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Massey, Walter E. 1938–

Walter E. Massey 1938

Physicist, educator, researcher, administrator

Demonstrated Gift for Math and Physics

Supported Minority Students

Advocated for Science Education

Sources

In 1954 Walter E. Massey had just completed the tenth grade. Although he had yet to take a single course in chemistry or advanced algebra or trigonometry, his precocious skills in mathematics earned him an immediate scholarship to college at the age of 16. Two weeks after arriving on the campus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, Massey called his mother and pleaded with her to take him home; she refused.

He continued his schooling, persevered, and, guided by the wisdom and understanding of faculty mentors, achieved levels of success largely unimagined during his initial unfocused days as a college freshman: a doctorate in physics; full professorships at Brown University and the University of Chicago; directorship of Argonne National Laboratory, one of the nations largest energy research and development laboratories; leadership positions in many professional scientific organizations; government administrative positions, including a seat on the U.S. Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the directorship of the National Science Foundation, both under President George Bush; appointment to the number two administrative post within the University of California system; and presidency of his alma mater in 1995, among other achievements.

In choosing theoretical physics as his academic specialty, Massey pursued a somewhat solitary discipline. Throughout his distinguished career, however, he has been anything but cloistered, working instead to open the world of science to others. As an educator, a scientist, and an administrator, Massey has advocated the need for academic mentors to help draw in and then support studentsespecially minorities and womenin pursuing a career in science and engineering. He has also pushed for a closer link between educational institutions and industry that would allow for the safe and speedy incorporation of technological advances into everyday life, as well as for a more pervasive and intensive science education in American schools that would raise individual literacy and enhance the countrys economic competitiveness.

Demonstrated Gift for Math and Physics

Born in 1938 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Massey displayed as a child an unusual aptitude for mathematics. He recalled to Tim Beardsley in Scientific American, There was just something about sitting down and working through problems. His felicity with numbers earned him, in the middle of high school, a Ford Foundation fellowship to Morehouse College in Atlanta. He began studying theoretical physics because it gave him the chance to rise above the discrimination he had witnessed as a youth growing up in the segregated South of the 1940s and 1950s. So much depends on what people think of you, he related to Irwin Goodwin in Physics Today. In theoretical physics, no one reading your papers would know if you were black or white. Theres no such thing as black physics.

Mentors played an important role in Masseys academic life. Initially at Morehouse, he lacked direction and may well have floundered had he not been guided

At a Glance

Born Walter Eugene Massey on April 5, 1938, in Hatttesburg, MS; son of Almar (a steelworker) and Essie (a teacher; maiden name, Nelson) Massey; married Shirley Anne Streeter, 1969; children: Keith, Eric, Education: Morehouse College, BS, 1958; Washington University, St. Louis, PhD, physics, 1966.

Career: Argonne National Laboratory, Chicago, post-doctoral fellow, 1966-68, staff physicist, 1968-70, director, 1979-84; University of Illinois, assistant professor, 1968-70; Brown University, Providence, Rl, associate professor, 1970-75, professor and dean of the undergraduate college, 1975-79, developer and director of Inner City Teachers of Science program; University of Chicago, professor, 1979-91, vice-president for research, 1983-84; University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, vice-president for research, 1984-91; National Science Foundation, director, 1991-93; University of California, provost and vice-president for academic affairs, 1993-95; Morehouse College, president, 1995-. Member of Illinois Governors Science Advisory Committee, ARCH formulation group, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology during the administrations of George Bush and George W. Bush.

Memberships: National Science Board, American Association for the Advancement of Science (former president), Sigma Xi.

Awards: National Science Foundation fellowship, 1961; American Council on Education fellowship, 1974; distinguished service citation, American Association of Physics Teachers, 1975; numerous honorary degrees.

Addresses: Office Morehouse College, 830 West-view Drive, S.W., Atlanta, GA 30314.

by Sabinus H. Christensen, a white physics instructor teaching at the traditionally black college. Christensens tutorials and inspiration helped Massey earn a bachelors degree in physics and mathematics. Later, in graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, Massey studied under Eugene Feenberg. Though tempted to quit the rigors of pursuing a doctoral degree, Massey found the courage, through Feenberg, to continue. If he had not taken extraordinary care, Massey explained to Beardsley, I would have quit. I was just lucky. That kind of effort he put forth is not common.

While finishing his doctoral studies, Massey began working in 1966 as a member of the research staff at Argonne National Laboratory, operated for the U.S. Department of Energy by a consortium of universities and then by the University of Chicago. While there, he focused on the study of the many-body theory of liquids and solids, which attempts to explain the properties of systems of interacting particles in various states. He also continued his own research, applying correlated basic functions to both liquid and solid helium. Two years later, his doctorate completed and his work at the laboratory continuing, Massey accepted an assistant professorship at the University of Illinois.

In 1970 Massey was offered an associate professorship at Brown University, where, according to Goodwin, he completed his most significant academic research, collaborating with Humphrey Maris on the study of changes in sound waves in superfluid helium. (Superfluid helium, which is liquid helium at temperatures below-271 degrees C, is known for displaying unusual behavior such as the apparent defiance of the forces of gravity.) By 1975 Massey was a full professor at Brown.

The life of the mind, Beardsley emphasized, did not weaken Masseys commitment to social issues. He neither forgot nor ignored the social injustices that led him, in part, to study theoretical physics. Massey admitted that he took the University of Illinois post because he had been out of the mainstream during the height of campus protests at the end of the 1960s. On his first night on campus, Massey helped win the release of 264 jailed black students who had protested racial discrimination at the university.

Supported Minority Students

But Masseys greater concern for black students thenas well as nowwas their lack of education in mathematics and the sciences. At Illinois, he recruited minority students but found he had to tutor and counsel many. At Brown, he discovered the same discouraging condition. Remembering his own weak academic beginnings, Massey recounted to Norman M. Bradburn and David Rosen in Science: At critical points in my life and in my academic career, mentors [gave] me the confidence and support without which it would have been impossible to carry on. He added, Unfortunately, not everyone is so fortunate. Minority students, who perhaps need that support more than most other students, often find it unavailable.

While at Brown, Massey developed and directed the Inner City Teachers of Science program (ICTOS) through which undergraduates studying to become science teachers served as mentors and tutors in urban high school science classes. The achievement of this program earned Massey the distinguished service citation of the American Association of Physics Teachers in 1975.

Masseys administrative abilities, highlighted by his work with ICTOS and as dean of Browns undergraduate college, were heralded in 1979 with the offer of the directorship of Argonne National Laboratory and a concurrent position as full professor at the University of Chicago. As a scientist youre trained so early to look for things that excite you personally, and a lot of that is intellectual excitement, Massey explained to Lynn Norment in Ebony. There becomes almost a need to be involved in problem solving, and it carries on through life.

His eagerness and ability to tackle problems could not have been put to better use at a better time. When Massey began directing Argonne, he assumed control of an annual budget of more than $250 million and a staff of almost four thousand. But he also assumed control of a nebulous public relations image. National laboratories at the time were highly suspect: their work was not being translated to industry. To the outside world, the laboratories lacked clear missions; on the inside, scientists and technicians lacked morale. D. Allen Bromley, President Bushs assistant for science and technology, explained in Physics Today one of the key methods Massey used to turn Argonne around in the early 1980s: He introduced what can only be called participatory democracy, and in turn the scientists responded with a dazzling array of ideas for the labs research efforts. Massey then responded to the lack of outside connections by helping formulate the Argonne National Laboratory-University of Chicago Development Corporation (ARCH), an organization that expedited the transfer of technologies created in the laboratory to industry and the marketplace.

While at Argonne and the University of Chicago, Massey also sought to improve the level of scientific education and awareness through the civic arena. In 1982 he headed the Chicago Mayoral Task Force on High-Technology Development and was the founding chair of the Chicago High-Tech Association. He also served on the Illinois Governors Commission on Science and Technology and was highly visible on two educational fronts, helping to organize the Illinois Science and Mathematics Academy, a high school developed for talented students, and serving as a trustee for the Academy for Mathematics and Science Teachers, which trained almost 17,000 Chicago public school teachers in those fields.

Advocated for Science Education

Masseys influence extended far beyond the Chicago area. From 1978 to 1984 he was a member of the National Science Board, the policy-making body of the National Science Foundation, the governmental agency that funds basic science research, excluding medical and military research. In 1989 he became president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an organization that lists over 140,000 members and 285 scientific societies. It was in this latter position that Masseythe first African American ever to hold that postwas able to fully highlight the problems of science education on a national level. We need to be concerned not only about attracting and retaining more students in areas of science and technology but also about the quality of education being received by all students, Massey stated in his presidential address to the AAAS, excerpted in Science. If we look at the comparative performance of American students relative to that of their peers in other countries, we see that a great deal needs to be done.

Part of the AAASs plan under Massey to improve science education in grades kindergarten through 12 was the sponsorship of Project 2061 (named after the projected date of the return of Halleys Comet), which attempts to structure curricula to emphasize major scientific concepts. Unlike many of the programs, which were primarily about finding gifted students for the sciences, this one has a different focus, Massey explained to Ebony s Douglas C. Lyons. Its focus is to raise the science literacy level of all Americans. By doing so, Massey hoped to combat not only the United States loss of economic competitiveness in the world market that began in the mid-1980s, but also to fight the health and environmental crises that affect the entire world.

Massey lamented in his address to the AAAS that, historically, the United States has put a national emphasis on science and technology only in times of war. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the energy crisis, the trade and budget deficits, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS], and the greenhouse effect [became] profoundly serious and deeply troubling issues with long-lasting consequences, but not one has provided the coalescing influence concerning courses of action that wars provide, he pointed out.

Massey was allowed the opportunity to forge a productive relationship between the science community and the U.S. government when President Bush nominated him in 1990 to become the new director of the National Science Foundation. When the nomination was announced, William Golden, then treasurer of the AAAS, typified the reaction of the scientific community. As quoted by Jon Van in the Chicago Tribune, Golden deemed the selection brilliant, and added that Massey can really make a case for funding scientific research and for the need to educate and train more young scientists and engineers. Hell also serve as an excellent role model for young people.

At the time of his selection, Massey was in Europe, studying how university and government laboratories were transferring technology to the marketplace in preparation for the possible reunification of the European Community in the early 1990s. After assuming control of the National Science Foundation, Massey told Curt Suplee of the Washington Post that developing connections between academia and industry would be a major part of the mission of the foundation, in view of world changes: As Europe becomes more and more of an integrated community, they may find that they may not need us as much as they did in the past.

Completing the mission of the National Science Foundation, Massey believed, would be a strong movement toward science educationproviding grants to university research centers and individuals and upgrading pre-college science education, with an emphasis on attracting more women and minority groups to careers in science. The idea of what scientists are doing is just either very uninformed or, worse, very ill-formed, he told Lyons. You certainly dont think of it as being fun, but most youngsters dont realize what a broad set of possibilities exists as a result of pursuing the study of science.

In the spring of 1993, when his tenure at the National Science Foundation was completed, Massey entered another new phase of his career, becoming provost and vice-president for academic affairs at the University of California system. Massey held the number two administrative office in the university system, overseeing academic concerns at all of its nine campuses until 1995 when he assumed the presidency of his alma mater, Morehouse College. As president of Morehouse Massey created a vision that would take the university into the new century. Massey also continued to serve on advisory boards, including those of Motorola, Bank of America, McDonalds Corporation, the Mellon Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund and President George W. Bushs Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Sources

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1990.

Ebony, November 1979; August 1989; August 1991.

New York Times, September 15, 1990; June 4, 1991; January 28, 1998; June 5, 2000.

Physics Today, October 1990.

Science, December 18, 1987; September 1, 1989.

Scientific American, June 1992.

Vital Speeches of the Day, May 1, 1997.

Washington Post, September 15, 1990; April 1, 1991.

Tom and Sara Pendergast

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Massey, Walter E. 1938–

Walter E. Massey 1938

Physicist, educator, researcher, administrator

At a Glance

Intellectual and Social Awareness Interact

Scientist Turned Administrator

First African American President of the AAAS

Became Director of National Science Foundation

Sources

In 1954 Walter E. Massey had just completed the tenth grade. Although he had yet to take a single course in chemistry or advanced algebra or trigonometry, his precocious skills in mathematics earned him an immediate scholarship to college at the age of 16. Two weeks after arriving on the campus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, Massey called his mother and pleaded with her to take him home; she refused.

He continued his schooling, persevered, and, guided by the wisdom and understanding of faculty mentors, achieved levels of success largely unimagined during his initial unfocused days as a college freshman: a doctorate in physics; full professorships at Brown University and the University of Chicago; directorship of Argonne National Laboratory, one of the nations largest energy research and development laboratories; leadership positions in many professional scientific organizations; government administrative positions, including a seat on the U.S. Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the directorship of the National Science Foundation, both under President George Bush; and appointment to the number two administrative post within the University of California system.

In choosing theoretical physics as his academic specialty, Massey pursued a somewhat solitary discipline. Throughout his distinguished career, however, he has been anything but cloistered, working instead to open the world of science to others. As an educator, a scientist, and an administrator, Massey has advocated the need for academic mentors to help draw in and then support studentsespecially minorities and womenin pursuing a career in science and engineering. He has also pushed for a closer link between educational institutions and industry that would allow for the safe and speedy incorporation of technological advances into everyday life, as well as for a more pervasive and intensive science education in American schools that would raise individual literacy and enhance the countrys economic competitiveness.

Born in 1938 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Massey displayed as a child an unusual aptitude for mathematics. He recalled to Tim Beardsley in Scientific American, There was just something about sitting down and working through problems. His felicity with numbers earned him, in the middle of high school, a Ford Foundation fellowship to Morehouse College in Atlanta. He began studying theoretical physics because it gave him the chance to rise above the discrimination he had witnessed as a youth growing up in the segregated

At a Glance

Born Walter Eugene Massey, April 5, 1938, in Hattiesburg, MS; son of Almar (a steelworker) and Essie (a teacher; maiden name, Nelson) Massey; married Shirley Anne Streeter, October 29, 1969; children: Keith, Eric. Education: Morehouse College, B.S., 1958; Washington University (St. Louis), Ph.D., 1966.

Argonne National Laboratory, Chicago, postdoctoral fellow, 1966-68, staff physicist, 1968-70, director, 1979-84; University of Illinois, assistant professor, 1968-70; Brown University, Providence, RI, associate professor, 1970-75, professor and dean of the undergraduate college, 1975-79, developer and director of Inner City Teachers of Science program; University of Chicago, professor, 1979-91, vice-president for research, 1983-84; University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, vice-president for research, 1984-91; National Science Foundation, director, 1991-93; University of California, provost and vice-president for academic affairs, 1993. Member of Illinois Governors Science Advisory Committee, ARCH formulation group, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology during the Bush administration.

Member: National Science Board, American Association for the Advancement of Science (former president), Sigma Xi.

Awards: National Science Foundation fellowship, 1961; American Council on Education fellowship, 1974; distinguished service citation, American Association of Physics Teachers, 1975; ten honorary degrees.

Addresses: Office University of California, 300 Lakeside Dr., Oakland, CA 94612.

South of the 1940s and 1950s. So much depends on what people think of you, he related to Irwin Goodwin in Physics Today. In theoretical physics, no one reading your papers would know if you were black or white. Theres no such thing as black physics.

Mentors played an important role in Masseys academic life. Initially at Morehouse, he lacked direction and may well have foundered had he not been guided by Sabinus H. Christensen, a white physics instructor teaching at the traditionally black college. Christensens tutorials and inspiration helped Massey earn a bachelors degree in physics and mathematics. Later, in graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, Massey studied under Eugene Feenberg. Though tempted to quit the rigors of pursuing a doctoral degree, Massey found the courage, through Feenberg, to continue. If he had not taken extraordinary care, Massey explained to Beardsley, I would have quit. I was just lucky. That kind of effort he put forth is not common.

While finishing his doctoral studies, Massey began working in 1966 as a member of the research staff at Argonne National Laboratory, operated for the U.S. Department of Energy by a consortium of universities and then by the University of Chicago. While there, he focused on the study of the many-body theory of liquids and solids, which attempts to explain the properties of systems of interacting particles in various states. He also continued his own research, applying correlated basic functions to both liquid and solid helium. Two years later, his doctorate completed and his work at the laboratory continuing, Massey accepted an assistant professorship at the University of Illinois.

In 1970 Massey was offered an associate professorship at Brown University, where, according to Goodwin, he completed his most significant academic research, collaborating with Humphrey Maris on the study of changes in sound waves in superfluid helium. (Superfluid helium, which is liquid helium at temperatures below -271°C, is known for displaying unusual behavior such as the apparent defiance of the forces of gravity.) By 1975 Massey was a full professor at Brown.

Intellectual and Social Awareness Interact

The life of the mind, Beardsley emphasized, did not weaken Masseys commitment to social issues. He neither forgot nor ignored the social injustices that led him, in part, to study theoretical physics. Massey admitted that he took the University of Illinois post because he had been out of the mainstream during the height of campus protests at the end of the 1960s. On his first night on campus, Massey helped win the release of 264 jailed black students who had protested racial discrimination at the university.

But Masseys greater concern for black students thenas well as nowwas their lack of education in mathematics and the sciences. At Illinois, he recruited minority students but found he had to tutor and counsel many. At Brown, he discovered the same discouraging condition. Remembering his own weak academic beginnings, Massey recounted to Norman M. Bradburn and David Rosen in Science: At critical points in my life and in my academic career, mentors [gave] me the confidence and support without which it would have been impossible to carry on. He added, Unfortunately, not everyone is so fortunate. Minority students, who perhaps need that support more than most other students, often find it unavailable.

While at Brown, Massey developed and directed the Inner City Teachers of Science program (ICTOS), through which undergraduates studying to become science teachers served as mentors and tutors in urban high school science classes. The achievement of this program earned Massey the distinguished service citation of the American Association of Physics Teachers in 1975.

Scientist Turned Administrator

Masseys administrative abilities, highlighted by his work with ICTOS and as dean of Browns undergraduate college, were heralded in 1979 with the offer of the directorship of Argonne National Laboratory and a concurrent position as full professor at the University of Chicago. As a scientist youre trained so early to look for things that excite you personally, and a lot of that is intellectual excitement, Massey explained to Lynn Norment in Ebony. There becomes almost a need to be involved in problem solving, and it carries on through life.

His eagerness and ability to tackle problems could not have been put to better use at a better time. When Massey began directing Argonne, he assumed control of an annual budget of more than $250 million and a staff of almost four thousand. But he also assumed control of a nebulous public relations image. National laboratories at the time were highly suspect: their work was not being translated to industry. To the outside world, the laboratories lacked clear missions; on the inside, scientists and technicians lacked morale. D. Allen Bromley, President Bushs assistant for science and technology, explained in Physics Today one of the key methods Massey used to turn Argonne around in the early 1980s: He introduced what can only be called participatory democracy, and in turn the scientists responded with a dazzling array of ideas for the labs research efforts. Massey then responded to the lack of outside connections by helping formulate the Argonne National Laboratory-University of Chicago Development Corporation (ARCH), an organization that expedited the transfer of technologies created in the laboratory to industry and the marketplace.

While at Argonne and the University of Chicago, Massey also sought to improve the level of scientific education and awareness through the civic arena. In 1982 he headed the Chicago Mayoral Task Force on High-Technology Development and was the founding chair of the Chicago High-Tech Association. He also served on the Illinois Governors Commission on Science and Technology and was highly visible on two educational fronts, helping to organize the Illinois Science and Mathematics Academy, a high school developed for talented students, and serving as a trustee for the Academy for Mathematics and Science Teachers, which trained almost 17,000 Chicago public school teachers in those fields.

First African American President of the AAAS

Masseys influence extended far beyond the Chicago area. From 1978 to 1984 he was a member of the National Science Board, the policy-making body of the National Science Foundation, the governmental agency that funds basic science research, excluding medical and military research. In 1989 he became president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an organization that lists over 140,000 members and 285 scientific societies. It was in this latter position that Masseythe first African American ever to hold that postwas able to fully highlight the problems of science education on a national level. We need to be concerned not only about attracting and retaining more students in areas of science and technology but also about the quality of education being received by all students, Massey stated in his presidential address to the AAAS, excerpted in Science. If we look at the comparative performance of American students relative to that of their peers in other countries, we see that a great deal needs to be done.

Part of the AAASs plan under Massey to improve science education in grades kindergarten through 12 was the sponsorship of Project 2061 (named after the projected date of the return of Halleys Comet), which attempts to structure curricula to emphasize major scientific concepts. Unlike many of the programs, which were primarily about finding gifted students for the sciences, this one has a different focus, Massey explained to Ebony s Douglas C. Lyons. Its focus is to raise the science literacy level of all Americans. By doing so, Massey hoped to combat not only the United States loss of economic competitiveness in the world market that began in the mid-1980s, but also to fight the health and environmental crises that affect the entire world.

Massey lamented in his address to the AAAS that, historically, the United States has put a national emphasis on science and technology only in times of war. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the energy crisis, the trade and budget deficits, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS], and the greenhouse effect [became] profoundly serious and deeply troubling issues with long-lasting consequences, but not one has provided the coalescing influence concerning courses of action that wars provide, he pointed out.

Became Director of National Science Foundation

Massey was allowed the opportunity to forge a productive relationship between the science community and the U.S. government when President Bush nominated him in 1990 to become the new director of the National Science Foundation. When the nomination was announced, William Golden, then treasurer of the AAAS, typified the reaction of the scientific community. As quoted by Jon Van in the Chicago Tribune, Golden deemed the selection brilliant, and added that Massey can really make a case for funding scientific research and for the need to educate and train more young scientists and engineers. Hell also serve as an excellent role model for young people.

At the time of his selection, Massey was in Europe, studying how university and government laboratories were transferring technology to the marketplace in preparation for the possible reunification of the European Community in the early 1990s. After assuming control of the National Science Foundation, Massey told Curt Suplee of the Washington Post that developing connections between academia and industry would be a major part of the mission of the foundation, in view of world changes: As Europe becomes more and more of an integrated community, they may find that they may not need us as much as they did in the past.

Completing the mission of the National Science Foundation, Massey believed, would be a strong movement toward science educationproviding grants to university research centers and individuals and upgrading pre-college science education, with an emphasis on attracting more women and minority groups to careers in science. The idea of what scientists are doing is just either very uninformed or, worse, very ill-formed, he told Lyons. You certainly dont think of it as being fun, but most youngsters dont realize what a broad set of possibilities exists as a result of pursuing the study of science.

In the spring of 1993, when his tenure at the National Science Foundation was completed, Massey entered another new phase of his career, becoming provost and vice-president for academic affairs at the University of California system. Massey holds the number two administrative office in the university system, overseeing academic concerns at all of its nine campuses.

Sources

Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1990.

Ebony, November 1979; August 1989; August 1991.

New York Times, September 15, 1990; June 4, 1991.

Physics Today, October 1990.

Science, December 18, 1987; September 1, 1989.

Scientific American, June 1992.

Washington Post, September 15, 1990; April 1, 1991.

Rob Nagel

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  • Chicago
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"Massey, Walter E. 1938–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Massey, Walter E. 1938–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/massey-walter-e-1938

"Massey, Walter E. 1938–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/massey-walter-e-1938