in Chemistry at Columbia
P. Hammett, professor of chemistry at Columbia, once said: "To
the scientist, it is self-evident that major scientific advance depends
upon the pioneering genius, that is, that it depends upon exploratory
research in areas which have no immediately obvious practical value,
carried out by people of outstanding and exceptional ability."
Four chemists of such outstanding and exceptional ability exemplify
the pioneering work in chemistry done within Havemeyer Hall in the
early years of the twentieth century: Charles Frederick Chandler,
Marston Taylor Bogert, Henry Clapp Sherman, and John Maurice Nelson.
Frederick Chandler, 1836-1925
chemistry at Columbia University traces its roots back to 1754,
it is only with the arrival of Charles Frederick Chandler in 1864,
coinciding with the opening of the School of Mines, that one first
recognizes the beginnings of a modern chemistry department at Columbia.
Chandler received his Ph.D. with Friedrich WŽhler at the University
of GŽttingen.█ On his return to the United States in 1856, he received
an invitation from Professor Charles Joy to help develop a chemical
laboratory at Union College in Schenectady, NY.█ When Chandler arrived
he found that no provision had been made for his salary, so he accepted
the $400 budgeted for janitorial services and became "janitor
assistant". When Joy was called to Columbia in 1857, the young
janitor became the professor of chemistry. Following Joy in 1864,
Chandler left Union College for New York City to help organize the
School of Mines at Columbia. At the age of 27, he began a 54-year
tenure with Columbia that included positions as professor of chemistry
and dean of the School of Mines, the School of Pharmacy, and the
an exceptional teacher, Chandler attracted numerous students to
the various schools of Columbia University. His influence on chemical
research and the chemical industry, as passed on through his students,
is incalculable. For many years, he and his brother, William H.
Chandler of Lehigh University, edited The American Chemist, a journal
devoted to applied chemistry. Chandler was one of the founders of
the American Chemical Society and twice served as its president.
president of the Health Department of New York City, Chandler regulated
supplies of natural gas, kerosene, city water and milk, and the
slaughter houses of the city. Chandler's tenure was marked by unprecedented
action against threats to public health. As a health officer, he
established a proper system of plumbing in houses and introduced
the system of visiting physicians, free vaccination, and the care
of contagious diseases in special hospitals.
an industrial chemist, Chandler was a pioneer in the field of sugar
refining, gas manufacture, petroleum refining, photography, and
dyeing and was an advisor and consultant to industry and local government.
He was one of the earliest advocates of the cooperation between
science and industry and was recognized for his valuable contributions
to applied chemistry by the award of The Perkin Medal in 1920.
a university administrator, Chandler's efforts to attract excellent
young faculty to Columbia were so successful that its chemistry
department was in the forefront of American universities.
Taylor Bogert, 1868-1954
research in modern organic chemistry began at Columbia with Marston
T. Bogert.█ With only a bachelor's degree from Columbia College
in 1890 and no formal training in organic chemistry, Bogert became
the first professor of organic chemistry at Columbia and an internationally
known chemist. He published more than 500 scientific papers during
a career that spanned half a century. His interest in synthetic
organic chemistry included the study of quinazolines and thiazoles,
essential oils, terpenes, alkaloids, vitamins, arsenicals, and drugs.
Bogert was one of a small group of pioneering organic chemists who
greatly influenced the growth of the chemical industry in the United
Clapp Sherman, 1875-1955
receiving an M.S. degree in 1896 and a Ph.D. in 1897 from Columbia
University, Henry C. Sherman joined his alma mater as a lecturer
and was given charge of a new course on quantitative organic analysis.
This led to the publication of his first book Methods of Organic
Analysis, which he published at age 28. One of Sherman's first areas
of research was the investigation of the requirements in humans
for calcium, phosphorus, iron, and protein. By 1907, when he became
professor of chemistry, he proved that digestive enzymes were proteins.█
In 1920, Sherman began to study vitamins and developed biological
assay methods for vitamin A, thiamine, ascorbic acid, and riboflavin.
World War II, Sherman left Columbia to serve as the chief of the
Bureau of Human Nutrition at the Department of Agriculture. Several
years later, he became the chairman of the Commission of Dietary
Allowances of the National Research Council. In his work with animals,
he established that old age could be postponed by a diet rich in
"protective foods" such as fruits, vegetables, and milk.
Sherman published more than 200 original research papers, as well
as several monographs and textbooks.
Maurice Nelson, 1876-1965
returning from studying with Wilhelm Ostwald in Germany, John M.
Nelson received his Ph.D. under Marston T. Bogert. He, along with
a Columbia University colleague K. George Falk, applied the electronic
theory of valence to covalent bonds. They suggested that the direction
the electron moves would depend on the relative position of the
elements in the periodic table. This pioneering work offered an
explanation for properties of organic compounds that had previously
been a mystery.
with Harold Fales, uncovered the effect of neutral salts on hydrogen
ion activity, which they found by direct electrometric measurement
and by their effect on the rate of hydrolysis of sucrose. Much of
Nelson's research involved the study of the nature of invertase,
which catalyzes the hydrolysis of sucrose. His discovery that the
addition of sodium chloride increases the hydrogen ion activity
was the first documented case of the salt effect. He was also the
first to study the kinetics of enzyme inhibition before it was ever
identified as such.
is said to have been an excellent lecturer for the undergraduate
organic course for premedical students given in the grand lecture
hall. But it was his course for the first-year graduate students
on the theories of organic chemistry that was unique and profoundly
important in influencing students. After retirement and until his
death at the age of 89, "Pop" Nelson was active in reorganizing
the Chandler Chemistry Museum.
Hall was home to many notable scientists and scientific discoveries
in the 20th century. Irving Langmuir, one of Charles Frederick Chandler's
students at the School of Mines, who received a degree in metallurgical
engineering in 1903, received the 1932 Nobel Prize in chemistry
for his outstanding discoveries and inventions within the field
of surface chemistry.█ He was the first American employed by an
industrial laboratory to receive the prize. Harold Clayton Urey
won the 1934 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his discovery of deuterium
(heavy hydrogen).█ Louis P.█Hammett was a founder of the field of
physical organic chemistry. As chairman, he led the chemistry department
into the modern era. Other chemists who were trained at Columbia
would themselves become pioneers of chemistry. These include Nobel
laureates John H. Northrup, a 1946 recipient for his investigations
of protein molecules; Edward C. Kendall, 1950 recipient for his
work in cortical hormones; and Roald Hoffmann, who shared the 1981
Nobel Prize for his work in applied theoretical chemistry.
Havemeyer Hall is the centerpiece of a three-building complex that
includes Chandler, the nine-story research building that is historic
in its own right for the work that has gone on within its laboratories,
and a new six-story annex that houses research and teaching laboratories.█
Havemeyer's grand lecture hall, Room 309, has been maintained in
its original elegant design.