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The Curriculum

The first Reed College Catalog lists a comprehensive selection of courses, despite the presence of only one faculty member, William Morgan. The courses included General Chemistry, Qualitative Analysis, Quantitative Analysis, Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Industrial Chemistry and Physiologic Chemistry as well as several special topics courses that appeared in the first decade. The 1919 catalog noted that the analysis courses were "necessary as a foundation for any exact work in the science", demonstrating the central role of sophomore level analytical chemistry in the early curriculum. Organic chemistry, apparently a more advanced topic, did not appear until the third year of a chemistry major’s curriculum. Physical chemistry was presented as a 400 level course. From the beginning the senior thesis existed as a for-credit course in the undergraduate chemistry curriculum.

Reed Chemistry  

With Strong’s arrival in 1920, industrial chemistry received further emphasis, and a course titled Economic Chemistry appeared, focusing on natural resources and the chemical industry from a cost perspective. Throughout the early period of the Department’s history, the practical utility of chemistry was stressed in the catalog, with special attention being given to graduates’ opportunities in industrial work.

In the late 1930’s, however, Arthur Scott’s influence led to the disappearance of economic chemistry from the curriculum and from the catalog copy. In its place, inorganic chemistry appeared and the practical value of a major in chemistry was linked to pre-medical and pre-engineering students, as well as those who would become practicing chemists. In 1943, the American Chemical Society’s guidelines for professional training are mentioned for the first time in the Catalog. General Chemistry, Quantitative Analysis, Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry and Thesis (each a year long course) are all required for ACS certification. These courses continued in the curriculum, in various forms, over the next 20 years. Other noteworthy additions, however, included Biochemistry in 1948, coincidental with Livermore’s arrival, and Radiochemisty in 1950, which reflected Arthur Scott’s growing interest in the field. Also, Natural Sciences 110 appears in the 1952 catalog. This course, specifically designed for non-science majors, reflects the long-standing difficulty of teaching quantitative material to a liberal arts audience. This course was initially staffed by one chemist and one physicist, and remained in the catalog until the 1998-99 academic year.

The collaboration that yielded Nat Sci 110 developed a second interdisciplinary course between Chemistry and Physics in the 1957-58 academic year. Physics-Chemistry 12 provided students with superior preparation the opportunity to engage the physical sciences in a combined year-long introductory course, while Chemistry 11 continued as the standard General Chemistry course. Phys-Chem 12 continued until the early 1970’s, at which point the two-tier majors track that it created was deemed unhealthy for the Department. The late 1950’s and early 1960’s saw substantial interest in curricular reform. Arthur Livermore was involved in national education policy for secondary schools, and Arthur Scott worked in Washington at the NSF on a program for special educational projects. These experiences prompted sharp and lasting changes to the curriculum. In 1963, Quantitative Analysis was merged with General Chemistry, essentially removing analytical chemistry from the curriculum after 50 years of prominence. Organic chemistry and inorganic chemistry were merged into a year-long course, Chemistry II, that focused on commonalties of descriptive and physical chemistry of organic and inorganic compounds, and on their thermodynamic and kinetic properties. A third course in the sequence, Chemistry III, combined quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics and chemical kinetics.

While this sequence did not survive to the next academic year, it did point to an organization of the curriculum that has persisted until very recently. Chemistry 110, until 1999, provided the only exposure to analytical chemistry that Reed students received. Chemistry II, on the other hand, splintered into Organic Chemistry (Chem 210), an introductory physical chemistry laboratory (Chem 211) and an introductory inorganic class (Chem 212), the latter two counting as one half semester unit courses. Laboratory was stressed in all three classes. Practically speaking, a student enrolled in Chemistry 210 and 211 would have two lab meetings per week throughout the year, with a third lab per week being added for students enrolled in Chem 212 during the spring. This points to an unusual emphasis on the practice of chemistry, and of gaining knowledge through experience in addition to the lecture format. Chemistry III was also broken apart, but the result was to create a separate lab course to accompany the lecture. Over time, a chemical instrumentation course (Chemistry 411, later Chemistry 315) joined Physical Chemistry Laboratory (Chemistry 317) as the standard junior year laboratory sequence.

In the last ten years, this curriculum has been modified to reflect changes in staffing, college needs and in curricular trends nationwide. Biochemistry has expanded to a year long sequence, with the addition of a second biochemist in 1989, and a significant number of students pursue a standing interdisciplinary major between Chemistry and Biology. In 1990, Chemistry 211 was dropped from the curriculum, and lab meetings for Organic Chemistry were reduced to once a week. In 1996 Introductory Inorganic Chemistry was expanded to a full semester course, permitting chemistry majors greater exposure to this material earlier in their careers. And in 1999, the fall semester of Nat Sci 110 was merged with General Chemistry to create a single one semester introductory course in chemistry for all Reed students, Chemistry 101 — Molecular Structure and Properties. A second semester of first year chemistry, Chemistry 102 — Chemical Reactivity, has also been created, but is tailored more specifically to science majors. Also, with this change, Analytical Chemistry has reappeared as a distinct course in the curriculum, merging the quantitative analysis material from Chemistry 110 and Instrumentation.

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