The 50's


Ron Petch (1952-1955), contributing in May 2012, remembers undergraduate laboratory classes as follows.

We 2H students used a small laboratory with Dr Christie's office off to one side. One of our fellow students was trying to do an acylation. He tried acetic acid, acetyl chloride and acetic anhydride, hot and cold to no effect, so sought help. Dr Christie George Christie's research added a drop of acetic acid, placed his thumb over the test tube and gave it a shake; the test tube filled with precipitate. We thought that after years of chemistry his thumb would seed anything! Incidentally, extract for the laboratory fume cupboards relied optimistically on a burner at the top; it had virtually no effect. Experiment 1 on our lists used acetyl chloride. After our experience we agreed to vary the order…

A Golden Age

Brian Field (1953-1957), corresponding in the summer of 2011, writes as follows.

I reminisced with a fellow undergraduate from the Chemistry School of the 1950s and we agreed that our period at Durham was paramount in developing our future careers and lives. In this period Durham was the ideal model of the concept of a University as a community of scholars; small enough to allow the most junior member to feel valued, yet able to attract world leaders in a wide range of studies. …… Click here to read more about "Undergraduate Memories"


Roy Hayter (postgraduate 1953-5) contributed as follows in September 2011.

After the end of the University year, a few graduate students engaged in chemistry and physics research remained in college to continue their work. My memories relate to the summer of 1954 in University College when three or four of us were occasionally left to our own resources regarding meal service. Les Goodfellow, a physics graduate, said that he could recognize local edible mushrooms, which he gathered in the woods behind the Science Labs. …… Click here to read more about "Graduate Student Memories"

Photos in the 50's

Aerial view of the Science Laboratories in the early 1950s (junction of Stockton Road and South Road). The Physical Chemistry laboratory was on the ground floor immediately to the right of the main entrance. The Radiochemistry Department and first year practical Chemistry teaching were in the huts at top left. At bottom left, the hut nearer Stockton Road housed the research group led by Professor Coates.

Year 3 of Honours Chemistry 1956. Left to right: Peter Johncock (Castle), Brian Shillaker (Hatfield) and Thomas Holmes (Bede).

Brian Shillaker using a thermostat for research in Physical Organic Chemistry 1956.

The above two photographs were taken in Physical Chemistry Lab by Richard Chambers (Castle) who became Professor of Chemistry in the University and FRS.

click here for more pictures in the 50's

Anyone with questions about the above text and images, kindly submitted by our alumni,should contact

decades/50_s.txt · Last modified: 2016/05/26 14:32 (external edit)
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