The Eastman Centennial Monument

The centennial of George Eastman's birth is being observed by the erection at the center of Eastman Quadrangle of a "University Meridian Marker."

This monument consists of a low granite base bearing a commemorative inscription, supporting a stainless steel disk engraved with the points of the compass, surrounded by stars. The lettering around the outer granite rim of the circular pedestal reads:


The compass dial, one metre in diameter, is marked with the precise latitude and longitude of the quadrangle. Its meridian line is part of an imaginary great circle of the globe. From this center of thought and action will radiate in all directions whatever intellectual and spiritual energy the University can develop and transmit through its sons and daughters.

At the center of the dial appears the fundamental equation for equivalence of mass and energy, "E equals mc square." It signifies the latent energy of the nucleus, which if released would equal its mass in grams multiplied by the square of the velocity of light - in other words, multiplied by the number nine followed by twenty ciphers.

This hidden nuclear energy, which in bombs can destroy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is also the secret of sunlight, on which all life depends.

The meridian marker also signifies the continuing power of a generous life; not really ended by death, but beginning anew for every student generation keen enough to wonder about life as energy. This is conveyed in a sentence from Sir Thomas Browne (1646). Engraved in the circle around the Einstein equation:

There is in wise men a power beyond the stars

Erection of the monument, designed by William E. Ehrich of the Memorial Art Gallery, with the aid of Carl K. Hersey, chairman of the President's Committee on Sites and Traditions, and John R. Slater, Professor Emeritus of English, was made possible by the aid of an anonymous donor.

Standing at this center of radiation and direction, scholars young an old may sometimes wonder, "Where do we go from here?" As a point of departure it stands less for the past than for the future of human initiative and good will.

John R. Slater
Professor Emeritus of English
University of Rochester

12 July, 1954