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Whereas Dr. Alban G. Smith has this day tendered his services to the Trustees of this institution gratuitously, therefore resolved that Dr. Smith be appointed Professor of Chemistry pro tem. (Centre College Board of Trustee minutes, August 1, 1823)

Alban G. Smith was a Danville physician and associate of Ephraim McDowell, and remained as professor of chemistry from 1823 to 1832. In 1833 he moved to Louisville, then to Cincinnati, and finally to New York as lecturer on surgery at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. The trustee minutes of August 25, 1832, report that "Luke Munsell appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry, salary per annum $750." Munsell was professor of chemistry, mineralogy and natural philosophy until 1836.

Munsell was followed by Ormond Beatty as chemistry professor. Beatty graduated from Centre in 1835, and was immediately offered a position as professor of chemistry and natural philosophy by President John C. Young. Beatty decided, however, to take additional studies at Yale under the direction of Benjamin Silliman. He returned to Centre in 1836 to become Professor of Chemistry and Natural Philosophy, a chair he held from 1836 until 1847. Beatty was followed by George C. Schaeffer, who held the position of Professor of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and Geology from 1847 until his resignation in 1853 to become principal examiner in the U.S. Patent Office. Beatty replaced Schaeffer as professor of physics and chemistry until 1872, when John C. Fales was hired as Professor of Physical and Natural Science. Fales served in that position until 1894 when he became Professor of Geology and Biology.

For much of the nineteenth century Centre had a curriculum in which all students took the same courses in the same sequence. There were no "majors" and the few electives offered were normally done so outside the regular curriculum by an individual professor with a special skill or knowledge. Chemistry was a required course for all students given the first semester of senior year. In 1824 the trustees authorized that $150 in "good money" be used to purchase chemical apparatus, but what the nature of this apparatus isn’t indicated. Because Old Centre was the only academic building on Centre's campus until the construction of Old Main in 1872, it is likely that the chemistry course in these early years was primarily a lecture or recitation, with some demonstrations, but little, if any, laboratory work. With the construction of Old Main there was finally space for a chemistry lab, but whether one was part of the original plan isn’t clear.

In 1883 Centre first offered a course of studies leading to the B.S. degree. The sequence of courses remained heavy in the classics, but chemistry was required first term of the junior year, and analytical the second term. In both terms of the senior a course title "Laboratory work" was required. The 1890-91 catalog lists Natural Sciences under the Departments of Instruction section. Taught by John C. Fales, this included courses in physics and astronomy, chemistry and mineralogy, geology, and biology. By the 1894-95 catalog the departments were reorganized into a Department of Geology and Biology and a Department of Physics and Chemistry. In 1895 W.O. Stilwell replaced Fales as instructor in physics and chemistry. The catalog for that year states “The general course in chemistry of four hours a week is required of all Juniors during the first semester. In this course the elements of inorganic chemistry are taught by illustrated lectures, recitations from the text-books, and laboratory work.” An elective course in analytical chemistry was also offered. The 1897-98 catalog lists a general chemistry course as required of all students, and a qualitative analysis and quantitative course offered as electives.

The 1898-99 catalog separates Physics and Chemistry into separate departments, both taught by Clarence Gordon. The 1900-01 catalog lists the faculty for the department of chemistry as Clarence M. Gordon (Ph.D. – Goettingen) and Austin M. Patterson (Ph.D. – Johns Hopkins). These were only two faculty members holding the degree of Ph.D. The courses included Chemistry and Qualitative Analysis in the junior year, with Quantitative Analysis and Organic Chemistry in the senior year. The first course was required of all candidates for a degree, while the other three were elective. By 1910 the number of courses had again grown to include general, organic, photographic, and industrial chemistry, plus qualitative and quantitative analysis.

In 1909 Old Young Science Hall was completed, giving Centre its first building dedicated to the sciences. The Department of Chemistry occupied the third floor , and included a laboratory for first-year work, labs for organic, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and a recitation room. Labs for physical and sanitary chemistry were on the first floor. The 1911 catalog states that "Experiments with objectionable gases can be performed in full view of the class, without any danger of contaminating the air of the lecture room."

Majors first appear in the 1921-22 annual catalog. Chemistry was one of ten majors offered, along with English, Greek and Latin, Modern Languages, History and Political Science, Mathematics, Biology, Physics, Education, and Economics and Social Science. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the number of faculty and courses remained relatively constant. Following World War II, with the influx of students and the growing national emphasis on science and technology, the chemistry department grew. Biochemistry was first listed as a course offering in the 1963-64 catalog, physical chemistry the following year, and chemical physics in 1966.

Three professors, John Walkup, William Sagar, and Charles Girard, were added to the chemistry faculty during this period, and taught for long periods of time: Walkup from 1945 to 1980, Sagar from 1961 to 1993, and Girard from 1968 to1995.

By 1970 Chemical Physics and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology were added as majors. In that year the new Young Hall was completed, giving the college a modern science facility. In 1998 Olin Hall was completed, providing laboratories and faculty offices for the physical, mathematical, and computer sciences.