In order to keep the audience from running away during Act I, our Conversations on Victorian Chemistry performance promises cupcakes. And why not. It is National Chemistry Week after all, and we are having the performance on Mole Day, it makes sense to have a Periodic Table of Cupcakes.
I made a place mat for the cupcakes. The elements are depicted by an image which represents when the element was discovered (before Mendeleev, during the period covered in our play, or after the death of Marie Curie). The images will be covered by the cupcake, so feasters won’t know which time period their element comes from until they take it. Also, since we have six volunteer bakers, they won’t know which flavor their cupcake is. Therein lies the excitement of discovering their element/cupcake.
We had our first (and last) dress rehearsal for the play lecture in costume. I think everyone knows their lines (because we are reading from our scripts lab notebooks). The visuals look good, the lighting is fine, the sight lines are … so-so. Everyone on the team is excited to share their geeky excitement for the Periodic Table on Mole Day, when we present “Conversations on Victorian Chemistry.”
Did you know that our understanding of the effect carbon dioxide has on atmospheric temperature started 200 years ago? I didn’t, at least not until the NY Times morning briefing made me aware of Eunice Foote’s contributions to the science. I had heard of Eunice Foote before, when I visited the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls this past summer (a great way to spend a morning/afternoon if you are in the area).
Rather than recap Foote’s contributions to science and the challenges she faced as a woman in science, I’ll send you over to this great summary of her work and trials.
Science Writer Rachel Brazil wrote a piece about Foote in Chemistry World. Check it out.
Last week, I posted an early photo of a Chemistry lab from Brockport. Not to be outdone, my wife Rozenn (historian of the Western Monroe Historical Society at the Morgan Manning House) found this picture in one of her books:The caption for the picture reads:
The [Brockport] Chemistry Laboratory: The 1899 yearbook describes the chemistry laboratory as “one of the best appointed in the state, having ample table room for 50 students at one time … The department has over $2,500 worth of physical apparatus, over 2,500 stereopticon slides and some 3,000 specimens.”
That $2,500 in instrumentation would be a bit over 70 thousand in today’s dollars, and I’m happy to say that our department has far more instrumentation than that. The reference to thousands of specimens and stereopticon slides got me thinking about what was taught in Chemistry 118 years ago (hey that’s one year for every element on the periodic table). A quick web search brought me to this article, (which is behind a paywall if you don’t have access to ACS journals) that reviews an historical Chemistry textbook from 1809. It was written by Jane Marcet to “… provide women with a method of educating themselves in chemistry …” and uses a conversational style that is not seen in contemporary instructional materials. This #ThrowbackThursday has me thinking about revisiting some teaching styles (to justify procrastinating on that pile of grading for one more day).
From the Daily Eagle, courtesy of librarian Charlie Cowling, a snapshot of Chemistry instruction from the 1950s. Apparently, Chemistry wasn’t dangerous enough to necessitate safety goggles back then, (but it was too dangerous for girls…). How times have changed.
Back in the 1950s the College was, as its own literature stated, a “single purpose” institution, and that purpose was teacher training. Later in the mid-1960s the College would as part of its ongoing expansion become a comprehensive liberal arts college, with various majors, such as chemistry for example. But before then we still were teaching chemistry here, to aspiring science teachers, and one of the faculty was Robert Brandauer, who taught here from 1946-1970.
In a 1947 Stylus article he is described as “…the man with a million dollar smile…” He had an MS in Chemistry from Cornell (1939,) and at the time was working on his doctorate. In a curious coincidence he had previously taught at Roberts College in Istanbul, where Professor Martin Rogers had also taught. Faculty like Brandauer were in from the beginning of that incredible arc the school traveled, from a small teachers college with less than 1,000 students to a major comprehensive institution with almost 10,000 students.