Skip to main content

Buildings and Literature

In the mid-1920s, Dean of Science R.B. Moore asked Mellon to lead the planning of a new chemistry building, saying: “We’ve got to build a big building. Chemistry is going to grow!”

With those orders, Mellon toured some 100 academic, governmental, and industrial laboratories to gather ideas. Construction on the first phase of the new building began on May 1, 1929 and was completed in September 1930. The building was modeled after Cornell’s Baker Laboratory.

The second addition, delayed by economic depression and the war, would take much longer to complete. Once again, the talents of Professor Mellon were called upon as he was appointed to supervise the design and three-phase construction in 1950. The new addition doubled the size of the existing building. It was occupied in June 1955 and dedicated as the R.B. Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry.

In 1967, Mellon was called back out of retirement to lead the construction of an addition to the Wetherill Building to be located to the east of the Wetherill Building. The new addition was opened in 1973 and was later dedicated as the H. C. Brown Laboratory of Chemistry.

In addition to designing modern lab and classroom space, Mellon was an ardent supporter of expanding the Chemistry Department’s library. When he arrived at Purdue, the library space was essentially a locked office room with several shelves of books. There was no librarian.

In the process of organizing the space, Mellon expanded his own knowledge of chemical literature. In 1928 he published the first of five editions of Chemical Publications, an important resource on the use of chemical literature. He continued to teach a course on chemical literature even after his retirement and gave guest lectures on the subject until 1991.

“That senior chemical literature course was nearly unique in undergraduate chemistry education,” recalls Sally Newcomb, a 1954 chemistry alumna. Mellon also initiated a chemical writing course, which at the time was the only course of its kind being taught in a chemistry department.

Retired Chemistry Professor James Brewster came to Purdue in 1949 and recalls, “The library was top-notch.” Retired Chemistry Professor Dale Margerum echoes that sentiment. “The M.G. Mellon Library in the Wetherill Lab building is aptly named,” Margerum adds.

Oral History of Guy Mellon, Derek Davenport & William Jensen
My Three Score and Ten Purdue Years (1919-1989), M.G. Mellon

Guy Mellon

M. Guy Mellon
ca. 1970

Plaque outside chemistry library

Plaque outside the old chemistry library