Growth of Physiology at the University of Arizona (1902-1940)

In 1904, physiology disappeared for a time from the curriculum. Only Zoology 1 and 2 were offered, and physiology apparently was encompassed to a degree in these introductory offerings. In 1902, John James Thurber, who had received his Master's degree from Nebraska, was appointed Professor of Biology. In 1903 the Desert Botanical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. was located in the Tucson Mountains and was apparently available to university personnel. According to the catalog, this new facility was seen as destined to become an important center of active scientific research. This is worthy of note since it was to my knowledge the first mention of scientific research in the catalog. In 1904, Kendrick Charles Babcock, Ph.D., a Harvard trained historian, became President. Babcock was an obviously strong believer in committees since he formed 13 committees in all including Athletics, Library, Prized, Executive, and somewhat hopefully, a Rhodes Scholarships. Staffing these 13 committees must have been somewhat of a problem since at the time there were only 26 faculty members.

Among other officers of the University was an M.D., Mrs. Mary Henry Atton who received her medical training at Northwestern. Her title was Medical Examiner of Young Women.

In 1906, Mr. Thurber was joined by an assistant, Miss Opal I. Tillman, who had received the M.S. degree from Ohio State and was an Instructor in Domestic Science and Botany. Of the 31 faculty at that time, 6 were women and were in a variety of areas including Biology, Math, History and Latin. By 1909, Tillman had left and James Greenley Brown joined as Instructor in Botany. The number of standing committees was reduced to 6 and Biology moved to Science Hall. Biology was located on the third floor and "occupied a fine suite of 8 rooms as required for modern instruction and research". Mr. Brown introduced a course in Plant Physiology consisting of one hour lecture and seven hours of lab work each week. In fact, the impact of James Greenley Brown was immediately evident. He was listed in the 1909 catalog as presenting six courses, Brown was teaching Invertebrate Zoology, Vertebrate Zoology, Histology and introduced a two semester course in Physiology. The first semester of Brown's physiology course focused on blood, respiration, secretion and absorption while in the second semester circulation and the nervous system were covered. In 1912 a one semester course in Physiology was also introduced, consisting of two hours lecture and six hours lab per week. Experiments were done on cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, etc. with each student expected to keep a full notebook of results. Laboratory equipment included a centrifuge, an inductorium and a rheonome for studies of excitable tissues.

By 1916 apparently the administration took pity on Mr. Brown and his inordinately heavy courseload and a Charles Taylor Vorhies, was appointed Assistant Professor of Biology. In 1917, Brown was finally made a an Assistant Professor, having been an Instructor for eight years. In 1919, Biology began teaching Bacteriology and again our utility outfielder, James Greenly Brown, was tapped to teach a one semester course in General Bacteriology along with Elementary Botany, Plant Histology, Plant Physiology, three courses in Morphology, Plant Pathology, Elementary Zoology, Vertebrate Zoology, and two semesters of Physiology. It is said that Brown had a door way cut between two adjacent laboratories so he could teach two laboratory courses simultaneously. This is a photograph of a physics laboratory on the first floor of Science Hall.

During the 1890's, the University was in essence a preparatory school because there were far more high school students being taught by the faculty for eventual entrance into the University than there were college level students. However, by 1920, the situation had changed considerably. The University had grown to over 1600 students, by 1930 it had risen to 2100 and by 1940 to 3000 students. This view of campus taken toward A Mountain shows the campus and the town as it existed in 1930. This view toward the Catalina Mountains shows open space which has long since become part of the developed city. Beginning in 1930 Biology underwent massive reorganization so that aspect of our recent history is not unique. In 1931 the Department of Biology disappeared and in its place was formed a Department of Zoology, a Department of Entomology and, curiously, a Department of Botany and Bacteriology. A short time later Entomology became Entomology and Economic Zoology. In 1935 Botany and Bacteriology split to form separate departments. But 10 years later Botany merged with Range Ecology. While this shuffling probably caused some restiveness among the faculty, students took it in their stride as this photograph of tranquillity around the pool indicates. Other photographs taken at this time show an uncluttered campus with idyllic views.

Other issues were on the mind of President Alfred Atkinson who reported in 1937 that one of the most serious problems of the university was the loss of faculty to other universities because of more favorable working conditions and higher salaries.

During these two decades the U of A was essentially an undergraduate institution. Physiology was taught at the undergraduate level in the Department of Biology and Zoology. Graduate programs began to develop in the 20's but were mostly at the Masters degree level. On of the first M.S. degrees in Biology was awarded in 1926 on the topic of Seasonal Cycles of Interstitial Cells in the Testis of the Horned Toad. In 1934 an M.S. was awarded in zoology which had strong physiological connotations. The degree was awarded to a Reginald Rambo sound.gif for studies of dehydration in man in a semi-arid climate. Rambo's studies, which might be of interest to modern-day movie goers, dealt with erythrocyte counts in humans during the summer and an inverse correlation between hemoglobin content of erythrocyte and environmental temperature. It seems our Rambo drew first blood.

One of the pioneers of our institution in Biology was Charles Taylor Vorhies who received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1908 and came to the U of A in 1916. Despite a heavy teaching load he developed an active research program. He wrote the first bulletin published by the University Experiment Station entitled: Life and History of the Desert Rat, published in 1922. That same year, he became Head of the Department of Biology. He spent much of his time investigating how desert animals lived on little or no water. For many years he chaired the Department of Entomology and Economic Zoology. Vorhies was a recognized leader in field and in 1939 he served as President of the Ecological Society of America.

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