Chemistry: the word on the street

September 24, 2004

As police in Cambridge search for a mystery graffiti artist with a penchant for chemical imagery, the chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry said this week that he would like to spray-paint "every town and city" to promote his beleaguered subject.

David Giachardi, the chief executive of the RSC, was inspired by the graffiti artist who last week spray-painted part of a chemical component of DNA on the road outside the former Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge.

Dr Giachardi, who said that without chemistry there would be no paint for graffiti or solvents to clean it off, said that any message that pressed home the need to save threatened university chemistry departments was welcome.

He told The Times Higher : "I would relish the chance, were it legally allowable and aesthetically inoffensive, to paint on every corner and junction of every town and city, in whopping words, the line 'Chemistry Vital - OK?'"

Academics suggested that the graffiti, painted outside the laboratory where the double helix was unveiled 50 years ago, was probably the work of a first or second-year chemistry student. It depicts a molecule called guanine, which can also be found on Cambridge University's chemistry department website. It was accompanied by the word "phospholipase", which is an enzyme.

A university spokeswoman said that graffiti was not condoned.

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