Friday, October 1, 2010

Hub Day: Where and Why: The Chemical Heritage Foundation

In this series, we'll explore why and how we came about our individual sites. This week we'll explore the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

We have a secret: We almost failed high school chemistry. Our teacher, one Ms. Payton, was so popular that she intimidated us. And she tried so, so hard to make chemistry fascinating. But alas, she had to count us as one of her failures.

You know what? If we'd known about the Chemical Heritage Foundation back then, things would have been mighty different.
Just look at the place! Two-story video display! Funky-cool instruments! People, standing around, looking interested! This is nothing like Chem101 at 2:10 PM, when we're in our lunchtime slump....

But we digress. The Chemical Heritage Foundation is one of our favorite places. Aside from the fact that we've chosen it as a Hub location, it is the only space we know of with spatial provenance suiting its heritage and mission. Consider: Physician Benjamin Rush, who was America's first-ever chemistry prof, lived right down the street. And Ben Franklin lived within earshot.

Imagine living between this guy...

and this guy!

And then, there's also the fact that the Chemical Heritage Foundation tries is utmost to make chemistry accessible to everyone. They host art exhibits based around chemistry, and they never balk at some of the darker things that chemistry might encompass, like the creation of the atomic bomb and poisonous gas.

CHF is also a sponsor of Science on Tap Philadelphia, a monthly gathering that puts a short lecture or presentation on science in a bar--we know for a fact that the ensuing discussion is always lively. (Seriously, did you ever think geek could be so chic?)

Their weekly Brown Bag Lectures are good food for thought, too.

But we'll be honest and say that, although we may not want to pursue chemistry as a profession any more than we did in high school, the CHF has made it ever so much more interesting. They did it because they understand that chemistry is not just about reactions and things going bang; it's about the people behind it, and what drove them to discover what they did. They get how important it is to carry that view into the future, and anyway, CHF is the only learning institution we know of to make nanotechnology make sense.

Follow the Chemical Heritage Foundation @chemheritage on Twitter. Next week, why and how we chose CHF to be a partner.