Monday, October 13, 2008

Hume and Ivey's PSSC film..."Frames of Reference"

J.N. Patterson Hume

Finally found two PSSC physics films at the Internet Archives repository: The famous Frames of Reference with Hume and Ivey and one from MIT on electromagnets, A Magnet Laboratory.

Frames of Reference [1960]

This PSSC film utilizes a fascinating set consisting of a rotating table and furniture occupying surprisingly unpredictable spots within the viewing area. The fine cinematography by Abraham Morochnik, and funny narration by University of Toronto professors Donald Ivey and Patterson Hume is a wonderful example of the fun a creative team of filmmakers can have with a subject that other, less imaginative types might find pedestrian.

Frames of Reference


A Magnet Laboratory

In the hands of another director, the inner-workings of a magnet laboratory could have caused a whole classroom to fall asleep of boredom. No so when Leacock was hired to produce this twenty-minute version of lab mayhem. Try this: six researchers in a lab at MIT in the late 1950's show-off the power of electro-magnets, and in the process, accidentally set an experiment on fire. Or this: half way through the film the phone rings off screen, and host Francis Bitter says "tell 'em I'll call 'em back later" while he's looking at the camera, discussing bus bars. Leacock’s fleshed out all the personalities here, from "Beans" Bardo, who cranks up the generator to nearly explosive proportions, to the mysterious Mr. Lin, who barely peeks over his shoulder at us, seemingly in mockery, disdain, or curiosity. Bitter is an important historical figure, whose degaussing techniques spared many an allied vessel from destruction by magnetic underwater mines during WWII. The generator shown was from Pittsbugh's street car system, relocated to MIT for use in Bitter's lab. This film is from the landmark Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) series of films. Produced by Kevin Smith and Dr. Jerrold Zacharias.

A Magnet Laboratory

Hume and Ivey condensed timeline:

In 1958 Professor J.N. Patterson Hume and Dr. Donald Glenn Ivey do their first local [Toronto, Canada] television series for the CBC. The first series was called Focus on Physics which was part of a larger educational series called Live and Learn.

In 1959 Hume and Ivey write and present a second series, Two for Physics, which is broadcast on national television.

In 1960 the CBC launches a new one-half hour science series, The Nature of Things. Professor Donald Ivey was the host. He still worked with Patterson Hume to write and present several episodes.

In 1961 after the first season [60/61], Dr. Ivey gave up hosting the program to concentrate on his University career and family life. Between 1961 and 1979 The Nature of Things did not have a permanent host. Instead, a number of people acted as guest hosts.

J.N. Patterson Hume biography:

Prof. Emeritus J.N. Patterson ("Pat") Hume of the University of Toronto is a scientific educator and Canadian computing pioneer whose influence has been felt by many generations of high school and university students in both physics and computing science, and he is one of the most widely known and best respected academic educators in Canada.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, and educated at the University of Toronto where he received the BA, MA, and PhD degrees in Physics in 1945, 1946 and 1949 respectively, Dr. Hume was instrumental in founding Canada's first Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto in 1964, having worked since 1952 in the development of computer software. At the University of Toronto he was the Associate Dean for Physical Sciences from1968-72 and Chair of the Department from 1975-80. Dr. Hume is an ACM Fellow and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Dr. Hume has been widely honoured for his groundbreaking work with Dr. Donald Ivey in educational television and films on Physics in the late 1950's and early 1960's. These films formed the genesis of the CBC television series "The Nature of Things" and were used by generations of high school students as part of the PSSC Physics curriculum. Among the many awards he has received are citations from the Scientific Institute in Rome and the Edison Foundation in New York, a Silver Core Award from IFIP, a Distinguished Service Citation from the American Association of Physics Teachers, an Award of Merit from the City of Toronto and most recently the Order of Canada in 2005.

Prof. Hume's dedication and unique talent for education continued in the 1970's when he authored "Introduction to Computer Programming Using PL/I and SP/k" with Prof. R. C. Holt. This book, used as the primary introductory computer science textbook in almost all Ontario high schools as well as universities such as Queen's, York, Toronto and Waterloo for more than five years, began a series of more than 20 books in computer science education that he has authored or co-authored over the past 30 years and continues with even today. Indeed, at no time in the past 30 years have Ontario high school students been without a computer science textbook authored or co-authored by Pat Hume, and for much of that time Ontario universities have used his textbooks as well.

Independently of his importance as an educator, Pat's stature and influence in the advancement of Canadian computer science over the past fifty years cannot be overestimated. With the arrival of FERUT, the first digital computer in Canada, at the University of Toronto in 1952, Pat Hume and his collaborator Beatrice ("Trixie") Worsley became the first computer programmers in this country. Together they developed some of the earliest computer "software" in the world, including Transcode, one of the first "compilers" (computer language translators) and a forerunner of all modern computer programming languages. In keeping with Pat's dedication to education, Transcode was designed to make computer programming accessible to others at the University, and it succeeded spectacularly in that respect, setting Canada and the University of Toronto in particular firmly on the road to becoming world leaders in computing science.--School of Computing, Queen's University.

Donald Glenn biography.

"Educational television-An oxymoron?'' Donald Glenn Ivey's acceptance speech for the 1987 Millikan Lecture Award presented by the American Association of Physics Teachers, 18 June 1987 to be found in the American Journal of Physics, Volume 55, Issue 12, pp. 1068-1075 (1987).

Their classic text is available from various Internet used book sources such as alibris .



Donald G. Ivey


J. N. P. Hume

PSSC Physics

[NOTE: The Internet Archives does occasionally withdraw certain items without warning, so if you wish to have copies of these PSSC physics, you might want to download them.]


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed watching this clip again, but am wondering how to find Hume and Ivey's Periodic Motion, which I also remember from my youth. My son is struggling with sine and cosine and its application to reality and this film came to mind. I think that he also enjoyed "Frames of Reference". Thank you for posting it.

Mercury said...

"Periodic Motion"

Check the home page at the bottom...

Pavan Kumar Kaushik said...

I really understood frames of reference properly only after this video. But i really can't find the videos mentioned in the previous comment? Please help me to get those videos!

Mercury said...

This is the only other link to the Physical Science Study Committee [PSSC] series...

"A Magnet Laboratory" [1959]

The American Association of Physics Teachers [AAPT] wants a huge price for their DVD of "Frames of Reference" [like $150], but for free at as indicated in the post.