A curious (and historic) old building on the edge of campus.

I’ve walked by this curious old building a few times, and always paused to ponder its origin, its purpose, and its sad condition (never seen in this prim part of town).  It sits snugly between a posh residential neighborhood and the focal point of three campuses: ETH, the University of Zürich (UZH), and the UZH hospital.  Clearly, it once had a walk-up counter where one could arrange for the fabrication of chemical/technical apparatus.

Puzzled, a little Googling lead me to a brochure a local historical society wrote about this building.  From what I can glean from that brochure (in German), this workshop was built in 1863 next to a small house, home to several generations of plumbers. The later generations apparently specialized in scientific apparatus as well as home plumbing solutions (Wasch & Badeeinrichtungen – wash and bathroom furnishings). After decades of disrepair, the property was protected under a local archaeological ordinance, purchased by the city, then restored into beautiful shape. It was left unused, however, and sadly became the target of graffiti vandals. It now appears likely to be demolished when the hospital next needs to expand.  The adjacent house is now used by ETH as a daycare facility.


Quantum mechanics

In a fascinating NYT article this weekend, Even Physicists Don’t Understand Quantum Mechanics, the writer expounds on the importance of research into the fundamentals of quantum mechanics.  In the process he mentions two famous Zürich scientists: Einstein did his PhD work here at ETH and Schrödinger was (later) a professor next door at the University of Zürich.  As a former physics major (who once thought he understood quantum mechanics), it’s pretty cool to be surrounded by such history.

Last week I visited the Computer Science department, housed in the old chemistry building.  That building is even more historic, home to seven Nobel prizes in chemistry.  (ETH has a total of 21 Nobel prizes to its credit, including 10 in Chemistry.)2019-08-28-70939.jpg