April 6, 1940
About 150 students from 18 colleges and universities in the state attended the first annual New York State Student Scientific Conference at Vassar. The 1934 Nobel prize-winner in chemistry, Dr. Harold C. Urey of Columbia University, spoke to students of botany, chemistry, physics, mathematics, geology, physiology, psychology, eugenics, anthropology and zoology on “Chemical Uses of Isotopic Tracers.”
The young scientists then adjourned to section meetings in the several science facilities where 10-minute papers were read and discussed. One highlight of these sessions was a motion picture made by students in the descriptive geometry class of Assistant Professor of Mathematics Grace Hopper ’28. Using the animation technique recently perfected by Walt Disney, the class was able to show the behavior of the bicircular quartics known as Cartesians. To demonstrate a particular theorem, “the envelope of a variable circle whose center moves on a given circle and which passes through a given point is a Cartesian,” the students made a series of drawings. The drawings used equally spaced points on a given circle as centers for the variable circles but moved the given point through which the variable circle was to pass 3/32 inch to the right between each two drawings. In the complete series of drawings, moving the given point from the left of the given circle to its right produced the predicted formations. The class called upon members of other departments familiar with photography and film for help in making the demonstration of the theorem move in a similar fashion to that of Disney’s animated characters. Professor Hopper said that never had her students understood the generation of curves as they did through the making of the motion picture.
At the conference’s conclusion, faculty leaders from the colleges met to discuss plans for making the conference an annual event. The New York Times