Raiders of the lost cornerstone

Just what did Enrico Fermi put in that time capsule, anyway?

By Benjamin Recchie, AB’03

The University campus is about to lose a long-time fixture, the Research Institutes building at Ellis Avenue and 57th Street. The RI, as it was called, was built just after World War II as a home for the children of the Manhattan Project: the Institute for Nuclear Research (now the Enrico Fermi Institute) and the Institute for the Study of Metals (now the James Franck Institute). But now more than six decades old and obsolete, the building is coming down this year to make way for the shiny new William Eckhardt Research Center.

In razing the RI, a minor campus mystery will be solved: just what did Enrico Fermi put in the cornerstone time capsule in 1949? Secrets from the Manhattan Project? Laura Fermi's meatball recipe? A singing cartoon frog? Maybe nothing at all?

You can find out during Alumni Weekend (you are coming to Alumni Weekend, right?) on Thursday, June 2, at 4 p.m., when the Physical Sciences Division will ceremonially open the time capsule. But in the meantime, write your best guesses in in the comments below or at our Facebook discussion. Anyone who gets it right will earn themselves a bit of U of C swag, courtesy of the Magazine.

Photo courtesy of the Archival Photographic Files, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

May 2, 2011