W.C. Burriss Young '55, associate dean of freshmen, knew there was something wrong.
"One's room is not the place to do experiments and keep chemicals," he said Tuesday, so he told his proctee, Phillip J. Atkinson '82, to remove "all the paraphenalia" from his Massachusetts Hall dormitory and take it to the Science Center.
The "paraphenalia" was nitroglycerine.
Atkinson followed his proctor's orders and, with the approval of Ronald E. Vanelli '41, director of the Science Center, kept his chemicals in the Science Center prep room--behind the four lecture halls, where a small staff prepares lecture demonstrations and audio-visual presentations.
No one ever investigated what exactly Atkinson was brewing and he did not volunteer the information until he was asked last Friday, though he did submit a list of chemicals.
He continued to manufacture nitroglycerine for more than a week and by last Friday he had as much as 250 milliliters.
An explosion of 250 milliliters of pure nitroglycerine "would leave a medium-sized room in an absolute shambles," and could have endangered students taking exams in the adjoining lecture halls, George B. Kistiakowsky, Lawrence Professor of Chemistry and one of the developers of the atomic bomb detanator says.
Science Center officials learned early Friday that Atkinson had nitroglycerine in the prep room and Vanelli, along with Cambridge officials, cleared the building.
A Massachusetts fire marshal and a Department of Public Safety chemist, however, neutralized the explosive and removed it.
The evacuation forced students in three courses to leave the Science Center about 30 minutes before the scheduled completion of their exams.
The Administrative Board decided Tuesday not to consider action against Atkinson.