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History of Chemistry adorns site hoardings

Tuesday 1 December 2015 8:31pm

Chemistry-history-wall-image
A history of the Department of Chemistry on the site hoardings on Cumberland Street.

The site hoardings surrounding the University’s Science One Building redevelopment now display a proud history of the Department of Chemistry.

Work began on the redevelopment of the Science Precinct in October. The 45-year-old Science One (Chemistry) building will be re-clad and receive new windows, a new roof and a new exterior, with the science laboratories within to be remodelled and refurbished to the highest current scientific standards.

Head of the Department of Chemistry Professor Lyall Hanton says it seemed appropriate to create a timeline of the Department for people to peruse as they pass the building site along Cumberland Street.

The timeline features milestones for the Department, including its moves to a selection of different buildings across campus. It also boasts a photo of 1898 graduate Joseph William Mellor, Otago’s most famous Chemist, and the discovery of Laurenene in 1970 by Chemistry PhD student Dennis Lauren working with Professor Ted Corbett and Dr Rex Weavers.

The history was in some ways restricted by the availability of photographs, but Professor Hanton is proud of the finished result which was prepared by Chemistry’s multimedia technician Lisa Bucke.

It will be on display until the completion of the redevelopment in 2018.

Meanwhile, inside the hoardings, the redevelopment is progressing well.

Project Manager Christian German of Property Services says contractors are currently working to complete the soft-strip of the current interior of Science One and the first floor of Science Two.


Who was Joseph William Mellor?

“Mellor was Chemistry’s equivalent of Sir Ernest Rutherford,” Professor Lyall Hanton says.

Born in the United Kingdom in 1869, he came to New Zealand with his family aged 10. With no money for schooling he was sent to work in Dunedin shoe factories. But he continued to study in his spare time, graduating from the University of Otago in 1898 aged 29.

During World War One he designed high-temperature ceramics that were relevant to the steel industry and thus the war effort.

“It has been said that if one person could be credited with winning the First World War for Britain it would be Mellor,” Professor Hanton says.

On the side Mellor also wrote the 16-volume 16-million word Comprehensive Treatise on inorganic chemistry.

What is Laurenene?

Laurenene, an extraction from the rimu tree, has a unique chemical structure: four rings sharing a central carbon atom.

It was discovered by Dennis Lauren when he was a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry in 1970. A model of this compound will be displayed on the Western end of the finished Science One redevelopment.