Chemical Landmark 2010

The Old Chemistry Building of ETH Zurich

Designated as «Chemical Landmark» on 9 December 2010.

The second designation of a «Chemical Landmark» in Switzerland went to Zurich: the old chemistry Building of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (Universitätstrasse 6) was awarded as “place of education and activity” for several generations of chemists and chemical engineers.

Exterior View of the old chemistry building on Universitätstrasse 6 (Source: Departement für Chemie und Angewandte Biowissenschaften, ETH Zürich)
Exterior View of the old chemistry building on Universitätstrasse 6 (Source: Departement für Chemie und Angewandte Biowissenschaften, ETH Zürich)

Over a period of nearly 120 years, many significant personalities – including seven Nobel prize laureates – taught numerous scientists in the lecture hall D2 of the so-called CAB-building. Later in their careers these have – with the knowledge acquired there - decisively contributed to the significance of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry in Switzerland and established the basis for groundbreaking discoveries in many international universities. 

Thus the building is a place of scientific research, which was trend-setting throughout the world and acts a symbol of the pioneering spirit of the lecturers of the Chemistry Department.

TH/Chemiegebäude, interior view, lecture hall D2 for inorganic and organic chemistry in 1917, on the left: Prof. Hans Fierz (Source: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv)
TH/Chemiegebäude, interior view, lecture hall D2 for inorganic and organic chemistry in 1917, on the left: Prof. Hans Fierz (Source: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv)

This building for the chemical laboratories was built between 1884 and 1886 by the architects F. Bluntschli and G. Lasius after the plans and ideas of the two professors of chemistry: V. Meyer and G. Lunge. The building was very up-to-date at that time and offered a highly innovative working environment for the researchers in Switzerland. The CAB-Building was listed as a historic site in 1987.

Until the relocation of the Chemistry Department to the Science City campus on Hönggerberg in 2011, several chemical institutes of the Chemistry Department were based here.

The designation has taken place on December 9th, 2010 in the legendary lecture hall D2 of the CAB-Building. Almost 120 persons followed the invitation, among them a lot of past and present professors, students and collaborators of the Chemistry Department.

Prof. Dr. Karl Gademann, president of the «Platform Chemistry», welcomed the attendees and gave a short introduction to the SCNAT and the program «Chemical Landmarks». The laudation (text/presentation) enriched with many historical pictures was held by Prof. Dr. Katharina Fromm, board member of the «Platform Chemistry» and showed the history and significance of the whole building and the lecture hall D2 in particular. The following presentations intensified this image: Prof. Dr. Detlef Günther, Head of the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences of ETH Zurich presented the history of the CAB-building and Department of Chemistry at the ETH. Prof. Dr. Albert Eschenmoser, emeritus professor of organic chemistry and closely associated for more than 6 decades with the ETH Zurich, gave an overview of some great chemists of the ETH and their research. His presentation was enriched with a lot of personal memories and was therefore very authentic. Dr. Othmar Dossenbach, long-time assistant professor at the Technical-chemical laboratory of the ETH Zurich, finalized this part of the ceremony with entertaining anecdotes of the last decades from within the CAB-building.

Foto: B. Winter
Foto: B. Winter

After the unveiling of the commemorative plaque, Prof. Dr. Roman Boutellier, Vice-president of the ETH, thanked the SCNAT on behalf of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) for the designation.

Press release (in German)

Media coverage

- SDA, 09.12.2010
- Sonntagszeitung, 12.12.2010, p. 70
- NZZ, 13.12.2010, p. 12
- ETH Life, 10.12.2010
- ETH Globe, 03/2011, p. 37
CHIMIA 2011, 65, p. 447

Nominations

Nominations for the next round of designations are now open:

Everyone – chemist or non-chemist, historian or non-historian – is encouraged to submit their nomination to the «Platform Chemistry».

Share with us an aspect of Swiss chemical history by providing a description of the site or place with a detailed statement of its historical importance (max. 3 A4 pages).
Further documentations (pictures, articles etc.) are welcome.

The proposals will be reviewed by a committee of chemists, chemical engineers, and science historians.

Contact:

SCNAT
Platform Chemistry
Laupenstrasse 7
3008 Bern

chemistry@scnat.ch.com [without ".com"]