5. Laboratory Equipment and Pictures in the Beverage Laboratory
    and Frist 302


The décor and name of the Beverage Laboratory derive from the former purpose of the building now known as the Frist Campus Center. Palmer Physical Laboratory was home to the University’s physics department for sixty years. Palmer was given by and named for Stephen S. Palmer, who served as a trustee of the University from 1908 to 1913 and whose son Edgar Palmer ’1903 later gave Princeton a stadium in his father’s honor. At the dedication of the new science building in 1909, Palmer said the gift was in recognition of the “absolute necessity of extending Princeton’s usefulness in the field of science and of placing her in a position where she can respond to the demands that will be made upon her.”

The Physical Laboratory provided two acres of space for the rapidly developing departments of physics and electrical engineering. This facility was considered the best University physical laboratory in the world, with space for both instruction and research, and possessing specialized features such as machine shops, darkrooms, a liquid air plant, constant temperature capability, advanced pressure systems, and a large Fourcault pendulum to demonstrate the rotation of the earth. During World War II, Palmer Physical Laboratory was used for weapons research as part of the Manhattan Project. Princeton’s atom-smashing cyclotron, housed in the northeastern corner of Palmer’s basement, was partially dismantled so its power unit could be taken to Los Alamos for further development of the nuclear program. Reinstated and reconfigured after the war, the cyclotron was nearly destroyed on February 22, 1950 by an oil fire that took eight hours and Navy specialists to extinguish. The device was repaired and used for another two decades.

By 1969, the Department of Physics required a facility three times the size of the Physical Laboratory. Much of the department moved into the newly-completed Jadwin Hall, and though some classrooms in the eastern side of Palmer remained dedicated to undergraduate instruction in physics, the western half soon housed East Asian Studies and the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science. It was renamed Palmer Hall in 1970 and used for these academic purposes until 1998, when it closed for renovation into the Frist Campus Center, which opened in September 2000.

The laboratory equipment and photographs of scientific experiments now displayed in the Beverage Laboratory were recovered from a dumpster during the transformation of the former science building into the campus center. Also, one Frist classroom (302) has retained its original wooden seats and lecture hall layout, in addition to displaying some old equipment.