Preston ’83, ’89

One of my favourite things at Mac is the tetrahedral sculpture that is sort of hidden in the below grade-level patio area outside the cafeteria in the A. N. Bourns Building.  To me, it not only symbolizes the art of organic chemistry, which has always been a research strength at Mac, but it also symbolizes the very accessible Valence-Shell Electron-Pair Repulsion model that was invented by now-retired, but long-time McMaster Chemistry Professor Ron Gillespie.

Ron tinkered with various ways of demonstrating the preferred molecular shapes, including the tetrahedron in the patio, that were very successfully predicted by his model.  He employed balloons, styrofoam balls, as well as clusters of grapes and nuts.  I do not believe it would be an overstatement to say that of all *living* chemists, his ideas are the most popularly taught in science classrooms *all over the world*.  If this comes as a surprise to you, consider that virtually all freshman chemistry textbooks in the world, in every language that science is taught in, will inevitably have pictures of such models featured prominently in the chapter on Molecular Shape, and specifically refer to the “rules” of the VSEPR model.  Also consider that in countries that believe science should be taught early *and well*, there are also thousands and thousands of K-12 teachers that are teaching about molecular shape the way that Ron has taught us to do so.


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