Guide to the Clarence J. Overbeck (1901-1997) Papers

Collection Title: Clarence J. Overbeck (1901-1997) Papers
Dates: 1933-1997
Identification: 11/3/21/6
Creator: Overbeck, C. J. (Clarence Jacob), 1901-1997
Extent: 2 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: The Clarence J. Overbeck Papers fill one and one half boxes, spanning the years 1933 to 1997. The bulk of the records consist of biographical materials, speeches, and lectures from his many years as a physics professor.Much additional biographical material is supplied by two autobiographies. The published proceedings from conferences on training lab assistants, on creating lab experiments, and on lecture demonstrations (held at Northwestern University, the University of Connecticut Wesleyan University in 1954, 1957, and 1959) reflect Overbeck's commitment to the teaching of science.
Acquisition Information: The Clarence J. Overbeck Papers consist of materials donated by Dr. Henry Overbeck and Dr. Ann Overbeck, via Jackie Dickey, Office of University Development, transferred to the University Archives as Accession No. 98-190 on October 14, 1998. Materials from the University Archives Faculty Biographical Files were incorporated into this collection.
Processing Information: Processor: Lorna Donley; April 2002.
Separated Materials: One inch of duplicate and extraneous material was discarded. Photographs were transferred to the University Archives Photographic Collection. A plaque honoring Overbeck's service as President of the American Association of Physics Teachers (1958-9) was added to the University Archives Artifacts Collection.
Conditions Governing Access: None.
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/archives
Email: archives@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

Clarence J. Overbeck was born in Holland, Indiana on March 14, 1901. He signed his first teaching contract with the Indiana Public Schools when he was 18 years old, beginning a long and distinguished career in science education. He received his A.B. and M.A. in Physics in 1925 and 1926, respectively, from Indiana University, and completed his Ph.D. in Physics at Northwestern University in 1931. His doctoral project was an experimental study of phenomena related to the sputtering of metals.

Prior to joining the faculty of Northwestern's Physics Department, Overbeck held teaching positions at Indiana University (Assistant Physics Professor, 1925-1926) and at La Salle-Peru Junior College of Illinois (1926-1927). At Northwestern, Overbeck was successively instructor (1927), assistant professor (1931), associate professor (1939) and full professor (1946). Overbeck taught basic physics courses as well as advanced classes in physical optics, electricity, and sound and acoustics. He also served as Chairman of the Bachelor of Arts (later General Studies) Committee from 1948 to 1958. Overbeck held visiting professorships at Stanford University in 1948 and 1960. During grant-funded visiting professorships at the University of Ghana in 1962 and the University of the West Indies 1963-1964, Overbeck advised the institutions on modernizing and expanding their physics programs.

Always dedicated to the teaching of science, Overbeck was very involved in the American Association of Physics Teachers from its inception (founded by fellow Northwestern physicist Paul E. Klopsteg in 1931), serving on its governing board from 1943-1959 and receiving a Distinguished Service Award in 1964. He was also a member of the Illinois State Association of Physics Teachers (President, 1940-41; President of the Chicago Chapter, 1953-54). As a long-time member of the American Institute of Physics, Overbeck served on the Advisory Committee on Education. His focus on teaching was reflected in his inventions of demonstration and laboratory apparatus. His writings included books on basic science and physics, and contributions to the teaching series Selective Experiments in Physics. He was a regular contributor to scholarly journals and a participant at conferences.

Overbeck married Harriot West (1903-1982), a psychiatric social worker, in 1928; they had two children. After Overbeck's retirement from Northwestern University in 1969, the couple moved to Waynesville, North Carolina. Clarence Overbeck died on August 30, 1997.

Scope and Content

The Clarence J. Overbeck Papers fill one and one half boxes, spanning the years 1933 to 1997. The bulk of the records consist of biographical materials, speeches, and lectures from his many years as a physics professor.

Biographical materials, arranged in chronological order, span the years 1948 to 1997 and consist of Northwestern University faculty data forms, clippings, press releases, correspondence and obituaries. Much additional biographical material is supplied by two autobiographies—a 12-page work prepared in 1965 for inclusion in the “Project on the History of Recent Physics in the United States,” sponsored by The American Institute of Physics under a grant from the National Science Foundation, and a 100-page memoir of a more personal nature written between 1986 and 1994 and edited by Overbeck's daughter, Dr. Ann L. Overbeck.

The published proceedings from conferences on training lab assistants, on creating lab experiments, and on lecture demonstrations (held at Northwestern University, the University of Connecticut Wesleyan University in 1954, 1957, and 1959) reflect Overbeck's commitment to the teaching of science. He helped organize these conferences and served as chair on a number of the sessions.

Overbeck's service as Chairman of the Bachelor of Arts/General Studies Department at Northwestern University is documented by the annual reports (1948-1958) he submitted to Simon E. Leland, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, as well as some correspondence with the Dean. One 1946 physics lecture demonstrates his teaching style at Northwestern. The University of West Indies file holds the script for a movie based on Overbeck's 1964 lecture titled “Physics: Fact or Fiction.” The notes for that lecture, and six others, are also contained in the folder. Five of the lectures are in the form of handwritten index cards. A list of courses offered at the University of West Indies in 1964 is at the end of the folder.

Speeches and papers delivered by Overbeck between 1934 and 1968 include typed note cards and typed, printed, and handwritten speeches. Presented before a range of audiences, from college groups and national science honorary societies to science teaching organizations, topics include the future of physics, sound and ultrasonics, and the teaching of physics. A lecture delivered several times in different versions during 1958-60 was titled “Sputnik and the Tower of Babel.”

Overbeck's publications in scientific journals and popular magazines (such as the Rotarian) span the years 1933 to 1978 and are arranged chronologically. From 1940 through 1972, Overbeck contributed to the teaching series Selective Experiments in Physics published by the Central Scientific Company (Cenco). Included in this file are a signed agreement between Overbeck and the publisher, sales figures, and editorial comments by his co-authors. The British Journal of Scientific Instruments published a yearly report by Overbeck (1940 through 1951) about American advances in experimental physics. These issues are filed chronologically, along with some reprints.

Two files relate to Overbeck's inventions of apparatus for laboratory teaching. One folder contains a blueprint of Overbeck's Spectrometer, which he sold to Cenco in 1958. The Self-Adjusting Linear Air Track folder contains drawings and a photo of the apparatus, along with experiments and letters to a company to which he wished to sell the device.

Subjects

Personal Name

Overbeck, C. J. (Clarence Jacob) (1901-1997)

Subjects

College teachers--Illinois--Evanston

Physics teachers--Illinois--Evanston

Physics--Study and teaching


Container List / Contents

  • Biographical Materials, 1948-1997Box 1, Folder 1
  • Autobiographies, 1965-1994Box 1, Folder 2
  • Conference Proceedings, 1954, 1957, 1959Box 1, Folder 3
  • Bachelor of Arts/General Studies Committee, 1948-1958Box 1, Folder 4
  • Lecture: Northwestern University, 1946Box 1, Folder 5
  • Lectures and Script: University of West Indies, 1964-1969Box 1, Folder 6
  • Speeches and Papers, 1934-1968Box 1, Folder 7
  • Publications: General, 1933-1978Box 1, Folder 8
  • Selective Experiments in Physics, 1940-1972Box 2, Folder 1
  • Journal of Scientific Instruments, 1940-1951Box 2, Folder 2
  • Inventions: Spectrometer, 1958Box 2, Folder 3
  • Inventions: Self-adjusting Linear Air Track, 1971-1972Box 2, Folder 4