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Fascinating article by Joe Schwarcz, chemistry professor and Director of the McGill Office for Science and Society (OSS), on the early history of the Weizmann Institute of Science and how it is full of surprises! 🤯

Di you know that Chaim Weizmann, the institute's founder, was originally trying to find a way to produce isoprene, a key ingredient for making rubber?

But fate intervened when Weizmann visited his brother-in-law at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. There, he discovered that French scientists were using bacteria to convert carbohydrates into useful chemicals like acetone through fermentation.

This gave Weizmann an idea - could a specific bacterium produce the isoprene he was after? Unfortunately, that didn't work out. But the acetone-producing bacteria did catch the attention of British Prime Minister Lloyd George, who was desperately seeking acetone to manufacture cordite for the war effort.

So began an unusual wartime program where British schoolchildren were asked to collect horse chestnuts, which could be converted into acetone. Though the collection system had some hiccups, it was a creative solution that leveraged Weizmann's scientific insights.

While Weizmann's initial rubber quest didn't pan out, his chance discovery at the Pasteur Institute ended up playing a key role in supporting the British war effort. The early history of the Weizmann Institute is a fascinating tale of scientific serendipity! 🧪

www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/history-general-science/acetone-horse-chestnuts-and-weizmann-institute
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12 hours ago
Fascinating article by Joe Schwarcz, chemistry professor and Director of the McGill Office for Science and Society (OSS), on the early history of the Weizmann Institute of Science and how it is full of surprises! 🤯 

Di you know that Chaim Weizmann, the institutes founder, was originally trying to find a way to produce isoprene, a key ingredient for making rubber?

But fate intervened when Weizmann visited his brother-in-law at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. There, he discovered that French scientists were using bacteria to convert carbohydrates into useful chemicals like acetone through fermentation. 

This gave Weizmann an idea - could a specific bacterium produce the isoprene he was after? Unfortunately, that didnt work out. But the acetone-producing bacteria did catch the attention of British Prime Minister Lloyd George, who was desperately seeking acetone to manufacture cordite for the war effort. 

So began an unusual wartime program where British schoolchildren were asked to collect horse chestnuts, which could be converted into acetone. Though the collection system had some hiccups, it was a creative solution that leveraged Weizmanns scientific insights. 

While Weizmanns initial rubber quest didnt pan out, his chance discovery at the Pasteur Institute ended up playing a key role in supporting the British war effort. The early history of the Weizmann Institute is a fascinating tale of scientific serendipity! 🧪

https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/history-general-science/acetone-horse-chestnuts-and-weizmann-institute
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