Penn State

Penn State Discoveries:

Designed and first operated in 1902 by pioneer animal nutritionist Henry Armsby, the calorimeter monitored an animal’s metabolism to determine the net energy value of food, the portion of food energy that an animal uses to produce milk or meat.  It attracted worldwide scientific interest and helped to develop feeds of higher nutritive value.

In the 1920s, Penn State became the first land-grant college to initiate a comprehensive mushroom research program.  Led by internationally recognized scientists and supported by the mushroom industry, the program developed improved composts and production practices that were adopted by growers worldwide.  It also helped Pennsylvania retain its leadership in U.S. Mushroom production.

Paul Schweitzer and K. J. Dejuhasz in 1923 began one of the first systematic research programs in diesel engineering to be undertaken on any college campus.  Their discoveries over the next 30 years in such fields as supercharging and scavenging pioneered the way for today’s more efficient and powerful engineers.

Pioneer steroid chemist Russell Marker’s work in synthesizing the hormone progesterone in the 1930s laid the foundation for the birth control pill and such medical applications as cortisones and various hormone and steroid therapies.

In 1931, psychology professor Robert Bernreuter established the psychology-education clinic and began refining his “Bernreuter Personality Inventory,” the pioneer multiphasic test of traits that became the standard by which other personality tests were measured.  The test is still in use worldwide for counseling and personnel selection.

Penn State physicist Ferdinand Brickwedde in 1931 produced the world’s first measurable amount of deuterium, a hydrogen isotope found in “heavy water,” used in nuclear and biological research.  Earlier, Brickwedde had been co-discoverer, with Harold Urey and George Murphy of Columbia University, of deuterium.  Urey was awarded the 1934 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery.

R Values, standardized measures of resistance to heat transfer, were first proposed in 1945 by Everett Shuman.  R Values were later widely applied to industrial and residential insulating materials and helped consumers make more energy-efficient choices.

John Almquist began studying artificial insemination techniques in dairy cattle in 1946. In 1981, Almquist was awarded the International Wolf Prize, agriculture’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, for his studies on the cryopreservation of sperm and the advantages of antibiotics and milk extenders in preserving semen.

Penn State’s first contribution to electronic computing was the work of Haskell Brooks Curry, an expert on symbolic logic. Curry worked on the first electronic computer, called ENIAC, while on leave from Penn State during World War II. Curry’s research in the 1950s into the foundations of combinatory logic was applied in 1986 in the Mitre Corporation’s Curry Chip, an innovative piece of computer hardware based on Curry’s concept of “combinators.”  Later, this seminal work found significant application in computer science, especially in the design of programming languages.

Joseph Heller and his famous novel, “Catch-22,” culminated during his faculty tenure at Penn State in the early 1950s.  Pulitzer prize-winning poet Theodore Roethke wrote his first book, “Open House,” during his seven years of teaching at the University, and after teaching here in the 1950s.  Novelist John Barth used the University Park Campus setting for “Giles Goat Boy.”

Penn State’s Coal Sample Bank began in the 1950s, when Penn State petrologist William Spackman and Andy Brisse of U.S. Steel collaborated to revive the science of coal petrography, the microscopic examination of coal in order to determine its organic components and relate composition to usefulness.

Hans Panofsky conducted fundamental work at Penn State between 1952 and 1982 that led to a new understanding of atmospheric turbulence, air pollution, ozone depletion, and planetary atmospheres. He was among the first to apply computer analysis to weather prediction. In 1976, long before the ozone hole was discovered over Antarctica, he presented a paper on “Threats to the Ozone Layer.”

In August 1955, Erwin Mueller became the first person to see an atom and thus visually validate a theory of matter propounded since ancient times. His field-ion microscope, later refined as the atom probe field-ion microscope, created a new research field, and contributed to the understanding of the structure of metallic substances.

K. Warner Schaie’s research on the study of cognitive development from young adulthood to advanced old age as exemplified by the ongoing Seattle Longitudinal Study, which has been conducted since 1956. This study investigated health, demographic, personality, and environmental factors that influence individual differences in successful cognitive aging. It also investigated family similarity in cognition, environmental factors, and health behaviors, and has included the long-term follow-up of cognitive training effects in older adults.

Stuart Patton, a specialist in food chemistry, was a pioneer in the field of milk-flavor synthesis. He found the chemical origins of off-flavors produced in milk by processing, storage, heating, and irradiation, and of desirable flavors such as those in bleu cheese, cheddar, and Swiss. Methyl sulfide, he found, was responsible for the “faint characteristic flavor, perhaps best defined by the term ‘cowy'” of normal milk. Patton also performed early studies of cholesterol build-up.

In 1974, a long-life rechargeable heart pacemaker was developed at The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center with assistance of College of Engineering personnel. The Heart Assist Pump, developed by faculty in the colleges of medicine and engineering in 1976 to prolong the lives of cardiovascular patients, pioneered applications of fluid mechanics and was the first surgically implantable, seam-free, pulsatile blood pump to receive widespread clinical use.  It led to the Penn State Heart, first successfully implanted in 1985.  Also, a surgeon and two engineers at Penn State perfected the world’s first long-life, rechargeable heart pacemaker.