History of CDL excursions

Chemists are curious in nature. We are of course interested in how the world works from a chemical point of view, but we are also interested in the human world around us. This can also be seen in the history of the CDL and particularly in the many trips and excursions that have taken place even in the beginning. With study trip reports in the Chimica, we think it will be nice to take another trip; a trip through the history of the CDL.

As can be read on the previous page, the first excursion took place only three years after the official foundation of the CDL on the 4th of June, 1929. In the morning, we went to chemographers of Van Leer, a ‘Cliché’ factory in Amsterdam. Here they made illustrations for printing offices by etching, a commonly used technique before photos become a commonplace. After a lunch in the lunchroom of the ‘Noord en Zuid Hollandsche Vervoer Maatschappij’, the group went to the location of Ketjen en Co., the sulfuric acid factory in the North of Amsterdam. A lot of member stayed in the city even after the excursion ended at 16:00 h and “keerden eerst ‘s avonds naar Leiden terug, zeer voldaan over deze eerste excursie van het dispuut.” (returned to Leiden in the evening, very happy about the first excursion of the ‘dispuut’.) 

This was the beginning of a long tradition of excursions and trips that would take the chemists around the world. Excursions were a yearly phenomenon in the beginning. In 1930, a visit was paid to the glass factory in Leerdam (with the obvious name Glasfabriek Leerdam) and in 1931 a group of 26 chemists went “per autobus” to the sugar factory in Halfweg. On the 5th of July 1932 a new phenomenon was introduced: they went to a research institution, the lab of dr. Bijvoet (later Prof. dr. J. Bijvoet, famous because of his groundbreaking work in x-ray crystallography). Another new aspect of the afternoon was a cultural visit to the Rembrandt exhibit at the University of Amsterdam. A memorable excursion took place in 1934 when we visited the sugar factory Jamin, established in Rotterdam. According to the annual report, the visit was very interesting: “Men vertelt dat meerdere excursisten nog weken laboreerden aan een schromelijk overladen maag waaruit eerst recht blijkt hoe levendig de belangstelling wel was.” (They said that some still had a very full stomach, which shows the huge amount of interest)

The 1935 annual report shows that organizing an excursion was not always easy even then. Despite attempts at multiple factories, they did not succeed in planning an excursion that year. The ‘standard excursion’ was also invented quite early on. On the 27th of June 1935, we went to Tieleman&Dros in Leiden. We visited this preservatives company many times until their bankruptcy in 1955. A few of their factory buildings can still be admired on the Middelstegracht. On 5, 6 and 7 May 1936, the first “meerdaagsche” (multiple day) excursion took place. This excursion, that can almost be named the first Belgium trip, visited Eindhoven and Limburg (Lutterade to be exact). A visit to the Philips factories could of course not be missed, besides a visit to the bakelite factory and the noble gases factory. On the third day in Lutterade, the nitrogen fixation company (fertilizer and explosives) of the Staatsmijnen was visited. The years after this, a lot more multiple day excursions were taken, such as the two-day excursion to Geldermalsen, Oss and Nijmegen in 1937. They visited a Chamotte factory in Geldermalsen, a producer of refractory material (ceramics). They stayed in Nijmegen overnight and admired the beautiful Waal. The second day, they visited the laboratories of Organon in Oss in the morning. In the afternoon, the cotton wool and plaster factory in Nijmegen was visited. Here, the participants again enjoyed a well-organized tour. The ab actis concluded: “de thuisblijvers hadden wéér ongelijk” (the people that stayed at home were wrong). 

During the Second World War, the association came to a standstill. When the association was started up again after the war, the first foreign excursion was held. At the end of March 1949 participants went for four days to Gent and Brugge, where multiple companies and universities were visited. The year after, the boundaries were pushed again and they went to Copenhagen. This was the first trip to a non-Dutch speaking country and they went here for seven days in September 1950. “Bezocht werden onder anderen het Chemisch Lab. van de Technische Hogeschool, een grote brouwerij en een fabriek van Organisch Chemische en therapeutische producten” (They visited, among other things, the Chemical Laboratory of the Technical College, a big brewery and an Organic Chemistry and therapeutic products factory). 

After these foreign excursions, they tried to organize such a trip biennially, something that has continued long after. As far as we have been able to ascertain is Europe the only continent that was visited for quite some time. In 2001, the CDL visited New York, and the association went to China in 2011. The CDL also visited South-America in 2014 when they paid a visit to Brazil. In the last couple of years, the CDL went to Singapore and Malaysia in 2016 and Japan in 2018.