"There is no question that the University's greatest need at the present time is the completion of the Endowment Fund," said Professor T. W. Richards '86, Director of the Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory, in an interview yesterday. Professor Richards is a member of many important scientific societies of both this country and Europe, and a noted authority on chemical problems. He is President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
"The next greatest need," he added, "is a great modern chemical laboratory for the thousand Professors and students now obliged to work in Boylston Hall. We have two admirable small laboratories--the Gibbs and Coolidge Memorial buildings--but they together accommodate only about 100, and according to deed of gift the Gibbs Laboratory is to be devoted wholly to research.
Boylston Hall Too Antiquated
"Boylston Hall is probably the oldest large chemical laboratory in the world today. It was built in 1857 and at that time only a small part of it was intended for chemistry. Through the ingenuity of the Directors, Professors, Cook, Hill, Sanger and Lamb, it has been patched, enlarged and metamorphosed so that chemical work is possible for many students in it. The ventilation anl lighting are very poor, however, and the space is too cramped for the number of men who use the building. Moreover, courses in many branches of chemistry, particularly industrial chemistry, cannot be provided for in this antiquated establishment.
"I believe--though I am not fully cognizant with the plans--that it is intended to use a part of the Endowment Fund to fill the need of adequate provision for the study of chemistry here. Whether part of the Fund were to be used for it or not, the chance it offers for building a fine memorial which would be of inestimable value to the University and to America is so great that some intelligent person with adequate means can hardly fail to embrace it before long, considering the great importance that chemistry has come to hold in modern life.
Researches at Gibbs Laboratory
"The latest problem we have been dealing with at the Gibbs Laboratory, to which I have given a great deal of time, is that of radioactive lead. A large number of experiments of varying character have resulted in the showing that at least two kinds of lead exist: one, the ordinary metal used in our pipes and otherwise industrially throughout the world; another, a form of lead, with lower atomic weight but otherwise precisely similar, produced apparently by the decomposition of uranium. Radium has been found by others to be one of the intermediate products, and it has come to be generally acknowledged that helium (discovered by Sir William Ramsey 23 years ago) is one of the final decomposition products of radium.
"Investigation of chemical and physicochemical problems is, of course, going on at the laboratory all the time with the assistance of interested young men, who are usually candidates for the doctor's degree, and with the cooperation of many scientific individuals and institutions. The Carnegie Institution of Washington, and a generous anonymous benefactor, have provided funds for apparatus and expert help.
"How can such remote scientific knowledge, as the special problem just mentioned has established, be of any practical use? Who can tell? Many years elapsed before Faraday's electrical experiments bore fruit in a practical electric lighting system and in the trolley car. The laws of nature can not be intelligently applied until they are understood. To understand them, however, many experiments bearing upon the fundamental nature of things must be made, and the unknown laws underlying the nature of elements are among the most fundamental of these laws of nature."