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Department of Biochemistry

Opening of the Sir William Dunn Institute, May 9th 1924

The year 1924 was perhaps the most important in the history of the Department because it saw the opening of the new Dunn Institute that was to be the main building of the Department of Biochemistry until 1997, and which is now named after Hopkins. The opening was on the 9th May by Lord Balfour, the Chancellor of the University.

Somewhat astutely, rather than giving the money to the University, the Sir William Dunn Trustees gave the building itself, which had cost £165,000 and had been designed according to their wishes, in particular to the those of their Chairman, Sir Jeremiah Colman. The building was 'launched' by the Canadian J. Murray Luck who left water running through a condenser when he went home; the ensuing leak soaked the beautiful plaster ceiling below and shorted out the entire electrical supply.

The Library was established on the express wish of Jeremiah Colman, an alumnus of St. John's College, who developed Colman's mustard from the enterprise started by his father in a village just down the road from the present home of the Institute of Food Research.

For the new building, Hopkins commissioned four wood carvings by way of decoration. These were of John Mayow, the seventeenth century physician who showed respiration and combustion to consume something from air; Thomas Graham, the nineteenth century chemist who coined the term colloid; Louis Pasteur, this carving showing di-symmetric crystals; and Justus von Liebig, the nineteenth century chemist and teacher, whose carving includes sheaves of corn to reflect his interest in agricultural chemistry. These can still be seen mounted on the columns in the Library Reading Room.


Opening of the Sir William Dunn Institute, May 9th 1924.

Left to right: Sir Jeremiah Colman, The Chancellor Lord Balfour, The Vice-Chancellor Dr E.C. Pearce, Professor F.G. Hopkins.