)

"with a reformist agenda" = A reformist, he

Incorrect; Conant was not a reformist. Hawkeye7 (talk) 18:41, 26 March 2013 (UTC)

-"that involved dispensing with a number of" = ended (wordy)

-"terminated" = fired (WP:MOS: straining for formality)

Overly casual, unencyclopaedic, not technically correct. Hawkeye7 (talk) 18:41, 26 March 2013 (UTC)
As it turns out, you have it backwards. "Fired" is the technical term. "Terminated" is a euphemism for fire. (See the entry for "fire" in Garner's Modern American Usage). WP:MOS encourages editors to avoid euphemisms. See WP:EUPHEMISM. So, "fire" is right. Fluous (talk) 22:19, 26 March 2013 (UTC)
I haven't got that book. Are you saying that in American English "fire" contains no connotation of termination for cause? Hawkeye7 (talk) 22:37, 26 March 2013 (UTC)
I'm saying "terminate" is a euphemism for fire. As a euphemism, it should be avoided. See WP:EUPHEMISM. Sometimes, euphemisms can make important distinctions (like "laid off," another euphemism of fire, which implies something temporary, seasonal, etc. Again, see Garner's MAU). what distinction does "terminate" make? (honest question; not rhetorical) And yes, fire implies for cause. They were fired for cause; they didn't measure up to Conant's goal of faculty excellence. However you want to say it, it was a negative employment decision based on their performance. That it was automatic doesn't change anything. The firing decision was effectively made when whoever decided not to promote them.
P.S. You can respond, but i'm moving on! :) Did you write this article? It was excellent, otherwise. Cheers.-- Fluous (talk) 23:48, 26 March 2013 (UTC)

-"the president" = president (redundant)

-"became a critic of" = criticized (wordy)

Fluous (talk) 14:01, 26 March 2013 (UTC)

Updated External Link[edit]

I have updated the external link to the ACS National Historic Chemical Landmarks resource and clarified a point about rubber production: 51 factories were constructed OR made to operate to produce rubber ingredients, not rubber. I am the program coordinator of the ACS-NHCL program.KLindblom (talk) 22:55, 21 February 2014 (UTC)

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