Princeton Alumni Weekly, October 30, 1931, pp. 1-3

A Memorial to a Scholar-Teacher

Mathematics Building Dedicated with Eulogy of Two Friends—Dean Fine and Thomas D. Jones

Last Thursday afternoon, when President Hibben received the key to Fine Mathematical Hall from its designer, Charles Z. Klauder, Princeton's newest scientific building was officially dedicated to the memory of Henry Burchard Fine, Dean of Science for twenty years and a member of the University's teaching staff for nearly half a century. The new structure is a gift of the late Thomas D. Jones '76 and his niece, Miss Gwethalyn Jones of Chicago.

Dean Luther P. Eisenhart, chairman of the Department of Mathematics, presided at the ceremonies which were witnessed by Miss Jones, friends and relatives of Dean Fine, the Trustees and faculty of the University, and a group of a hundred distinguished guests. The principal address was delivered by Professor Oswald Veblen, incumbent of the Henry B. Fine Professor of Mathematics which was endowed by Mr. Jones.

The new building is just west of Palmer Laboratory, and a wing connects it with that building. This location, overlooking the Infirmary and Guyot Hall, dictated a style of architecture to harmonize with the other structures in this, the "red brick section" of the campus. Red brick and limestone are used in the collegiate gothic of the new building, so that the entire southeastern corner of the campus presents a unified appearance.

Fine Hall has been patterned after the style of dwelling houses rather than classroom office buildings. The offices are treated as living rooms or studies. In many cases the blackboards and filing cabinets are concealed behind paneled walls, and comfortable furniture takes the place of stiff classroom fixtures.

The most important feature of the building is the library of mathematics and mathematical physics which occupies the entire top floor of the building. The is constructed about a well which makes artificial reading light unnecessary during the daytime. A passageway from Palmer laboratory to the Fine Hall library gives members of the Physics Department easy access to the books which they will use jointly with the Mathematics Department. Next in importance after the library is the huge common room in which all the members of the Department of Mathematics may gather every afternoon for informal conferences. A fully equipped kitchenette just off the common room will make it possible to serve tea whenever this is desired.

Next to the common room is another richly appointed conference chamber reserved for the use of professors in the Department. In addition, there are two seminar rooms for the meetings of other small groups, two lecture rooms, nine large studies, and sixteen smaller studies. The larger rooms are assigned to senior members of the mathematics faculty, and the smaller ones to the younger teachers and advanced research fellows.

Hanging in the common room is a recently completed portrait of Dean Fine painted by Ernest L. Ibsen of New York. Portraits of three other Princeton mathematicians have been moved to Fine Hall from other parts of the campus. These are the paintings of Professor Walter Minto (on the faculty from 1787 to 1796), Professor Albert Baldwin Dod (1827 to 1845), and Professor John Thomas Duffield (1845 to 1901).

Mathematical formulae are employed by Mr. Klauder in carrying out the decorative scheme of the building. Among the equations which have been skillfully incorporated into the leaded design of the windows are the formulae of Newtonian gravitation, the Einstein theory, the quantum theory, the five perfect solids and spheres, and three conic sections. Over the fireplace in the common room is Einstein's remark "God is clever, but not dishonest." There is also a small carving (reproduced in the Alumni Weekly last spring) showing the serious predicament of a fly on a one-sided surface.

The most unusual feature of the whole building is the locker room which also provides shower-bath facilities. It was included in plans for the building with the idea that members of the department who wish to avail themselves of the nearby tennis courts or the gymnasium will not find it necessary to return to their homes to dress.

The scheme of interior decoration of the building was executed by Mrs. John Alexander who gave her services to the University. At the dedication ceremonies last Thursday Dean Eisenhart welcomed the guests and then introduced Mr. Klauder. In accepting from Mr. Klauder the gigantic key to the building, President Hibben paid tribute to the excellent work of the architect, the builder (Matthews Construction Co.), and the interior decorator.

President Hibben explained that several times while plans for the building were being drawn it had been suggested that certain economics could be made. This, he said, did not meet with the approval of Mr. Jones who declared that "nothing is too good for Harry Fine." President Hibben then described the friendship which had existed between Dean Fine and Mr. Jones, and closed his speech by comparing the light shed by "Harry Fine" to that of a star which is still bright to the earth long after it has gone out.

Professor Veblen made the final speech of the day. The text of his address follows: "The principal idea which has been built into Fine Hall is a very old one. It is nothing else than the idea of a university as a seat of learning. The first universities of Europe, such as Bologna, Paris, and Oxford were just loosely organized groups of learned men. The students who migrated from one of these centers of learning to another were very much the same sort of people as the graduate students and research fellows of today, poor material for the diplomatic service, but full of intellectual curiosity and sometimes having a spark of genius.

"The modern American university is a complicated organism devoted to a variety of purposes among which creative scholarship is sometimes overlooked. Those universities which do recognize it as one of their purposes are beginning to feel the necessity of providing centers about which people of like intellectual interests can group themselves for mutual encouragement and support, and where the young recruit and the old campaigner can have those informal and easy contacts that are so important to each of them.

"Such intellectual centers are provided in Princeton by a splendid group of laboratories for the experimental sciences and by McCormick Hall for the Department of Art and Archeology and the group of rooms devoted to the classics in Pyne Library. Now we have Fine Hall for the mathematicians and I hope that it will not be many years before we have analogous centers for other groups of scholars. I say analogous centers rather than similar ones, for I suppose that the historians or the philosophers will need something which differs from Fine Hall as much as Fine Hall differs from the Palmer Laboratory.

"It was a new problem to design a building for mathematics. Although there are such buildings at Chicago, Paris, Gottingen, and Jena, none of these had been finished before ours was begun. But it was not a very complicated problem in this case. There was no elaborate apparatus to provide. A pencil sharpener is about all the apparatus that a mathematician requires. There was no need for many classrooms or large lecture rooms, for there are plenty of these already on the campus. The new building has two small lecture rooms and two seminar rooms which can be used informally.

"The chief need was for a convenient library and suitable studies. This library was placed on the top floor so that it should be as far removed from traffic and noise as possible. In order to make it easier to enforce a rule of silence there are four talking rooms in the four corners, where we can go when we want to discuss what we have been reading. It is very desirable that the books on physics and mathematics should be close together. The new building is next to the physical laboratory, and the mathematics and physical libraries have been combined.

"We have long felt the need for offices on the campus and now we have not only offices but actual studies, so attractive that many of us will be doing our private reading and research in these rooms rather than in our own homes. These rooms are going to be a godsend to young men on small salaries who find it hard to afford a house with a suitable study. The new building contains studies for all the permanent members of the staff and also for a certain number of advanced students. These quiet and comfortable rooms have already in two or three weeks, had a perceptible effect in drawing the group of mathematicians and mathematical physicists closer together and in promoting a spirit of cooperation.

"This increase of the solidarity of the mathematical group and its closer relationship to the physics group was definitely in mind in the planning of the common room a sort of club room and lounge for mathematicians and physicists, with a small kitchenette nearby. There is also another room of this sort reserved for professors. This is on the principle, not always understood by those who try to bring about closer relations between faculty and students, that in all forms of social intercourse the provisions for privacy are as important as those for proximity.

"This building is not only a memorial to Dean Fine. It is a definite part of his work in constructing a great mathematical center here in Princeton. You know the outline of this story: How during a long of period of time Dean Fine seized each opportunity as it arose to strengthen his by calling in young men of promise. How its prestige gradually extended so that Princeton became known throughout the world as a center of mathematical production. How this work of construction was consolidated by the generous institution of the fund for research and science by the General Education Board and Mr. Thomas D. Jones, Miss Gwethalyn Jones, Mr. William Church Osborn, and others.

"When these things had been accomplished it became evident that a building was needed as a center for the mathematical interests of the University just as the various laboratories were headquarters for the various experimental sciences. This project Dean Fine discussed with the late Mr. Wickliffe Rose, then chairman of the General Education Board and a man who can be compared with Dean Fine and Mr. Jones for his insight into general university problems. Mr. Rose was then just at the point of retiring and the project went over to the new officers of the General Education Board who were considering it sympathetically at the time of Dean Fine's death. At this point Mr. Jones, who knew of his old friend's plans and hopes, came forward and asked President Hibben to allow him and his niece to provide the building and make it a memorial to Dean Fine.

"I believe that such a project has never been carried out in a more generous style. The donors decided that the building should be not only the matter-of-fact mathematical center which we had conceived but also a place which, as Mr. Jones expressed it, any mathematician would be loath to leave.

"In carrying out this purpose of Mr. Jones and his niece, the University was fortunate not only in having the services of an architect like Mr. Charles Z. Klauder, but also in the generosity of Mrs. John Alexander who freely contributed her trained skill and taste in the choice and arrangement of the furnishings. It is not only in providing so beautiful a building that Mr. Jones and Miss Jones showed their generosity, but in many unseen ways care has been taken and additional money spent to make the building more substantial and to reduce the cost of upkeep. Moreover, for the first time on our campus, the maintenance of the building and the renewal of the furnishings have been adequately provided by endowment.

"To return to the main point, Princeton now has a first-class home for its mathematical group. I hope that it will soon have equally good ones for the other academic groups which are not yet provided for. This is not merely because I like to see my colleagues comfortable, but because I think that it would greatly strengthen the University as a seat of learning if each natural intellectual group were so placed physically as to be automatically conscious of itself and of its relation to the University as a whole. I do not mean that this is our only great need at the present time. We need more endowed professorships right in the mathematical field. But at this moment, when we have been so generously favored, it is only just to point out that what has been done for us is of general significance and should not stop with us."

Accompanying photographs (by Clearose Studio)

The New Portrait of Dean Fine: Photograph of the Painting by Ernest L. Ibsen.

Princeton's Newest Scientific Building: View of Fine Hall from the Northeast.

The Late Thomas D. Jones '76: One of the Two Donors of Fine Hall.

Note-Taking  a Pleasure: Daylight from Above Illuminates this Lecture Room.

The Library of Mathematics and Physics: Removed from Noise and Traffic, this Large Room is Well Designed for Reading and Study.

"Privacy is as Important as Proximity": A View of the Professors' Room Referred to in Dr. Veblen's Address.


The Princeton Mathematics Community in the 1930s