ONCE PROUD gravity monument, a campus curiosity since
it was placed on the western side of the Physics Building in
1963, now rests in a storage building at the Briarcliff Campus
beside bales of hay, old tires, and concrete saws.
from Etowah Cherokee pink marble, the five-foot high monument
was given to Emory in 1962 by the Gravity Research Foundation
of New Hampshire. The inscription states that the monuments
purpose is to remind students of the blessings forthcoming
when science determines what gravity is, how it works, and how
it may be controlled.
monument was accompanied by a $5,000 grant to Emorys physics
department and soon became a quirky landmark. But two years
ago, when Isamu Noguchis granite sculpture Beginnings
was loaned to the Carlos Museum and installed as part of an
outdoor sculpture program on the Quadrangle, the gravity monumentdeemed
at odds with Noguchis aesthetic themewas moved to
alumni, and students started to miss the pink tombstone
out in front of the old Physics Building (now part of the Callaway
Memorial Center). They began making inquiries about where it
had gone and when it would be returned.
have fond memories of its wackiness, its whimsical, quixotic
nature, says University Secretary Gary S. Hauk. There
were two reasons for the monuments removal: the visual
clash with the Noguchi sculpture and the question whether it
was suitable for a major research university to have something
that frivolous at the heart of its campus.
College founder Roger W. Babson started the Gravity Foundation
in 1948 to stimulate research into the confounding natural law.
Babson, a financial consultant, writer, and philanthropist,
often was ridiculed for his far-out scientific ideas, such as
building gravitational shields under aircraft to protect them
from crashing. (A 1962 plane crash in Paris that killed more
than one hundred Atlantans motivated Babsons gift to Emory.)
Similar monuments were erected at several other colleges.
of Alumni Judson C. Ward Jr., then dean of faculties, was offered
the monument by the foundation and accepted. Im
just amazed that this thing has kept peoples interest
through the years, Ward says.
nearly four decades, the monument was a familiar part of the
Quads landscape. In the fall of 1992, the subject of Emory
Magazines very first Enigmaa space devoted to quirky
or unexplained features of the Universitywas the gravity
monument, one of the most obscure icons on campus.
it was removed, we thought it would be put back there or somewhere
else, says Raymond C. Duvarney, chair of the Physics Department
and of the Campus Development Committee.
Emeritus Robert H. Rohrer Sr. 39C would certainly like
to see the monument returned. In 1999, a marble bench was installed
in his name beside the gravity monument outside the Physics
Building, where Rohrer attended classes as a student and taught
engineering and physics for fifty-five years.
was right there when the gravity monument came to Emory, and
Id be delighted to have it back by my bench, says
Rohrer, who was chair of the physics department in the early
sixties and believes they used the foundations $5,000
gift to purchase lab equipment. We had a lot of fun with
that monument. When we first put it in, the students tied it
down with ropes and stakes so it wouldnt float away.
doesnt believe the monuments mission is outdated
in the least. What gravity is and how it operates is a
well-respected topic in physics these days, he says. Its
the most mysterious force in nature.
physics classes are now held in the dental school, with research
and faculty offices in the Rollins Research Center, they will
soon move to the new Science 2000 building, a possible site
for the monuments relocation, says Duvarney.
needs some constancy in life, he says. Heres
a constantgravity. And now, gravity has disappeared.M.J.L.