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New Building for Physical-Chemical Research, Most Complete of its Kind, Nearly Finished.


The Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory, the first of the proposed new chemical buildings, is now almost completed. The contractor will be out of the building within ten or twelve days and the moving of the equipment will then begin immediately, in order that the laboratory may be ready for students on the reopening of College, January 3. The new laboratory is unique in this country and is the most perfectly planned and equipped physical-chemical laboratory in the world. Every detail of the construction has been studied with a view toward producing a building which admits of the highest degree of accuracy in physical-chemical research. In order to eliminate all possible vibration no dynamos have been installed, direct current being supplied from the engineering building. The most modern thermostatic heating system, by which the temperature throughout the laboratory is kept constant within one degree, is a feature of the equipment.

The building is located in the rear of the University Museum, facing north. It is rectangular in shape, 40 feet wide by 72 feet in length. The general appearance of the structure is in keeping with the older Harvard buildings and the colonial type of architecture has been followed out in the exterior design. The base of the building is built of granite blocks and the three upper stories of dull Harvard brick with limestone trimmings. A limestone cornice adds the necessary finish to the front of the building. The structure is three stories high, with a basement all but three feet above the ground and a sub-basement entirely dark.

Arrangement of Rooms.

In the sub-basement are the thermostatic heating plant, a laboratory for work at a very constant temperature, a fire-proof room for the storing of inflamable chemicals and a filtering plant and fan. The basement proper contains a laboratory for high temperature work, a highly efficient dark-room, a storage battery room, an unpacking room, a janitor's room and a mechanician's room.

The three upper stories are divided into a number of small rooms, arranged especially for individual research. On the first floor are two laboratories, a physical-chemical and a chemical, with the latter of which a dark room and a balance room are connected; an apparatus room, for the storing of delicate and senstitive apparatus; and two rooms for, the assistant in charge of the building. The balance rooms throughout the Laboratory are protected from the outside walls by passageways, which make them highly efficient in preserving delicate scales from weather disturbances. A memorial tablet and bust of Professor Wolcott Gibbs, the former chief chemist of the Lawrence Scientific School, in whose honor the building was named have been placed on the left wall of the entrance hallway.

Professor T. W. Richards '86, who will have full charge of the building, will have his offices on the second floor, including his private library which is wide enough in scope to satisfy the needs of students. The second floor will also contain two chemical laboratories, one for crude and the other for very accurate work, a physical laboratory, a balance room, a dark room and an apparatus room. These rooms have been arranged very compactly and easy access may be had from any one to another. On the top floor are located four large and two small chemical laboratories, two balance rooms and two dark rooms. The roof is flat and of the practicable type, available for experiments requiring open air.

Unique Ventilating System.

Perhaps the most novel feature of the building is the ventilating system. All the air supplied to the building is filtered through canvas bags to free it from dust particles. The hoods have straight outlets to the top and each separate flue has a special chimney-part, arranged so that air is drawn out constantly by the wind. The whole building is constructed with careful attention to the exclusion of dust and dirt, all the rooms having curved hospital bases where the walls meet the floor. The laboratories are lined with tile five-feet high.

Equipment of Laboratories.

The equipment of the laboratories is unique in point of completeness. Lavalops, capable of standing great heat and unaffected by chemicals, have been fitted to some of the desks. The others are of tile, soapstone or wood, according to the purpose for which they are intended. The laboratories are piped for vacuum, compressed air, and a third unassigned purpose. Hot, cold, and distilled water is supplied at each desk and steam is available for use in the hoods. An electric dumbwaiter with complete automatic control has been constructed for the purpose of carrying apparatus from floor to floor.

Its Use for Research Work.

The laboratory was founded for research work in physical and inorganic chemistry, which is Professor Richards' special line of investigation. The four specific divisions of his field are: bettering the present atomic weights, investigating the compressibility of atoms, heat of chemical reactions and electro-chemical research. All the fine apparatus now used will be transferred, and in addition many accurate and expensive pieces have been presented by the Carnegic institution at Washington which was established for the advancement of scientific research.

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