P.O. Box 1041
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15230-1041 U.S.A.
Electronic Mail: < email@example.com >
Internet Site: < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com/ >
2010 April 22
Chris Potter, Editor
Pittsburgh City Paper
Centre City Tower
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222
While reading the article, “Down the Test Tubes,” I was immediately struck by a sad irony. Two of the schools, reported to have a majority of students with poor proficiency in science, were named for two of the most preeminent scientists in Pittsburgh history: George Westinghouse and John Brashear.
As the author of an Internet web site on the life of John Brashear < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com/ >, I fear that most students in the school have no idea who Brashear was. This is a shame, as Brashear’s modest beginnings mirror many of the students in the school.
Starting as a humble millwright in a South Side steel mill in the middle of the nineteenth century, through hard work and self-education Brashear became one of the world’s leading producers of telescopes and precision scientific instruments. Some of his instruments were so advanced, at that time, that he had to train other scientists in their assembly and use!
He went on to become Acting Director of the Allegheny Observatory and Acting Chancellor of the Western University of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh). He declined permanent appointment to both positions.
The story of John Brashear, as well as the story of George Westinghouse, could inspire high school students and clearly illustrate the importance of science in their education. I urge the Pittsburgh Schools to use the stories of these two great scientists to promote science education to their students.
Glenn A. Walsh