In July 1973, while driving home from his job as a chemist at Dow Chemical Co.'s Wayland, Mass., research facility, James Kaufman heard on the radio that there had been a serious explosion at nearby Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Kaufman, who had been working at Dow for only a few weeks, had recently completed postdoctoral work at Worcester Polytechnic, and had earned his Ph.D. there a few years before. Upon hearing the news of the accident, he bypassed his house, driving straight to the Worcester Polytech lab instead.

"I got there two hours after the explosion," Kaufman remembers. "The light fixtures had been blown off the ceiling, the windows had been blown out of the room. There had been a lab bench with a soapstone top on it, with a laminated plywood cabinet underneath, and it looked as if someone had taken a hot knife through butter--it was sheared right in...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?