Havemeyer Hall, Teaching And Research Facility To Nobel Laureates, Honored As National Historic Landmark

October 08, 1998

Columbia University's Havemeyer Hall, which first opened its doors 100 years ago, will be designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society, in a ceremony October 9 at 4:00 p.m. in Havemeyer Hall, room 309.

Havemeyer Hall is being honored as the home of one of the first graduate programs in chemistry, begun in 1898. Soon other universities followed Columbia's lead, allowing students to complete their chemistry studies in the U.S. instead of Western Europe.

Dr. Edel Wasserman, the Society's President-elect, said "This beautiful building has nurtured those young scientists, in an unbroken line that stretches from its first faculty and students to today's, in fields of industrial, inorganic, organic, physical, and biological chemistry. We're proud to designate it as an important landmark."

The construction of Havemeyer Hall depended on the leadership of Charles Frederick Chandler and the funding of Theodore Havemeyer. Chandler was a professor of chemistry at Columbia, a leading industrial chemist and a former president of the Health Department of New York City. His close friend, Theodore Havemeyer (Columbia School of Mines, 1868), dedicated Havemeyer Hall to his father, Frederick Christian Havemeyer (Columbia College, 1825). In 1927, Chandler Laboratories was built as an addition to Havemeyer Hall.

Havemeyer Hall not only housed top-rate facilities for leading chemists, but the east end of the main corridor served as home to the Chandler Chemical Museum. Chandler started collecting materials to illustrate his lectures and it was this collection that evolved into the museum. It included almost every organic salt known at the time, more than 4,000 organic compounds (1,000 of them first developed at Columbia), a collection of the earliest photographs, explosives dating back to the Civil War, an extensive electrochemical exhibit and more. This impressive collection stills exists, though only a small amount is on exhibit.

Some of the most influential chemists of the twentieth century were professors and students at Columbia University. Among them were, Charles Frederick Chandler, Marston Taylor Bogert, Henry C. Sherman and John Maurice Nelson, who played vital roles in the development of modern chemistry and the high quality of teaching within Havemeyer Hall.

Since 1932, many faculty and students here have received the Nobel Prize for chemistry. Irving Langmuir, who studied under Chandler, won the Nobel Prize in 1932 for his discoveries and inventions with surface chemistry. Harold Clayton Urey won in 1934 for discovering deuterium. In 1946, John H. Northrup won for his work with protein molecules. And in 1981, Roald Hoffman received the prize for his work in applied theoretical chemistry.

Havemeyer Hall was restored to its original grandeur in 1987, with the addition of high-tech facilities. The lecture hall, Room 309, still remains much as it was when the doors first opened 100 years ago. Hollywood has taken advantage of its splendor and filmed numerous movies there, such as The Mirror Has Two Faces, Malcolm X, Awakenings and more.

Havemeyer Hall will receive a plaque that reads: "Havemeyer Hall was built between 1896 and 1898 under the leadership of Charles Frederick Chandler. It provided research and teaching facilities for faculty and students specializing in industrial, inorganic, organic, physical, and biological chemistry. Pioneering research done here led to the discovery of deuterium, for which Harold Clayton Urey received the Nobel Prize in 1934. Six others who did research here subsequently received the Nobel Prize, including Irving Langmuir, the first industrial chemist to be so honored, in 1932. The grand lecture hall in the center of Havemeyer remains the signature architectural feature of Charles Follen McKim's original design."
A nonprofit organization with a membership of more than 155,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

American Chemical Society

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