The Stuff of Life
A Very Curious Person
I read an article in Rensselaer magazine called The Sultan of Stuff (June 2002). Marshall Brain 83 was always very curious, ever since he was a teenager. I didnt think that curiosity could get people so far, but for Brain it did. Brain started a small Web site called howstuffworks.com. He took everyday objects, such as a car engine, and made them very easy to understand.
It is one of my favorite Web sites. I found out about it surfing the Web, prior to reading this article. Now I am on it almost every day to learn about more objects. Brain does such a great job of breaking down complicated things and making them seem like there is nothing to them. He is able to explain the complicated science of nanotechnology. Its amazing! Thank you for an informative article on an interesting success story. I hope my curiosity will help me through my life, too.
Sean Smith, age 13
Mt. Laurel, N.J.
Another Canal Connection
I read with interest the article regarding the connection between Rensselaer and the United States Navy (From the Archives, June 2002). I cannot claim any familiarity with Mordecai Endicott or his many substantial contributions to civil engineering while serving in the Navy. However, the fact that he served as a member of both the Nicaragua Canal Project and the Panama Canal Commission brings to mind another Rensselaer graduate, who happens to be a distant relative. His name is Aniceto Garcia Menocal, a native of Cuba and a naturalized U.S. citizen, who as a member of both canal commissions was directly involved in surveying their original routes more than a quarter-century before construction started. If family history can be considered accurate, he was also instrumental in the design and construction of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
In David McCulloughs 1977 book The Path Between the Seas covering the history of the Panama Canal, Menocal is mentioned along with Commander Edward Lull as the authors for both the Nicaragua and Panama Canal surveys. McCullough states: Menocal, a Cuban by birth, had been foremost of the civilian engineers assigned by Admiral Ammen to place the results of the work beyond the reach of criticism.
It is also interesting to note that after the United States agreed to participate in the International Canal Congress held in Paris in 1875, then-Secretary of State William Evarts, serving under President Rutherford Hayes, named only Admiral Ammen and Aniceto Garcia Menocal as the sole U.S. representatives to this prestigious international congress.
For his many contributions to his adopted country, Aniceto Garcia Menocal is one of the few civilians buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Pedro Hernandez Menocal 66
Talk about sticker shock! I just read where the tuition at RPI is $26,400. Wow!
I attended RPI from 1935 to 1939, graduating in the Class of 39 with a B.S. degree in aeronautical engineering. Tuition during my four years was $400 per year. The total cost of my education, including tuition, books, room, rent, meals, etc., was $1,200 per year or a total of $4,800 for the four years. Of course, then food was $1 per day and lodging at the dorms or fraternity houses was comparable in cost.
Being scientifically minded, to ease the minds of those paying the large numbers now, I have calculated that this allows for an inflation rate of about 7 percent over the 67 years since I started to attend RPI. (Of course, we were just coming out of a Depression, so there were not too many who could afford tuition of $400 per year at that time.)
The education that I got at RPI contributed greatly to my career, which was in the aeronautics field from 1940 to 1946. In 1950 I switched to furniture manufacturing, and retired in 1973. I used the skills obtained at RPI and overbuilt the furniture, so that eventually it was used commercially with great success and my company (Madison Furniture Industries) became part of the Shelby Williams Industries Group.
Louis Shornick 39