Session S3a (Sunday, 2-5pm, Paterno 104)

P17: “No one was killed or seriously hurt in the process” chemistry during the early days of Michigan State University, the pioneer land-grant university

Robert Maleczka (Michigan State University, USA)

In 1850, Michigan’s State Agricultural Society petitioned the State Legislature for an agricultural college.  With State finances tight, the Legislature turned to the Congress of the United States and asked for a grant of 350,000 acres to foster agricultural education in Michigan.  This unprecedented request helped to establish a model for the national education revolution that would ultimately be set in motion by the Morrill Land-Grant College Acts.  More immediately, Michigan’s new Constitution incorporated a provision directing the Legislature to “provide for the establishment of an Agricultural School.”  After several years of debate over the autonomy of that school, on February 12, 1855, the Governor signed the law that founded the Agricultural College of Michigan, which in time would be renamed Michigan State University.  Among the first two faculty appointed to this new college were Lewis R. Fisk, MSU’s first Professor of Chemistry.  Fisk and chemistry assistant Enoch Banker soon built a chemical laboratory that was “inferior to few in the country” and when the first class of 73 students began their studies in 1857 they would find Fisk’s instruction to be “thorough and practical.”  This early history of MSU chemistry during the time of the Morrill Land-Grant College Acts will be presented.


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