Alumni Corner

This page features occasional reminiscences and other notes from friends and former members of the School.
Contributions welcome - please contact Alan Cooper for more details.

"Chemistry at the King's Garden" - from John Davidson
Continuing his exploration of past chemistry, Dr. John S. Davidson has contributed the following...
Chemistry at the King's Garden - Abstract: From the 17th to the 19th centuries, lectures and demonstrations in chemistry which were given at Le Jardin du Roi, in Paris, influenced the development of the science throughout Europe. Many of France's greatest chemists were taught there. Early textbooks, written by the teachers, covered the period of transition from alchemy and iatrochemistry to the dawn of modern chemistry. A reprint of one of them The Compleat Chymist (London 1677) by Christopher Glaser is available. It is a good example of a 17th century textbook of chemistry. The King's Garden - Complete Text PDF

You might also wish to view his earlier Annotations to Robert Boyle's "The Sceptical Chymist".

1955 Chemistry Class - 50th reunion
The 1955 class reunion took place in June 2005 - please contact Professor Joe Connolly for further details.

Chemistry Class Reunion - 1942
A reunion was held in June 2002 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our graduation. It included a visit to the Joseph Black Building - we were among the first occupants in 1939 - and lunch at the University. It was organised by Archie Clement at Tynrannoch, Duror, Appin, Argyll, PA38 4DA.

1860s Chemistry Lab Annuals
You might be interested in the December 2001 'book of the month' from GU Library Special Collection since it features some 'annuals' put together at Christmas in the 1860s by the members of the chemistry laboratory in Shuttle Street - including a photo of the lab as was. It's at: Special Collections - December 2001

Other Memories
From Dr. Donald MacKenzie (May 2001):
Just a few memories of my time at GU. As ex President of the Alchemists Club, I recall excellent lectures by e.g. Dr Magnus Pyke on whisky production- particularly the samples: there were 6 samples on display, illustrating the main stages of production, but at the end some people thought there were only 2. He also worked on nutrition standards during the Second World War. I also remember the Professor of Artificial Intelligence at Edinburgh University (you sometimes have to recognise contributions from the opposition) putting up an overhead slide of a spray pattern, overlaying it with a different spray pattern, rotating it, and producing amazing ordered patterns- nobody then or since has explained it. Natural Product Chemistry I hope is still as strong: lectures on the structure of penicillin were excellent. I hope my Ph.D supervisor, Dr Cairns-Smith has another opportunity to present his view on the origins of life. I hope you will celebrate the 550 Anniversary in good style - perhaps by inviting an equivalent of Magnus Pyke to elucidate the mysteries of whiskey or even Tennents lager. Dr Donald MacKenzie (1963-1971)

"The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there." (L.P. Hartley). They also speak a different language... So, to help students interpret one of the classic works in the history of chemistry, Dr. John S. Davidson has compiled a set of Annotations to Robert Boyle's "The Sceptical Chymist". John Davidson obtained his B.Sc.(Chemistry) in 1954 and his Ph.D. in 1959, under the supervision of S.T.R.S. Mitchell (Photochemical studies with chloronitroso compounds). He was with the Boots Pure Drug Company, 1958-64, and Northeast London Polytechnic from 1965 until his retirement in 1988.

Another colleague (who wishes to remain anonymous) brings the following to our attention: "Boyle's laboratory positively bubbled with good humour when work was about to take place, for he considered experiment to be the discovery of God's work and to be performed with reverence. When an experiment was to begin, all women were excluded for fear their irrational natures would influence the result, and an air of fervent concentration descended." [An extract from "An instance of the fingerpost" by Ian Pears]

From Winfried Willicks, Ph.D. (June 2001):
I was pleased to read in "Avenue', Issue 30 that finally the Department of Chemistry is embarking on a project on "Chemistry in Glasgow." Here my contribution: As a post graduate I was lucky that the British Council supplied sufficient funds for studies at Glasgow's Chemistry Dept, starting from May 6, 1954 til March 1956. My supervisor was Dr. Eric Clar. At that time polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons was one of the main topics in Glasgow's Chemistry Dept. Clar and myself published several papers. Finally I presented a thesis for the degree of Ph.D. This was accepted and granted on April 18, 1959. I worked in the Henderson research lab., found many friends, among others Dr. William Kelly, now living in Olney/Buck. 1994 we met in Glasgow to celebrate my 40th anniversary of starting research work in Glasgow, visited the department and had an excellent dinner at the "Ubiquitous Chip."