My Dear Sir and Successor,
If you and your associates care to transport yourselves in imagination to the scenes of this year of grace, I shall take pleasure in acting as your guide through the apartments now devoted to our common art.
Well, we are now in the basement of Palmer Hall, the south-east corner of the main building, a room which in the Fall of 1880 I first arranged as office, storeroom and preparation-room combined. The dingy walls and low ceiling have witnessed many a struggle on the part of students and professor to make plain the subtleties of analysis, assaying or experiment. For many years the teaching of assaying was done in the basement at the northeast corner of this main building, and later, also in the north wing where now Professor Brookover wrestles with bugs, microbes and sacrificed cats. Almost every room on the first floor has echoed with the sound of chemical lecture or experiment, and it must also be confessed, has been redolent with odors which freely diffused to the nostrils of wrathful colleagues and suffering students. Here on the first floor of the north wing is our present lecture and recitation-room. In my student days, twenty-five or thirty years ago, the system of instruction by lectures was in general use in this country-except in a few first-class technical schools, such as the School of Mines of Columbia University. Gradually the use of laboratory methods of science teaching came into vogue, and before 1888 we had added to our old assaying laboratories, other quarters, with desks and apparatus for every student of chemistry. It will interest you to turn over the leaves of some of those musty old textbooks and manuals, back on the upper shelves of the library, and note the efforts made in the early days to evolve the very diverse "systems" now in use. In this room the recitations from textbooks are supplemented by lectures on practical applications of chemistry to the arts and to Sanitary Science, on theoretical explanation of chemical and metallurgical processes, and at the same time experiments too difficult or elaborate for the laboratory, are shown to the students. I wish it were possible for me to enjoy a day's visit in your rooms to see the newer methods of yourself and your associates.
Ever since the addition of the wings to the main building, the basement of the south wing has been used as a laboratory by students of General Chemistry. For several years these quarters have been too small to accommodate all of our students, and now we look forward with longing to the new "Science Building" which we hope will soon face North Tejon St. This structure upon which we have spent much time and effort will contain all the conveniences which we now term "modern", and will give to our Department eighteen or twenty rooms. We hope to see it begun within a month.
As we pass through this old building talking together of the deeds done and hopes for the future, I cannot refrain from an expression of an earnest wish to anticipate the progress of this century, beyond me, back of you, and to see with your eyes the Chemistry of your day. What think you of Dalton's Atomic Theory? And the "atoms" of my time-are they merely aggregates of simpler masses, as some experiments lead us to conjecture? What theory have you regarding chemical affinity? Have you filled out Mendelejeff's Table, and do you drape your topics about the old Table as garments on a clothes-line? But there is no end to my curiosity. If I am able in spirit to peep over your shoulder as you read this letter I may see your notes on "Modern Theories of Chemistry", and may wish to debate the newer views in the light of fuller information. However, I must be content to flit silently through the laboratories fitted with your new "modern" appliances, yet fragrant still with the old familiar smells.
With kindly greeting and best wishes for prosperity I am