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Good Chemistry

Good Chemistry
By France Griggs Sloat

If the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, then Xavier’s chemistry professors can claim the brilliance of some of the world’s most famous scientists—Levoisier, who discovered oxygen, Linneus, who named the species, Wohler, who proved that organic compounds aren’t created by the breath of a supreme being.

At least they’re trying. Spurred by department chair Dan McLoughlin’s curiosity, the professors set about creating a faculty tree to see how far back each one’s doctoral lineage could be traced. Most traced the signatories of their mentor’s predecessors back 11 generations to Carlos Linneus, who earned his doctorate in 1728 from the University of Uppsala, Sweden.

“It’s a lot of fun,” McLoughlin says. “But because I came from Carlos Linneus doesn’t mean I’m any brighter than if I came from one of the Simpsons. Several of our faculty have Nobel laureates in their lineage. It’s a source of pride, and maybe it’s inspirational.”

Former department chair Robert Johnson started the chemistry faculty tree, completing the first half dozen lineages. McLoughlin has carried on and now the tree numbers 16 professors, including several deceased and retired. A few of the lineages are incomplete because the earlier scientists’ doctoral theses, usually completed in Old Europe, can’t be located.

The tree is available for climbing on the department’s web site at www.xavier.edu/chemistry.

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