100 years of Pond Laboratory

The Pond Laboratory started with the Sparks Administration (1908-1920). President Sparks purchased an additional 600 acres to add to the original 400 acres which allowed the construction of new buildings. The first phases of the Chemistry Building (now known as Pond Laboratory) were one of those new additions.  But, due to financial constraints construction was delayed. Governor John K. Tener (1911-15) was instrumental in winning legislative approval for an appropriation of more than $1.2 million to Penn State for 1913-15. Some of the funds were used to construct the chemistry laboratory (Pond Laboratory), which was opened in 1917. During Ralph Dorn Hetzel’s presidency in the late 1920’s brought about financial growth which allowed for additions to Pond Lab to be performed. The building as it stands in this photo (Top Left- circa 1922) represents the lower left-hand leg of what will eventually be an H-shaped structural group. The building followed the style of architecture that was already started on the campus.

In 1888 George Gilbert Pond, a graduate of Amherst College and the University of Gottingen, arrived to assume the duties of professor of chemistry and head of the department. Pond, who would go on to become a legendary figure at Penn State proceeded to reorganize the chemistry course. Although enrollments remained modest, Pond's high standards drew enough students to the chemistry course (about twenty or so every year) to make it for many years the most popular of the non-engineering courses. Dr. George Gilbert Pond, Dean of the School of Natural Science and Professor of Chemistry passed away on June 13, 1920. The day after his death on June 14, 1920 the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the Priestley Chemical Laboratories to the George Gilbert Pond Chemical Laboratories. Dr. Pond served the University from October, 1888 until May, 1920.

By 1930, Pond Laboratory had grown to about three times its original size (bottom left). The additions perfectly match the original building. The building houses laboratories and offices. The building is also the headquarters to World in Conversation. In the early 1990’s Pond lab became the home for the Computer Science Department. Then in the early 2000’s the Department of Political Science moved to Pond. And this is how the Pond Lab is known today, as the saying goes, “the rest is history”.             


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