Buried treasure in the archives

We’ve been put into a form of lockdown again. This has provided me with time to search through archive boxes and confirm that they actually contain what I thought they did. For some years, we have had a stack of boxes which previously belonged to one of Kluyver’s most famous students, C.B. van Niel. After he obtained his Doctorate, Van Niel left Delft for Stanford University in the USA (where he introduced the term “Delft School of Microbiology”). After his death, they were sent to the University of Groningen, and thence to us in Delft for safe keeping. Most of the boxes were full of Van Niel’s reprint collection, but some contained books so I added three of them to my homework for the new lockdown.

And then I struck gold.

Two of the boxes were full of exercise books and loose-leaf files, some with Van Niel’s name on them. Only one has the address of Kluyver’s lab in Delft, the others date from Van Niel’s lab at Pacific Grove in the 1930s. All of them are full of his experiments in great detail, and they are absolutely fascinating. The third box contains some letters, lecture notes and a file full of science-related jokes.

When the biosafety restrictions are relaxed a bit and we’re allowed back into the archive, I’ll be checking the rest of the Van Niel stack. The moral of this tale is check every box and file, you never know what it contains!



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Good to hear from you, Molly. How did you know? In among all the lab journals is a folder full of science-related jokes. A special treat is a partial set of “Brighter Biochemistry” – a set of booklets containing amusing poems, songs and articles (internally?) published by Cambridge University. Kluyver had a set as well.

Jokes? Science-related jokes! I’m looking forward to reading more about his collection of those. Hope you are well. I am still savoring great memories of our visit to Delft several years ago and your generous hospitality in welcoming me and the two members of the family of the Delft School of Microbiology (C.H. Kuhner and S. L. Daniel) Cheers.

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