Harvard Science Center Film Collection, ca. 1933-1998 : GuideHarvard Film Archive, Fine Arts Library, Harvard College Library
Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138 USA
© 2011 President and Fellows of Harvard College
Repository: Harvard Film Archive, Fine Arts Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
Call No.: hfa00014
Title: Harvard Science Center Film Collection, ca. 1933-1998 : Guide.
Quantity: 61 16mm film prints
Language of materials: Material is in English.
Abstract: In addition to texts, motion picture films play an integral role in communicating
information and explaining complex ideas. For this reason films were often used in
classrooms to supplement traditional course material. This 16mm film collection from
the Harvard Science Center features educational science films from 1933 to 1998 focusing
on a variety of scientific subject matter including physics, chemistry, biology and
astronomy. The intended audiences for most of these films were high school students,
though some were produced for military training or general audiences.
Arranged & encoded by: Desiree Alexander, August 2011
Access by appointment only.
Applications to consult this material should be directed to the staff of the Harvard Film Archive
Film prints are made accessible by appointment only and in close consultation with
HFA staff. Although films do not circulate for individual use, students, filmmakers,
artists, and researchers are encouraged to use the collections on-site. If their
condition allows, prints from the HFA collection may be viewed on a flatbed viewer
at the HFA’s Conservation Center.
Reproduction and/or publication of
materials subject to copyright requires written permission from a) the copyright owner,
his/her heirs or assigns and from b) the Fine Arts Library, owner of the original
Harvard Science Center Film Collection, ca. 1933-1998. Harvard Film Archive, Fine
Arts Library, Harvard University.
This collection was donated by the Harvard Science Center Media Services Department
Films are listed chronologically by year of release, reasoning that the collection
would be searched according to the landmarks of scientific advancements, with the
films giving evidence of the time in which they were created. Filmographic information,
including year of release, director, and description, are included when available.
The Harvard Science Center Collection contains 16mm films used by the center for educational
The following categories describe the types of films found in the collection: (some
films fall into more than one category)
- Physics: films which deal with the science of matter, energy, motion, and force.
Some of these films were produced by Harvard's Project Physics (later renamed the
Project Physics Course). Active from 1962 to 1972, the group, directed by Gerald Holton (Harvard University), Fletcher G. Watson (Harvard Graduate School of Education), and F. James Rutherford (New York University), created a physics curriculum for high school students. "The
course was developed in response to a National Science Foundation call for improved
physics curricula following the USSR's success in the Sputnik mission. In addition
to a textbook, the Project Physics catalog offered films and laboratory and calculating
equipment, including inexpensive plastic slide charts." (harvard.edu)
- Astronomy: These films include instructional films on celestial navigation, documentary
films concerning space programs such as the flight of Apollo 11, and educational films
detailing the nature of elliptical orbits, and the composition of the universe.
- Chemistry: These films illustrate the composition and properties of substances and
various elementary forms of matter.
- Biology: The miracle of life best represents this category with its focus on human conception, gestation and birth.
- Mathematics: These films relate to abstract relationships between figures and forms.
Most notably, Flatlands is an animated experimental film which expresses geometric concepts and spatial relations.
- Instructional: These films describe and illustrate concepts, as well as provide explanations
to put them into practice. Most notably the collection contains films on speed reading
and how to use the stars to navigate.
- The solar family. Walter Bartky, Ph.D.,
Erpi Classroom Films Inc., Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, 1936.
Educational science film that presents an introductory study of the planets--their
evolution, motions, sizes, and satellites. Describes, through animated drawings, the
evolution of the solar system according to planetesimal hypothesis, and traces the
real and apparent motions of the planets. Reveals special phenomena pertaining to
certain planets, and describes the planetoids, Halley's comet, and the movement of
the solar system in space (worldcat.org).
- 1 can of 1 (381 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24637
- Electrodynamics. Harvey B. Lemon,
Erpi Classroom Films Inc., 1936.
Educational science film which illustrates that moving electric charges create a magnetic
field and that moving magnets create an electric current. Explains Galvani's discovery
of electric current, magnetic properties of a current-carrying wire and of an electric
coil. Describes Rowland's experiment, recalescence, and electromagnetic induction
as it functions in generators and transformers. Includes animation (WorldCat.org).
- 1 can of 1 (376 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24692
Erpi Classroom Films Inc., Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, 1938.
Educational science film that explains how heat engines function by developing the
concepts that molecular action is affected by heat, that heat is energy, and that
heat energy can do work. Through animated drawings, demonstrates energy transformations
in the steam engine, steam turbine, gasoline engine, and Diesel engine. Describes
the first and second laws of thermodynamics (worldcat.org).
- 1 can of 1 (409 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24277
- The earth. U.S. Navy, Springer Pictures, ca. 1943.
Educational science film explaining the arrangement and meaning of the poles, great
circles, parallels, meridians, longitude, latitude, nautical mile, and departure.
- 1 can of 1 (568 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24615
- Nautical astronomy. U.S. Navy, Springer Pictures, 1943.
Educational science film explaining how the celestial coordinates are placed in relation
to the earth and how declination, zenith point, nadir line, and the June and September
solstices are used in celestial navigation (worldcat.org).
- 1 can of 1 (664 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24607
- Optical craftsmanship: Introduction to optics.
Bray Studios, Inc., United States Navy, 1945.
United States Navy training film. Uses animation and practical examples to illustrate
the principles of light waves and rays, to show how light is refracted and reflected,
and to explain image formation in relation to concave and convex lenses. Studies these
principles as applied to optical instruments (worldcat.org).
- 1 can of 1 (607 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24639
- Reading films. William G. Perry, Jr., Charles P. Whitlock,
Harvard University, 1948.
A short introduction to an instructional film for the purposes of speed reading.
This is likely the first part to a series, Harvard University Reading Course, of which this is the only portion included in this collection.
- Simple harmonic motion. McGraw-Hill Text-Films, 1953.
Educational science film which illustrates the different means of exerting a force
upon a given body. Introduces Hooke’s law, explains the motion associated with the
circle diagram, emphasizes the relationship between the simple harmonic acceleration
and Hooke’s law, and concludes with a brief consideration of the geometry involved.
- 1 can of 1 (376 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24276
- Brownian motion. M.I.T., approx. 1955-1975.
Possibly a workprint depicting Brownian motion -- "(named after the botanist Robert
Brown) or pedesis (from Greek: πήδησις "leaping") is the presumably random drifting
of particles suspended in a fluid (a liquid or a gas) or the mathematical model used
to describe such random movements, which is often called a particle theory (source:
- 1 can of 1 (250 feet): silent, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24596
- The pressure of light. Jerrold R. Zacharias, Professor of Physics, M.I.T., Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, 1958.
Educational science film featuring M.I.T. professor Jerrold R. Zacharias. Zacharias
lectures about the pressure of light, making several experiments including one using
a radiometer pinwheel. Follows the “bullet theory,” demonstrated by young men shooting
cans outside as well as the lecturer shooting inside with a peashooter. Lecturer
refers to film notes that originally accompanied this film.
- 1 can of 1 (745 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24667
- Frames of reference. Stephen White, Richard Leacock, directors, Kevin Smith, producer, Educational Services, Incorporated, 1960.
Educational science film featuring professors Patterson Hume and Donald Ivey. The film demonstrates through a variety of experiments the distinction between
an inertial and non-inertial frame of reference, and the appearance of fictional forces
in a non-inertial frame. Opens on a scene in which what at first appears to be down
is gravitationally up, and a sequence in which it is difficult to identify whether
the foreground or background is in motion. Using slow-motion photography the path
traveled by a ball dropped from a stationary and constant velocity cart is studied
from both fixed.
- 1 can of 1 (985 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24633
- Force, mass, and motion. Frank W. Sinden, director, Bell Laboratories, 1960.
Educational science film and one of the few purely educational computer animated films.
The film illustrates Newton's laws in two dimensions. Orbits are shown of two massive
bodies under central force action for various laws, such as inverse cube and direct
cube, as well as the familiar inverse square law.
- Ripple tank wave phenomena. Quentin Brown, director,
Educational Services, Incorporated, 1961.
Three-part educational science film divided as follows: part 1: Reflection, Refraction,
part 2: Interference & Diffraction;
part 3: Barrier penetration, Bragg reflections, Doppler effect
- 3 cans of 3 (2069 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24204
- A million to one.
Educational Services, Incorporated, 1961.
Educational science film depicting physical properties of gases. A flea pulls a massive
dry ice puck in an entertaining demonstration of the exceedingly small force needed
to accelerate and keep a nearly frictionless body moving. Includes a short excerpt
of Inertia, describing the dry ice puck. (source: upenn.edu) “Trained fleas courtesy
of Professor Roy Heckler Hubert’s Flea Circus”
- 1 can of 1 (182 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24555
- Flatland. Eric Martin, director,
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, 1965.
In 1962 John Hubley came to Harvard University as the first teacher of animation in the new Visual Arts
Center. It was his idea to make a film based on Edwin Abbott’s famous novel about
life in a two-dimensional world. The story is told by the voices of Dudley Moore and other actors belonging to the British theatrical comedy group, "Beyond the Fringe."
Aside from mathematicians and philosophers of science, the film has entertained and
delighted audiences of many kinds since it first appeared.
- 1 can of 1 (407 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24629
- The war game. Peter Watkins, director, producer,
“The War Game is a fictional, worst-case-scenario docu-drama about nuclear war and
its aftermath in and around a typical English city. Although it won an Oscar for Best
Documentary, it is fiction. It was intended as an hour-long program to air on BBC
1, but it was deemed too intense and violent to broadcast. It went to theatrical distribution
as a feature film instead. Low-budget and shot on location, it strives for and achieves
convincing and unflinching realism. Part interviews and quotations, part acting,
this film simulates the aftermath of a large-scale nuclear attack near a rural area
of England. It argues that citizens and Civil Defense authorities are poorly prepared
for this eventuality, and describes possible physical, psychological and social damage
in graphic detail.”
- 1 can of 1 (1666 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24631
- The radio sky. Michael Crosfield, director, Michael Clarke, producer,
Associated Electrical Industries, 1966.
Radio astronomy reveals a picture of the universe beyond optical limits. How radio
telescopes work is illustrated by views of various types in operation, and plotting
and interpretation of radio sources is discussed. F. Graham Smith, Professor of Radio Astronomy at Manchester University narrates.
- 1 can of 1 (1000 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #246761
- People and particles. Barry Ferguson, Michael Butler, directors, Robert Gardner, Gerald Holton, producers,
Project Physics, Inc., 1967.
Cinema verite is used to describe the work of physicists preparing for an experiment
at the Cambridge Electron Accelerator. Focuses on the life and labor of participants
as they design, construct, and assemble equipment for experiments in high-energy physics.
According to Gerald Holton who worked on Harvard’s Project Physics: “in ‘People and
Particles,’ I wanted to show how an experiment is done by a team making an experimental
test of Quantum Electrodynamics, starting from their first meeting to the final results.
(That documentary was entered by the State Department at various foreign film festivals,
and it won, among its awards, first prize at a Science Fiction Festival)
- 1 can of 1 (968 feet): mono, b&w: 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24600
- [On strike]. c. 1969.
Narrated documentary concerning the 1968-1969 protests at San Francisco State College.
SFSU was a “focus for national attention as the campus erupted in turmoil. Initially
students threatened to strike to stop the College's cooperation with the draft but
discontent broadened to embrace the concerns of minority students and the eventual
strike is often referred to as the Third World strike (adapted from SFSU.edu).”
This film focuses on the efforts of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR)
which trained students to provide basic medical attention to those injured in the
protests. Though considered a neutral party, doctors and medics were also victims
in the fray.
- 1 can of 1 (492 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24701
- Reaction dynamics. Dept. of Chemistry, University of Toronto, Canada, 1970.
Educational science film dealing mainly with the collision of atoms and diatomic molecules.
It is composed of a number of specimen trajectories, plotted by computer, of which
the possible consequences are discussed in terms of the potential-energy profiles
along the reaction-coordinate. Chemical reaction occurs as the outcome of certain
types of molecular collision. (from British Universities Film & Video Council)
- The world of Enrico Fermi. Gordon Burwash, John Kemeny, producers, Project Physics, Inc., 1970.
The World of Enrico Fermi features rare views of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi and his work as he moves from Rome to Chicago to Los Alamos, and as he interacts
with such great 20th century scientists as Niels Bohr, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, and Robert Oppenheimer in making fundamental contributions to both theoretical and applied physics. People
and Particles follows a group of Harvard University professors and graduate students for more than two years as they design an experiment,
construct the needed apparatus, and begin taking data.
- 1 can of 1 (1657 feet): mono, b&w; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24587
- Continents adrift: a study of the scientific method. Lewis Hall, director, American Educational Films, 1971.
Educational science film exploring the use of the scientific method to develop a working
hypothesis from a theoretical model. Through animation and live action, the film examines
paleomagnetism, sea-floor spreading, magnetism in rock and the drifting magnetic poles
to illustrate continental drift.
- 1 can of 1 (545 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24618
- The Crab nebula. Richard L. Berman, producer, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1972.
Educational science film describing contemporary theories on the origin of the Crab
Nebula, first observed on Earth in the year 1054. Explores the characteristics of
its radiation and the scientific supposition that its core contains a neutron star,
or pulsar. Narrated by Paul Vaughn
- 1 can of 1 (2090 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24590
- Collision dynamics of chemical reactions. Alec Nisbitt, director, Time-Life Films, 1972.
Educational science film using computer animation to simulate molecular interaction,
and other animation to explain resultant scattering angles impact parameters, potential
energy surfaces and wave barriers. (from BFI.org/uk)
- 1 can of 1 (662 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24663
- The motions of stars. Houghton Mifflin, 1973.
A computer-generated film illustrating the proper motion of stars in various sky regions
by simulating the observed motion with a time rate of 7200 years per second. The parallactic
motion of Aldebaran and Vega is shown with high magnification at time rate of 5 years
per second. Film devised by Dr. M. L. Meeks, haystack Observatory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and produced in 1973.
Intended for first-year undergraduates.
- 1 can of 1 (307 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24203
- The ascent of man: the music of the spheres. Adrian Malone, director and producer, Dick Gilling, producer, BBC Television, Time Life Films, 1973.
This is part five of a history of the cultural evolution of man, from primitive times
to the present, presented by the late Dr. Jacob Bronowski. It concerns the evolution of mathematics, tracing the spread of Greek theories through
Islam to Moorish Spain and from there to Renaissance Europe. The program discusses
the relationship of mathematics to musical harmony, to perspective in painting and
to early astronomy. It then shows that mathematics is also at the centre of the living
process and, using a computer, Dr. Bronowski demonstrates the assembly of the DNA
molecule following the geometry of nature.
- 1 can of 1 (1858 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24592
part 5 of 13-part series
- The ascent of man: the majestic clockwork. Dick Gilling, director and producer, Adrian Malone, producer, BBC Television, Time Life Films, 1973.
This is part seven of a history of the cultural evolution of man, from primitive times
to the present, presented by the late Dr. Jacob Bronowski. This program concentrates on two intellectual giants, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein,
who brought about a totally new concept of the universe. It traces Newton's life and
work, re-creating some of his experiments in his rooms at Trinity College, and then
shows how his clockwork universe of mass, space and time was challenged by Einstein's
theory of relativity. Following Einstein's journey on a tram through the streets of
Bern, it asks the question that occurred to him: "What would the world look like if
I rode on a beam of light?"
- 1 can of 1 (1864 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24598
part 7 of 13-part series
- The ascent of man: knowledge of certainty. Mick Jackson, director, Adrian Malone, Dick Gilling, producers, BBC Television, Time Life Films, 1973.
This film, based on the chapter "Knowledge or Certainty" from Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man, artfully raises questions about the search for absolute knowledge. It introduces
the development of the Heisenberg principle of uncertainty and describes the collision
of thought that happened in Nazi Germany as some scientists measured skulls in an
effort to create a race science, while other scientists proposed the principle of
tolerance. "When the future looks back on the 1930's it will think of them as a crucial
confrontation of culture...the ascent of man, against the throwback to the despots'
belief that they have absolute certainty(from www.facinghistory.org)."
- The ascent of man: generation upon generation. Dick Gilling, director and producer, Adrian Malone, producer, BBC Television, Time Life Films, 1973.
This is part twelve of a history of the cultural evolution of man, from primitive
times to the present, presented by the late Dr. Jacob Bronowski. This program deals with the revolution that mathematics and physics brought to biology.
It begins with Mendel's deduction of the mathematical laws of heredity from his experiments
in plant breeding, and is followed by Watson and Crick's unraveling of the code of
heredity in the DNA spiral, which has made genetic engineering possible. The selection
of a mate, according to Bronowski, is the cultural invention that makes every human
being different from every other, and diversity, he says, is the breath of life.
- The motions of attracting bodies. Houghton Mifflin, 1974.
Explorations in Space and Time Series. Educational science film designed to help the
student develop an intuitive feel for the full range of possible orbits of gravitationally
attracting bodies by showing the motion, bound and unbound, under various initial
conditions. Computer generated film.
- 1 can of 1 (245 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24202
- Joseph Fraunhofer: dispersion. Alfred Leitner, director, Rensselear Polytechnic Institute 1975.
Educational science film which describes the historic contributions to optics, specifically
dispersion, by Joseph Fraunhofer (1787-1826). Alfred Leitner (assisted by George Mavko) replicates some of Fraunhofer’s optical experiments. Fraunhofer is known for the
discovery of the dark absorption lines known as Fraunhofer lines in the Sun's spectrum,
and for making excellent optical glass and achromatic telescope objectives.
- 1 can of 1 (500 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24628
- Spaceborne. Philip Dauber, director, 1977.
Educational science film, "Spaceborne is as simple as it is effective: film footage
shot by NASA astronauts over the course of the space program (before 1977) is edited
together, with only music and the odd telecom for accompaniment(IMDB.com)."
- 1 can of 1: mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24205
- Powers of ten. Charles Eames, Ray Eames, directors, Pyramid Films, 1978.
Educational science film. As described on canister: “An entirely new version of this
Eames classic, illustrating the relationship between the number ten and the size of
the physical universe; then back again, past the man to the nucleus of a carbon atom.”
- 1 can of 1 (329 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24556
- 1 can of 1 (329 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24558
- 1 can of 1 (299 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24560
- A whisper from space. Peter Jones, producer, BBC, WGBH Boston, Time Life Media, 1978.
While testing the Holmdel Horn Antenna in New Jersey in 1965, a constant background
radiation of 3.5 Kelvin was discovered in every direction the telescope was aimed.
The scientist assumed there was a fault in the equipment, and they went to the extremes
of covering their giant Horn Radio Telescope in foil and removing every trace of bird
droppings from this giant instrument. Still the telescope continued to pickup a background
radiation reading of 3.5K, no matter where the telescope was aimed. This is believed
to be residual radiation from the Big Bang, the creation of the universe itself, some
15 billion years ago. This episode of NOVA traces this discovery and how it may help
confirm Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. (from IMDB)
- 2 cans of 2 (2020 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24632
- The miracle of life. Bo G. Erikson, Carl O. Lofman, directors, Bebe Nixon, producer, Time Life 1982.
This episode of PBS's award-winning science series Nova focuses on the remarkable
process of human reproduction, from conception to birth. Based on the ground breaking
work of Swedish photographer and researcher Lennart Nilsson, The Miracle of Life uses special microscopic photographic techniques to offer an unusual glimpse of a
largely unseen world as a child grows and develops within the mother's body, from
the point that the ovary releases its egg to the birth of a baby nine months later.
The Miracle Of Life was first aired December 15, 1983 (Mark Deming, from New York
- 2 cans of 2 (2050 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24702
- Watcher of the winter sun. Michael Bober, director, 1983.
Educational science film describing the native people, rock art, and winter solstice
site of the La Rumorosa plateau of northern Baja California. Depicts, with lapse-time
views, the illumination of a Kumeyaay rock art site by the winter solstice sunrise
- 1 can of 1 (315 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24319
- 1 can of 1 (315 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24548
- [Preview theater]. 1993/1998.
Two reels of movie trailers and some commercials. Likely made to air on television.
Adams Family Values, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Look Who’s Talking Now,
Elizabeth, A Perfect World, American History X,
The Three Musketeers, Carlito’s Way, A Night at the Roxbury;
Commercials for: Mentos, Edge Gel, Volkswagon, 1-800-Collect.
Canisters read: For training purposes ONLY.
- 2 cans of 2 (640 feet): mono, col.; 16mm triacetate projection print. HFA item #24665
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection
in the library's online public access catalog.
- Baez, Albert V.
- Bronowski, Jacob, 1908-1974
- Brownian motion processes.
- Chemical reactions.
- Copernicus, Nicolaus, 1473-1543
- Crab Nebula
- Delivery (Obstetrics).
- Eames, Charles
- Eames, Ray
- Else, Jon
- Educational films.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, inc.
- Erpi Classroom Films, Inc.
- Fermi, Enrico, 1901-1954
- Flea circuses.
- Films of Charles & Ray Eames.
- Force and energy.
- Gas laws (Physical chemistry).
- Harvard Project Physics
- Harvard University
- Lemon, Harvey Brace, 1885-
- Medical Committee for Human Rights (U.S.)
- Meeks, M. L. (Marion Littleton), 1923-
- Milky Way
- Motion pictures in physics.
- Nuclear physics.
- Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967
- San Francisco State College
- Schlesinger, H. I. (Hermann Irving), 1882-
- Science films.
- Shostak, G. Seth
- Surtsey (Iceland).
- Time-Life Films.
- United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Zacharias, Jerrold Reinach, 1905-1986
Genres and Forms of Materials
- Biographical Films.
- Documentary Films.
- Educational Films.
- Nonfiction Films.
- Science Films.