By Thomas F. Schwartz
Another of Lou Henry Hoover’s undeveloped musings addresses the problem of people who only mine the past for practical applications in the present. A deeper understanding of the context that gave rise to the knowledge and its broader implications seems unimportant to a majority of people. In an undated fragment, Lou writes:
Lou’s selection of Millikan, Einstein, and Curie are not random. Marie Curie’s isolating radioactive isotopes and Millikan and Einstein’s work in proving light is not a wave but a particle contributed greatly to modern science. Millikan, Einstein, and Curie also served on the League of Nations’ Committee on Intellectual Cooperation. Advances in knowledge too often are taken for granted and seen as the unfolding of “progress.” But progress is not always forward moving or uplifting. Knowledge stripped of its historical context can be used for practical purposes. It is context, however, that provides information and empathy with the past. Context provides intangible historical knowledge such as human motivation, cultural and environmental influences, etc. that enriches the senses and provides a connective thread through time and space. History neither repeats itself or rhymes, but provides understanding of why something occurred at a certain time and place. History is something to be studied, not forgotten.