William “Billy” Chandler was the chemistry department to three decades of Lehigh students. From his appointment as professor of chemistry in 1871 to retirement in 1905, he guided the department and gained a national reputation for his work. A graduate of Union College, he earned a master’s degree from Columbia University while working with his brother C.F. Chandler, also a nationally known chemist. Chandler earned a Ph.D. from Hamilton College in 1872.
Chandler’s most visible connection to Lehigh is the landmark chemistry laboratory that the trustees named in his honor in 1921. The structure, known as Chandler-Ullmann Hall is considered by some architectural historians to be the first “modern” laboratory because of its system of ventilation and the design of its laboratories. The building, which won a prize for design at the Paris Exposition of 1889, was designated a National Historical Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society in 1994.
Named the university’s first librarian in 1878, Chandler acquired rare volumes, including early scientific and technical works, medieval manuscripts, folio editions of Shakespeare and Audubon’s four-volume double elephant folio Birds of America. Chandler also founded Lehigh’s first chemistry society and organized expeditions to collect specimens for the university’s chemical and natural history museums. Twice he served as acting university president, in 1895, and from 1904 until he retired in 1905.