Bonner Lab

The building going up in yesterday’s picture was Rice’s Nuclear Lab (later renamed the Bonner Lab in honor of Professor Tom Bonner), built to house a six-million volt Van de Graaff particle accelerator. Here’s another shot of the construction in 1952. For those of you who missed it, it was where Duncan Hall is today.

And here’s how it looked just after it was completed in 1953:

It’s a little ironic, but there are far more pictures of it’s destruction in 1994 than of any other phase of its existence. I have almost no idea what it looked like on the inside. This picture is pretty cool–it was taken just an instant after the wrecking ball hit and it’s worth zooming in to see the debris flying off the side

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7 Responses to Bonner Lab

  1. evan7257 says:

    I remember reading in the Thresher archives about those. Apparently we learned all we could from van der Graff generators, so then we sent them to a school in Mexico.

  2. Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT says:

    I think (ha!) that I saw the completed exterior of the Van der Graff generator when I visited Houston, probably in the summer of 1952.

    I contemplated Physics as a naive freshman, but Math 100 removed the scales from the eyelids of my brain.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      You and a whole lot of other people.

    • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT says:

      P.S., I don’t know whether I ever visited the interior of it, however.
      My memory can’t separate the mind pictures I have of it as an actual visit or as the remembrance of pictures of it.
      [Marvin Zindler: “It’s hell to be poor”. GP: “It’s hell to be old.”]

  3. Tom Bonner ('63) says:

    There was a big open house for the general public when the building was completed. It is my understanding that it was the first commercially built Van de Graaff funded by the Atomic Energy Commission at a university. As part of the celebration, the AEC had a large van with a display extolling atomic energy. As part of the tour of the facility, visitors who wanted to do so could have a coin placed in the accelerator beam for a few seconds which made the coin radioactive enough to make a lot of noise on a Geiger counter. Some people but, as I recall, relatively few, subsequently expressed concern about what they had been assured was relatively short half-life activity. As a enterprising lad of 11, I found a metal waste basket and partially filled it with water and dry ice and placed it at the back door under a sign labeled “radioactive coin disposal”. I collected a couple of dollars worth of change in spite of at least one kid exclaiming “that’s just dry ice”.

  4. Pingback: Continuity and Change | Rice History Corner

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