Ryerson Physical Laboratory

Ryerson Physical Laboratory was one of the first university buildings erected on campus. Finished in 1894 along with Kent Chemical Laboratory to the west, it was a state-of-the-art facility for its time, and no expense was spared on its construction. They were soon followed by the biological laboratories to the north. Together, these labs formed the University’s original science cluster.

Ryerson was designed specifically for sensitive physical experiments. To minimize vibration and improve stability throughout the building, it featured heavy slate walls, masonry piers and marble wainscotting on the lower floors. The building was also planned to be adaptable and incorporate technological improvements over time. Walls and floors were laid with ducts and channels so that pipes could be connected from any part of the building to another.

When Ryerson opened, Mathematics and Astronomy shared the building with Physics. While research laboratories occupied most of the basement and first floor, offices and classrooms for Mathematics and Astronomy took the upper floors along with student laboratories.

In 1912, an annex was built to accommodate the growing departments. It added more laboratories and classrooms and nearly doubled the total space. To further reduce disturbances to research labs in Ryerson, facilities such as the motor room and machine shop were moved to the annex.

Ryerson Physical Laboratory soon after it was built

Block, Jean. 1983. The Uses of Gothic : Planning and Building the Campus of the University of Chicago, 1892-1932. Chicago: University of Chicago Library.

Construction of Ryerson Annex

University of Chicago Photographic Archive. https://photoarchive.lib.uchicago.edu/. Identifier: apf2-07145