Glenn Seaborg: Dedication of the Chemistry Building

Part 1/9

It is a great pleasure for me to be here at Brookhaven today to help dedicate this fine new Chemistry Building. Having been trained as a chemist, I take particular pleasure in seeing this area of knowledge grow - from the standpoint of the development of new facilities and equipment and the ever-expanding knowledge of the field. As most of you know, the National Academy of Science's report on "Chemistry - Opportunities and Needs," more commonly referred to as the "Westheimer Report ," points out that basic research in chemistry has not received attention and support commensurate with its importance in this Scientific Age. I concur in this conclusion.

In the light of this it is encouraging to be here today to dedicate a new building devoted to chemical research and to review with you some of the continuing and new work that will be done here. I like to think that these new laboratories in your building are a kind of symbol of accomplishment, a recognition of all the excellent chemical research that has been done here at Brookhaven since the Chemistry Department first got started, in 1947. In the early days, as I know from my own visits here, the Chemistry Department consisted largely of Dr. Richard Dodson and a handful of colleagues. They were valiantly trying to convert World War I barracks and World War II buildings into chemical laboratories, which would serve as an active and functioning part of a new national laboratory devoted to peaceful research on atomic energy, Many of these early pioneers are still here, which I think is also a fine indication of the spirit of enthusiasm for research which has been developed here over the years. Many others, who went elsewhere, have returned today to join in this dedication, again a tribute to the spirit inspired in its members by the Brookhaven Chemistry Department.

Desks in the corridor, 1959. Robb Grover, Bruce Forman, unidentified, Art Poskanzer, Norbert Porile, Jerry Hudis.

Now, working in these so-called "temporary" buildings was admittedly inconvenient. At the same time, however, it seems to have made for a certain informality and flexibility of attitude that is always the hallmark of an active and productive research establishment. Because of the shortages of laboratory space, many of the scientists here in the Chemistry Department had to work at their desks in what would usually have been used as corridors anywhere else. Of course this may occasionally have been somewhat inconvenient - but at the same time, this architectural openness served in its subtle way to promote and encourage discussion between scientists about their work as well as many other things. I am reminded somewhat of the agora, or market place, of the cities of ancient Greece which served as a place for both business and philosophy.

 

 

   

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Last Modified: June 28, 2012