Jacob Bigeleisen on the Chemistry Building

Part 1/6

10 April 1998
Dr. Carol Creutz, Chair Person
Department of Chemistry
Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY 11973-5000

Dear Carol,

The Chemistry complex in 1948. "The Chemistry Department is well housed in good quarters and will not need additional space for ten years."

I am responding to your request of 17 February 1998 regarding the planning of the Chemistry Building, Building 555, at Brookhaven National Laboratory. My response cannot cover all the excitement and frustrations we experienced in planning and getting this building built. I will cover a number of high points in the planning and enclose copies of some of the extensive material in my files related to the building. Planning for the building started in either 1957, but no later than 1958. Dr. Richard Dodson, Chairman of the Department, called me one day in my capacity as the scientific staff member responsible for building matters, e.g. space assignment, space renovations. etc. He told me he had a planning document for the BNL site prepared under the auspices of Admiral Tucker, Assistant Director of the Laboratory for planning. Dodson wanted me to review this document and give him my appraisal. From the outset Dodson had complete confidence in me and invariably took my advice. An early response to Tucker's document was required. I studied it that night and read "The Chemistry Department is well housed in good quarters and will not need additional space for ten years"! (See Section 2, justification of need, prepared in July 1959 as a result of my response to the Tucker document.) We were placed number ten in a priority list of ten for permanent facilities at BNL. I brought this matter to Dodson's attention the next day. He asked me to consult with Tucker, which I did. (My relations with Tucker were not the friendliest. I did not then or later pay him the respect he was accustomed to as a (Rear) Admiral.) The Laboratory Director, Leland Haworth instructed Tucker to improve his working relations with me. When I spoke with Tucker I asked him where he got his information from and whether or not he had ever been in the old chemistry building. He got the information from his staff and he had never been in the chemistry building. But we were well housed! In response to my question as to the status of his planning document, Tucker said that it had already been forwarded to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) headquarters as an official BNL document. My response was, "And you are requesting my comments after you have sent off the document". I saw no need to continue my discussion with Tucker.


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Last Modified: June 28, 2012