In 1669, Hennig Brand, a German merchant and alchemist, tried a novel experiment he hoped would yield the mythical “philosopher’s stone,” a way to spin base metals into gold. His exact formula is lost to history, but we know he heated urine in a retort, or glass chamber, until the vessel glowed and the dripping liquid burst into flames. Urine, it turned out, wasn’t a source of gold. It was a source of phosphorus, a previously unknown element and the first one isolated in the laboratory.
Glenn Seaborg was born too late to have spawned Cal’s spirit cry. It’s coincidence, surely, that his name is an anagram for “Go Bears!” And, although he was definitely a Bears fan and was Chancellor when Cal last made it to the Rose Bowl in 1959, he was never in Oski’s league as a campus celebrity. While others led rallies, he had to settle for spearheading decades of trailblazing nuclear science, endowing UC Berkeley with bragging rights to the discovery of a record 16 new elements.
On April 13, 1888, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who made millions turning his invention into munitions and selling them to the armies of the world, was aghast to read a story in a Paris newspaper that mistakenly reported his death.
It was actually his older brother, Ludvig, who had died, but Alfred was horrified by the headline: “The merchant of death is dead.”
The story went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever, died yesterday.”
Posted on October 16, 2017 - 2:08pm
This weekend commencement season gets into full swing, with colleges and universities across the country bestowing honorary degrees on the great and the good as part of their graduation celebrations.
Some notable recipients over the years:
Posted on May 12, 2016 - 2:37pm
Let the other universities brand themselves with the presidents they’ve produced, the corporations they’ve midwifed, their location in a small town outside of Boston, or their number one football team.
At Berkeley, we’re OK with being number 97. On the periodic table of elements. You may have heard of “the table,” as we call it around here. It’s sort of the ingredients list for the universe. All of it, including presidents, corporations, slushy college towns, and inferior (spiritually) football teams.