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German and chemistry students create a museum
Sue Scott

While movies often portray their scientists as evil, Germany has been a cradle of innovation. German scientists are responsible for inventing internal combustion engines, coffee filters and contact lenses. It’s discoveries like those that are being highlighted at the Museum of German-Speaking Scientists at Harrison High School.

Students in German 3 and honors chemistry classes worked together to create the museum that highlights the work of different scientists.

Science teacher Taylor Owings says the partnership makes sense: “A lot of chemistry, particularly quantum mechanics, came out of Germany for the past two centuries.  Many chemists up through the ‘80s were required to take German classes/minors in college because so many seminal works and journal publications were only written in German up until that time.”

Each display included photos and information about the scientist. There was also a QR code where you could watch a mock interview with the scientist in German.

One featured Daniel Fahrenheit, best known for inventing the mercury thermometer and developing the Fahrenheit temperature scale. Another display highlighted Clara Helene Immerwahr, the first German woman to be awarded a doctorate in chemistry at a German university. The next exhibit featured Karl Ziegler, a German chemist who won the Nobel Prize for his work on polymers.

Sophomore Josephine Felten worked with a team to create a display about J. Robert Oppenheimer, known for being the father of the atomic bomb. She says he was famous for his work with nuclear fission and how he led the Manhattan Project. “There were a lot of aspects of Oppenheimer's life that interested me, not just his research but also his character,” says Josephine. “It was surprising to learn about how he attempted to murder his tutor with a poisoned apple or his affinity for communist women. He also had the opportunity to work with some of the most famous scientists of his day, Bohr, Wheeler and Einstein to name a few.”

“Throughout the research, kids were wavering between being impressed with what these scientists had contributed to the world through their work and surprised or even shocked with how they were as people,” says German teacher Amanda Beck. “Learning more about these scientists humanized them and gave insight into just how important Germany and the German language was and still is to the sciences today.”

Sophomore Nathaniel Titlow enjoyed the opportunity to combine classes. “I hope that all the classes will take away that anyone can change the world for chemistry, and for Germany,” Nathaniel says. “It was also a great opportunity to put our language skills to the test.”

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