Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Charles Frederick Chandler
Charles Frederick Chandler

"He has placed the entire world in his debt, and brought added dignity and prestige to the profession of which he is such a conspicuous ornament."
—Perkin Medal citation, 1920

Charles Frederick Chandler (1836–1925)
Faculty 1864–1918

An industrial chemist, Chandler pioneered processes for sugar refining, gas manufacture, petroleum refining, photography, and dyeing and made lasting contributions to public health and sanitation, chemical research, and education. A founding father of chemistry at Columbia, where he taught for over fifty years, he also served as president of the New York Metropolitan Board of Health from 1873 to 1883, improving safety standards for milk and water, and regulating gas companies, slaughterhouses, and rendering operations. He promoted compulsory smallpox vaccination for children and invented the flushing water closet, which he refused to patent, citing the public interest.

In 1864, the Harvard- and European-trained Chandler arrived at Columbia from a faculty position at Union College. Recruited to organize the new School of Mines, Chandler chaired Columbia's chemistry department within from 1866 to 1903 and served as dean of the School for 33 years. A consultant to the Havemeyer family's American Sugar Refining Company, Chandler persuaded the family to fund the construction of a campus building that would house the chemistry department when Columbia moved to Morningside Heights. Opened in 1898, Havemeyer Hall became known as the birthplace of chemistry in America, producing more chemistry PhDs than any other American university between 1898 and 1938. Eight Nobel laureates are among the generations of Columbian chemists who have made their mark in business, industry and academe.

The beginning

Chandler's 1892 letter to the Havemeyers.

Havemeyer Hall

A virtual tour of the chemistry department's home.

Chandler Chemical Museum

Chandler's collections of chemistry artifacts are available for public viewing.

Write Columbia's History

Columbia's history, as seen by those who have studied, taught, and worked here.

Columbians Ahead of Their Time

Columbians have changed the world and how we see it.

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