The Rev. Julius A. Nieuwland, CSC, didn’t know how to drive. But in December 1925, he needed to travel far from home to the first national symposium on organic chemistry. He had recently bought a car for 15-year-old George Hennion, a relative now tasked with driving the priest from snowy Notre Dame to bitter-cold Rochester, New York. There Nieuwland was scheduled to present a paper on one of his favorite subjects: acetylene reactions.
Road trips with Nieuwland usually required several stops so he could hop out and shoot down branches with his .25-caliber pistol, thereby satisfying another of his passions, botanical collecting. Though the bare trees and winter weather likely quashed that desire, the 500-mile drive accomplished more than either the teen or the priest could have dreamed. It cemented Nieuwland’s place in science history.
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January 6, 2019