Glenn Seaborg: Dedication of the Chemistry Building

Part 2/9

I am struck by the fact that this kind of arrangement was felt to have been so successful that it has been carried over into your new building, to help stimulate scientific communication and interaction as in years past. There are many other excellent features of this new building which our visitors will have a chance to see later today. One of the most impressive, perhaps, is its least conspicuous, and this is its very reasonable cost per square foot. Dr. Bigeleisen, the rest of you here, and the architects should be congratulated for their skillful design. This building has a high functional efficiency, which not only led to significant economies of construction, but which also will help make this a highly effective tool for fruitful research in the years to come.

When the Chemistry Department of Brookhaven was started nearly 20 years ago, it was with a hardy and ambitious handful of scientists, in the pine woods and Army barracks of a relatively remote section of Long Island, many hours from the amenities of downtown New York by the uncertainties of either public or private transportation.

In those early days of postwar peaceful atomic, research, the doorways to whole new fields of investigation had just been opened. Hundreds of new isotopes had been discovered. Nuclear reactors, particle accelerators, and highly sensitive new scientific tools were only then becoming generally available for scientists who wanted to solve many long-standing problems of organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry or to take steps toward their solution in a newer and more effective way. Carbon-l4 and tritium, for instance, promised to give an entirely new insight into many problems in organic chemistry and biochemistry, by permitting scientists to keep track of specific atoms as they passed through a complex series of reactions. The nuclear chemists and the nuclear physicists could work together to pry deeper into the nuclear heart of matter. The complex chemical effects of radiation on matter were known to be important, but were poorly understood. Many chemical problems related to chemical technology had to be solved before nuclear power could help turn the wheels of industry and light the homes of our nation.

In this framework of challenging and important things to be done, the Chemistry Department got started in 1947. I can recall in some detail much of the fine work done here between 1955 and 1958, a period when I served as a member of the Visiting Committee of the Department of Chemistry at Brookhaven. The momentum of those early days has continued, and the results of the investigations and the researches then begun or planned are an active and effective part of much of our best contemporary science and technology. Today the laboratories at Brookhaven are well known in all parts of the world. The patterns of interaction between scientists here at Brookhaven and scientists at the universities have continued to be successful. Many post-doctoral students and graduate students have worked here, advancing scientific research in areas of advantage to the Atomic Energy Commission, and also adding significantly to our country's supply of well-trained and competent scientists. Other scientists and engineers have come here to work for varying lengths of time from industrial and government laboratories and from other parts of the world. The work they have done here was useful, and these people have returned to their home organizations with new ideas and capabilities.

 

 

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Last Modified: June 28, 2012