The Penn State Graduate School was formally established in 1922. Before that time, some 900 students had done graduate work, although not all earned degrees. Graduate School alumni now number some 62,000.
Samuel P. Bayard was one of the first trained folklorists in the country and a founder of Penn State's folklore program. In 1928 he began collecting ballads and instrumental tunes in the hill country of southwestern Pennsylvania. In 1982 he published half of his collection in Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife. Reviewers called it "a gigantic contribution to our collective knowledge."
The Bernreuter Personality Inventory, the 1931 doctoral thesis of Robert Bernreuter, was a pioneer multiphasic test of personality traits. It became the standard by which other personality tests were measured and is still used worldwide for counseling and personnel selection.
In 1931, Ferdinand Brickwedde helped discover deuterium: he prepared the liquid hydrogen samples from which Harold Urey, who won the Nobel Prize in 1934, isolated the deuterium isotope needed to make "heavy water," which is an essential ingredient in basic atomic research. Coming to Penn State shortly afterwards, Brickwedde established new standards for measuring temperatures between 2 and 10 degrees F above absolute zero.
Wheeler P. Davey, in the 1930s and 40s, identified the chemical make-up of solids using the patterns x-rays make when diffracted by a crystal surface. He published his x-ray diffraction data in a card index that was widely used. His successor, Ray Pepinsky, made Penn State's crystallography lab the world center for the collection of data on crystal structure and on relating structure to a solid's chemical and physical properties.
Penngift Crown Vetch was discovered in 1935 by extension agronomist Fred Grau on the farm of Robert Gift near Reading. This long-lived purple-flowered legume, with its dense canopy, extensive root system, and relative immunity to disease, saved Pennsylvania millions of dollars in erosion, mowing, and weed control along thousands of miles of state highways.
Frank Kern, who became the first dean of The Graduate School in 1922, was a world-renowned expert in the gymnosperangium-fungi that attack cedars, conifers, and apples.
Pauline Beery Mack began the Pennsylvania Mass Studies in Human Nutrition in 1935. She received the prestigious Francis P. Garvan Gold Medal from the American Chemical Society in 1950 for her invention of an x-ray device to measure the calcium density of bones in living subjects. By then she had used her invention on over 13,000 Pennsylvanians, as part of the 50 nutrition and health tests in the state supported Mass Studies in Human Nutrition.
Russell Marker, considered one of the fathers of the Pill, synthesized a group of steroid hormones called sapogens and discovered the "Marker degradation" by which one of these steroids can be changed into the pregancy hormone, progesterone, in 1939. In 1943, he discovered a method of preparing progesterone inexpensively from a variety of Mexican yam and left Penn State to found Syntex in Mexico.
Drivers' education began in the U.S. when Penn State industrial engineer Amos Neyhart fitted his own car with dual brake and clutch linkages and began teaching driving to State College High School students in 1933. By 1936, Neyhart was producing manuals and exams for the American Automobile Association.
Pennsylvania 44 wheat, a variety bred at Penn State, has "red grains, white chaff, purple straw, and is bearded," wrote Charles Noll in 1921. That year Pa.44 produced the largest yield of 12 varieties tested. Milling and baking tests of the varieties were performed, in an unusual interdisciplinary trial, by milling engineer Benjamin Dedrick (who at the time was the Penn State professor most active in research, with a several-thousand dollar USDA grant to prevent dust explosions in grain elevators).
Paul Schweitzer, a diesel engineer, headed the diesel engine laboratory from 1923 to the mid-60s. In 1957 he developed the process of injecting a portion of an engine's fuel through the air intake, causing the engine to burn more cleanly. In 1964 he patented an engine optimizer, an electronic device that adjusted engine timing.
Woldemar Weyl, called "one of the modern founders of the science of glass," established in 1944 what may have been the first industry-university cooperative venture in this country with his Glass Science, Inc. His research into the physics of glass culminated in the three-volume, 1600-page Constitution of Glasses , published between 1962 and 67 with his long-time collaborator Evelyn Marboe. The properties of glass, they wrote, are determined not by their chemistry but by the way they have cooled.
Marsh White earned a Penn State Ph.D. in 1926 for a thesis on "The Energy of High Velocity Electrons." A graduate of Park College in Parkville, Mo., White was recruited to Penn State in 1918 with the equivalent of a teaching assistantship - $900 for nine months' teaching at the assistant instructor level. He received his master's degree in 1920; his thesis topic was, "On the Relation Between the Coefficients of Absorption of X-rays and the Velocity of the Parent Cathode Particles." His wife, Stella Steele White, also received her master's degree in 1920; her thesis was on "Opposition to the Civil War in Pennsylvania."
Penn State's petroleum refining laboratory, created in 1929 by chemists Frank Whitmore and Merrill Fenske, developed the high-octane fuels that were essential to aviation during World War II. The first all-weather, high-temperature hydraulic fluid for aircraft also came from the lab, as did the special lubricants - effective from minus 65 degrees to 600 degrees F - for the U-2 jet. Whitmore, who became Dean of the School of Chemistry and Physics in 1929, was first to postulate the existence and importance of the carbonium ion, one of the four basic intermediates of organic reactions.