Josiah S(tinkney) Carberry (fl. 1929- ?), legendary professor of psychoceramics (the study of cracked pots) since 1929, was born on a bulletin board in University Hall. The first announcement of his existence was a notice which read:
“On Thursday evening at 8:15 in Sayles Hall J. S. Carberry will give a lecture on Archaic Greek Architectural Revetments in Connection with Ionian Philology. For tickets and further information apply to Prof. John Spaeth.”Professor Ben Clough suspected a hoax and inserted the word “not” between “will” and “give.” When he was asked for information, John Spaeth obligingly mentioned Carberry’s ungrammatical wife Laura, his poetical daughter Patricia, his puffin-hunting daughter Lois, and his accident-prone assistant Truman Grayson, who was always being bitten by things that begin with A. With a little bit of help, the Carberries grew and prospered, and sent telegrams, letters, and postcards, and annoyed the local press by inserting notices about themselves until they were banned by the Providence Journal. Other publications were not so fussy. Classical Weekly published Carberry’s contribution, “Another Catullus to Another Lesbia,” in 1934, and an article in American Scientist included his book, Psychoceramics (Brown University Press, 1945, 1313p.) in its footnotes. His name has popped up in directories and programs. He was listed among the cast in Trinity Square Playhouse’s production of “Desire Under the Elms,” and attended the University’s bicentennial celebration as a delegate of Burleigh College (est.1664).
On Friday, May 13, 1955, an anonymous gift of $101.01 was received by the University from Professor Carberry to establish the Josiah S. Carberry Fund in memory of his “future late wife.” A condition of the gift was that, henceforth, every Friday the 13th would be designated “Carberry Day,” and on that day friends of the University would deposit their loose change in brown jugs to augment the fund, which is used to purchase “such books as Professor Carberry might or might not approve of.”
Professor Carberry has been the subject of articles in a number of periodicals, including the New York Times, which proclaimed him “The World’s Greatest Traveler” on the front page of its Sunday travel section in 1974, and in Yankee magazine, where he was “The Absent-Bodied Professor” in 1975. A recent honor which came to Professor Carberry was the award to him of an Ig Noble Prize at the First Annual Ig Noble Prize Ceremony on October 3, 1991. At this event sponsored by M.I.T. and the Journal of Irreproducible Results, Carberry, the 1991 Ig Nobel Interdisciplinary Research Prize laureate, was cited as “bold explorer and eclectic seeker of knowledge, for his pioneering work in the field of psychoceramics, the study of cracked pots.”