Chemistry

Our Lives, Our Laureates: Geri Richmond

"I was so captivated that I would take jars out and try to capture the smoke and put it in these jars and put the lid on it and then wait until the next morning and see if the smoke was still there."

"The one thing that did catch my imagination – which is the one driving my mother crazy – was that I was just fascinated by smoke, and in those days you could burn your trash in your farm fields or your backyard. 

I was so captivated that I would take jars out and try to capture the smoke and put it in these jars and put the lid on it and then wait until the next morning and see if the smoke was still there. 

And of course it would always fall to the bottom of the jar and just be soot, but I didn’t understand what the smoke was, and so I could say that, you know, the work that we do now is very atmospheric oriented in terms of understanding different gasses, how they absorb at water surfaces, but for me, I don’t know how many times I was out there, you know, filling up these jars with smoke trying to understand what could possibly go up in the air like that and dance around.

The downside, which drove my mother crazy, was that I would start little fires in the backyard and she would have to come and put them out while I was paying attention to capturing the smoke rather than where the fire was going.  So I would say that was one thing that I remember as being very curious about at a young age."

This transript has been edited for clarity.